Despite his indictment on witness tampering charges, consultant Roger Stone was not shy about sharing his political views during a Friday visit to Buffalo.
While acknowledging that he was also here to raise money for his legal defense fund, Stone declined to address any aspect of the case, brought by former special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller.
Nor did Stone want to discuss East Aurora political consultant Michael Caputo being legally barred from having any contact with Stone – including at Friday's event.
Stone addressed about 250 supporters at the Aloft hotel at the 500 Pearl complex.
During the Aloft event, Stone cautioned supporters of President Donald Trump to not be over-confident about the president's prospects for re-election in 2020 – noting that, even though the polls were wrong in 2016, "new polls have been adjusted for more realistic prospects for turnout" in 2020.
"As you might expect with the mainstream media pounding abuse on this president and family, day in and day out, ignoring all of his incredible accomplishments and focusing on the minutiae of his tweets, he is behind," in the polling against his Democratic rivals, Stone said.
"Victory is not impossible," he said. "It is attainable with the focus and support and lack of over-confidence of everyone in this room."
Stone praised Trump's performance as president and said the media was biased against him.
"They don't talk about the 6 million-plus jobs created. They don't talk about the 650,000 manufacturing jobs that have returned to America," Stone said at the Friday event.
"It's called cutting taxes and regulations. It worked for JFK. It worked for Ronald Reagan and it works for Donald Trump, and it's working for America," Stone said during the event.
The speech lasted about 16 minutes. Afterward, Stone autographed books for the crowd and sold T-shirts at the event, which was organized by developer Carl Paladino.
"Carl Paladino is a great friend," Stone said, during an interview with The Buffalo News at 500 Pearl, about two hours before the speech.
Stone said the last time he was in Buffalo was on the night that Paladino "thumped the Republican establishment in the primary for governor, which I think was a precursor to the coming upheaval within our party, which laid the groundwork for the nomination and election of Donald Trump."
Stone, dressed in a navy blue pinstripe suit, touted his connections to Western New York – naming some of the political figures he has known.
"Steve Pigeon is a friend," he said.
"I worked for your legendary Congressman Jack Kemp, clearly, one of the greatest men I ever knew, somebody who put principles and goals ahead of his personal ambitions," Stone said.
"I think he could have been president, but revitalizing the American economy was more important, lifting everyone's boat was more important to him," Stone said.
Stone, a campaign strategist and lobbyist, called Kemp a role model.
Stone said Kemp was "a civil rights Republican" and said he was one as well. Asked to share his civil rights bonafides, Stone replied: "I'm the last conservative alive who continues to defend affirmative action, a Nixon administration policy."
"I'm from the party of Lincoln," Stone said.
"I mean, it was President Nixon who desegregated the public schools. It was President Nixon who desegregated the trade unions with the Philadelphia plan," he said.
"I have been for 30 years a critic of the war on drugs, Nixon's greatest single mistake," he said. "I also think, ironically, Joe Biden's single greatest vulnerability. The idea that we would subject people to harsh mandatory penalties for the possession of small amounts of drugs – or a first-time nonviolent crime – which has destroyed lives, destroyed families, rehabilitated no one (and) cost taxpayers millions of dollars."
"Has it solved the drug epidemic in the country? No," Stone said.
"They're as plentiful and dangerous as ever, even more so. So, I am very much in favor of the president's program of sentencing reform, giving people a second chance who are not violent criminals (and) shouldn't be incarcerated at all," he said.
"Drug abuse – and I'm not talking about drug kingpins or drug trafficking – is a public health problem. It's not a criminal law problem," he said.
Stone rejected the description of himself as a political trickster.
"I have recognized that politics is a rough-and-tumble business in America, particularly in Buffalo. It's a contact sport. We take our politics very seriously. Politics can be very cutthroat, but I don't think I have employed tactics or activities that are any different than my contemporaries. And I've always said that I draw the line at the law. I do not break the law, but I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to elect my candidates short of breaking the law," Stone added.
In speaking about the 2020 presidential election, he said: "I am not someone who believes this is some cakewalk or that it will be easy. I think the candidates on the stage last night in the Democratic debate were far more formidable than I think than, perhaps, some of the president's supporters know."
Paladino, in introducing Stone at the event, said, "Roger needs our help. His legal defense is expected to cost upwards of $3 million."
Paladino said when he met Stone, Stone took off his shirt and showed Paladino a tattoo of Nixon on his back.
Paladino said, "He said, 'Carl, I just wanted you to know where I come from.'"