- Friday’s indictment against the longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone, who was a senior Trump campaign strategist, contains several significant revelations.
- Chief among them is the special counsel Robert Mueller’s contention that a “senior Trump Campaign official was directed” to contact Stone about “any additional releases” from WikiLeaks, as well as “what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign.”
- Stone’s links to WikiLeaks are well known. But this is the first indication that a senior Trump campaign official was told by someone higher up to actively solicit information about documents the Russians had hacked and given to WikiLeaks.
- At the time of the alleged instruction, the Trump campaign was aware the Russians favoured Trump in the 2016 election and that the Kremlin had hacked the Democratic National Committee.
- “This is bad news for the president,” one former White House official told INSIDER.
On Friday, the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office filed a highly anticipated indictment against Roger Stone, the longtime GOP strategist who acted as an informal adviser to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The document contains a slew of intricate details about Stone’s alleged false statements to Congress about his interactions involving WikiLeaks; his extensive communications with the far-right commentator Jerome Corsi and radio host Randy Credico about WikiLeaks’ document dumps in the summer of 2016; and his prolonged efforts to prevent Credico from testifying to Congress or turning over information to the FBI.
Much of what was in the document has been reported in the media. But the special counsel dropped one bombshell that was previously unknown, which spells trouble for team Trump: that a top Trump campaign official was instructed to contact Stone about WikiLeaks’ planned document dumps in the run-up to the 2016 election.
Prosecutors said that around June or July 2016, Stone “informed senior Trump Campaign officials” that WikiLeaks had damaging information about the Clinton campaign.
After WikiLeaks dumped the first batch of emails on July 22 that Russian hackers had stolen from the Democratic National Committee, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact” Stone “about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign,” the indictment said.
Afterward, prosecutors said Stone “told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [WikiLeaks].”
The indictment did not say who the senior official was or who apparently directed them to maintain a line of communication with Stone.
But the revelation is the first indication that a senior Trump campaign official was told by someone higher up to actively solicit information about documents that the Russians had hacked.
‘Who would prosecutors be this careful not to name?’
One former White House official told INSIDER on Friday that it would be tough for Trump to distance his campaign from Stone in light of what the indictment revealed.
“This is bad news for the president,” the former official said. “Note the indictment is very careful not to name who directed the senior official to maintain a channel of communication with Stone. It doesn’t even describe the individual. Who would prosecutors be this careful not to name?”
Top Democratic lawmakers seized on the news Friday.
“Most significant in the Stone indictment is new info that a senior campaign official was ‘directed’ in July 2016 to contact Mr. Stone about additional Wikileaks releases,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement. “This was at same time candidate Trump was publicly calling for Russia’s help in obtaining Clinton’s emails.”
California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who also sits on the committee, chimed in as well.
“Who directs a senior ‘Trump Campaign Official?’ ONLY a more senior campaign official,” he tweeted.
Asked about the revelation Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say that Trump did not direct the senior official to contact Stone about upcoming WikiLeaks dumps during the election.
“This has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House,” Sanders said.
The number of ‘criminals surrounding Trump’ is ‘not coincidence’
Friday’s indictment also adds significance to the timeline surrounding the alleged instruction.
A little over a month before prosecutors said the senior campaign official was directed to contact Stone about additional information that WikiLeaks had not yet released, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that Russia had obtained dirt on the Clinton campaign.
Six days later, he met with two Russian lobbyists linked to the Kremlin who had requested the meeting so they could give the Trump campaign the kompromat. Both Trump Jr. and the Russians said nothing ultimately came of the meeting.
Five days after the meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russians, on June 14, the Washington Post reported that the Russians were responsible for the hack of the DNC.
As a presidential candidate, Trump heaped praise on WikiLeaks on the campaign trail and on Twitter. He also famously asked Russia during a news conference to find and publish the missing Hillary Clinton emails. And Trump Jr. was also reportedly in contact with WikiLeaks during the election and asked about upcoming document releases via Twitter direct message.
Stone’s indictment went into deep detail on his communications with commentator Corsi and radio host Credico about WikiLeaks.
In one exchange prosecutors highlighted, Corsi told Stone in early August 2016 that WikiLeaks was planning a “damaging” document dump that would raise questions about Clinton’s health on the campaign trail. He told Stone it would be a good idea to suggest that Clinton was ill because that would be the “focus” of the next dump.
In the days after, Trump began testing out the talking point.
On August 17, he said Clinton’s speeches on the campaign trail “don’t last long” and that she should “go home and go to sleep.”
Shortly before that appearance, Trump said Clinton lacked the “mental and physical stamina” to fight the Islamic State.
After he was arrested on Friday, Stone declared that he would not plead guilty or testify against Trump.
Trump has praised Stone’s loyalty in the past.
“‘I will never testify against Trump.’ This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump.’ Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!'” Trump tweeted in early December 2018.
Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general, pointed to Trump’s tweet Friday morning and wrote, “Ask yourself why a sitting President of the US would have felt compelled to tweet the below. At some point, [the number] of criminals surrounding Trump [is] not coincidence.”