On the opening day of Roger Stone’s trial for allegedly lying to Congress and obstructing its investigation, one mystery appeared to be solved by prosecutors.
The Donald Trump supporter who Stone alerted in October 2016 that “the payload is coming” – an apparent reference to WikiLeaks’ release of damaging emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign – was Blackwater founder Erik Prince, according to prosecutors.
The exchange was publicly known but it had not been previously revealed that Prince, a Trump donor whose meetings with Trump officials during the transition stirred controversy, is the individual identified in the Stone indictment as “a supporter involved with the Trump campaign.”
Stone is accused of lying to the House Intelligence Committee, which was investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and obstruction of justice. The longtime Trump associate has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors referenced Prince and the communications during the first day of Stone’s trial, which is expected to last three weeks.
The communication is one of several at the center of the trial. Prosecutors expect to call members of the Trump campaign but are not planning on calling Prince, according to a person familiar with the plan.
Two days after Stone learned that “big news” damaging to Clinton’s campaign would soon be leaked by WikiLeaks he emailed Prince – the founder of Blackwater, a controversial private military company – telling him “the payload is still coming,” according to the source.
According to the indictment, Stone emailed Prince on October 3, 2016, two days after Randy Credico told Stone, “big news Wednesday” and six days before WikiLeaks released hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. In the email, Stone tells Prince, “Spoke with my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”
Late the following day Prince sent a text message to Stone asking if he had “hear(d) anymore from London.” Stone replied, “Yes – want to talk on a secure line – got Whatsapp?”
Stone told Prince, according to the indictment, that more material would be released that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign.
It isn’t clear why Stone would have relayed that information to Prince. They didn’t know each other prior to the campaign, the source said. Credico has denied that he acted as Stone’s intermediary with WikiLeaks and said his messages to Stone were based on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s public statements.
Prince was a Trump donor and GOP fundraiser. Trump selected Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, as his education secretary after taking office
Prince’s interactions with Trump’s transition became an object of controversy in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Prince was suspected as a potential back channel between the incoming Trump administration and Russia for meeting with the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund in the Seychelles in January 2017. Prince told Congress he had taken the meeting as a “chance encounter” and was not representing Trump in the meeting.
Matthew L. Schwartz, Prince’s lawyer, said, “As we have said before, Erik Prince cooperated completely with the special counsel, who repeatedly relied on Mr. Prince’s information in writing his report. No one has ever suggested that Mr. Prince did anything wrong in connection with the subject of the ongoing trial, and he did not do anything wrong.”