Roger Stone was in communication with at least one senior Trump campaign official about upcoming WikiLeaks disclosures during the 2016 presidential race, Stone revealed Thursday.
In an opinion piece for the right-wing Daily Caller, Stone published an exchange he had with Steve Bannon, then the chief executive of the Trump campaign. The emails are among the documents in special counsel Robert Mueller’s possession as he investigates whether Stone had an inside-track with WikiLeaks and whether he shared any of that information with then-candidate Trump or Trump’s inner circle.
“What was that this morning???” Bannon wrote to Stone on October 4, 2016. Earlier that day, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had delivered a speech billed as an “October surprise” announcement and had promised additional Clinton-related leaks. But the event turned out to be a publicity stunt where Assange touted his organization’s 10th anniversary. All Assange offered was another promise of more materials before the election, angering some Trump supporters who were hoping for a bombshell.
Stone replied to Bannon that Assange didn’t release any documents out of security concerns. Then Stone wrote, “However – a load every week going forward.”
In his column Thursday, Stone said this particular prediction was based on publicly available information.
“More importantly my prediction of ‘a load every week going forward’ is based on Assange’s own public announcement hours before-that there would be weekly releases going through and beyond the election and not any communication with Wikileaks or Assange,” Stone wrote in his piece headlined “The Treachery of Steve Bannon.”
While Stone says he still hasn’t been contacted by the special counsel, nearly a dozen of his associates have been contacted for interviews with Mueller’s team or testimony before the grand jury. Last week, Mueller’s team interviewed Bannon for a third time, including about his communications with Stone.
Stone’s move to publish the emails pre-empted a New York Times story Thursday about Stone’s efforts to pitch himself to Trump campaign officials as a WikiLeaks insider.
At least one campaign official told investigators that Stone told campaign officials he had ties to Assange, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
Stone made a variety of pronouncements during the 2016 campaign suggesting he had ties to Assange or advance knowledge about what WikiLeaks was planning to release. The timing of the email exchange between Stone and Bannon could also be of interest to investigators.
Days later, on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks unveiled the hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
It was convenient timing for the Trump campaign. It came about 30 minutes after one of the most damaging moments of Trump’s presidential campaign: when a recording became public showing Trump bragging about grabbing women’s genitals in previously unaired footage from a 2005 interview with ‘Access Hollywood.’
While Stone made a show – publicly and privately – of bragging about his close ties to Assange during the 2016 campaign, he has since revised his story. Stone said he relied on publicly available information, tips from journalists and a backchannel source – progressive New York activist and radio host Randy Credico.
Credico, who has been interviewed multiple times by investigators and testified before the grand jury, has denied that he acted as Stone’s backchannel.
It remains unclear what charges Stone could face, if any.
In a separate email published by The New York Times, Stone encourages Bannon to have Trump campaign surrogates tout a story – without any evidence – that Bill Clinton has a love child.
Then he asks Bannon to have GOP donor Rebekah Mercer fund his efforts to spread the Clinton story.
“I’ve raise (sic) $150K for the targeted black digital campaign thru a C-4,” Stone wrote. “Tell Rebecca to send us some $$$.”
The request could run afoul of federal election law. On Thursday, Stone told CNN he never received any money from the Mercers.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this story.