- Roger Stone reportedly advocated for a preemptive presidential pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
- WikiLeaks played a pivotal role in the 2016 election when it released batches of damaging emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign after obtaining them from a hacker aligned with Russian military intelligence.
- The special counsel Robert Mueller has zeroed in on Stone and WikiLeaks in recent months as he examines whether Stone knew in advance about the Russians’ hack and WikiLeaks’ plans to release the emails.
- Stone is known to have been in direct communication with WikiLeaks and the Russian hacker, Guccifer 2.0, during the election. He also previously said he was in indirect communication with Assange.
Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative and informal adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, advocated for a presidential pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Mother Jones reported on Thursday.
“I am working with others to get JA a blanket pardon,” Stone wrote to the talk show host Randy Credico on January 6,according to text messages obtained by Mother Jones. “It’s very real and very possible. Don’t f— it up,” he said.
While Assange has not been charged with a federal crime, legal experts say the president is within his rights to preemptively pardon someone for any federal crime they might be charged with in the future.
“I most definitely advocated a pardon for Assange,” Stone said in an email to Mother Jones, adding that he also pushed for Fox News host and former Judge Andrew Napolitano to support the possible pardon.
Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, described WikiLeaks as a “hostile, non-state intelligence service” last year. The organisation was instrumental in disseminating hacked emails belonging to then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. It obtained those emails from Guccifer 2.0, a hacker with confirmed ties to Russian military intelligence.
When the special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers earleir this year, the charging document specifically named Guccifer 2.0 and the website DCLeaks.
The document says the defendants falsely claimed that DCLeaks was controlled by American hackers and that Guccifer 2.0 was a Romanian hacker when in fact both were created and controlled by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence outfit.
Moreover, the indictment says the conspirators – in this case, Guccifer 2.0 – communicated with US persons about the release of stolen documents. In one instance, it says, the conspirator posing as Guccifer 2.0 contacted a person who was “in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.”
The conspirator wrote to this person thanking them for “writing back” and asking whether they found anything “interesting in the docs i posted,” the indictment says.
The document does not name or charge any Americans with crimes. But previous reporting has found that Stone was in touch with Guccifer 2.0 before the election.
Prosecutors also said the Russian intelligence officers transferred stolen documents to an unidentified third-party organisation and used it to release information and discuss the timing of those releases so they would have the maximum impact during the campaign. Though the document does not name the organisation, evidence strongly suggests it was WikiLeaks.
Stone and Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s oldest son, maintained extensive contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. Stone has also said that Credico served as an intermediary between him and Assange.
Credico is known to be an ally of Assange’s. He raised some eyebrows when he tweeted a selfie of him outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange is staying, two days before WikiLeaks dumped the first batch of Clinton campaign emails in October 2016.
Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School and an expert in criminal law, told Business Insider that if Stone is advocating for a pardon for Assange as part of a quid pro quo, “then it would certainly be illegal.”
“If, in other words, someone offered Assange a pardon in exchange for Assange releasing hacked emails to influence the election, this would constitute a criminal conspiracy,” he added. “If Trump or those close to him were part of these discussions, they would all be part of the same criminal conspiracy.”
Nearly a dozen of Stone’s associates have interviewed with Mueller or testified before a grand jury in recent months.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that the jury has heard over 12 combined hours of testimony on Stone, with FBI analysts simultaneously examining large batches of messages to determine whether or not Stone had prior knowledge about WikiLeaks’ possession of Democratic emails.
And NBC News recently reported that Mueller has evidence suggesting Jerome Corsi, a far-right conspiracy theorist and close associate of Stone, may have known in advance that emails from the Clinton campaign had been hacked and handed over to WikiLeaks.
Stone appears to be girding for the possibility that he will be indicted. Business Insider reported earlier this year that he is planning on expanding his legal team and continues to solicit donations to a legal defence fund. He said he will announce the new additions to his team after the November midterm elections.