- New emails and text messages obtained by the New York Times suggest that members of the Trump campaign saw the longtime GOP operative Roger Stone as a back-channel to WikiLeaks.
- WikiLeaks has been named in indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office as the third-party group that played a crucial role in helping Russian hackers disseminate stolen emails.
- The newly revealed communications show that Stone indicated he knew in advance about the content of the hacked emails.
- Stone told the House Intelligence Committee last year that he had no advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ document dumps.
As the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election zeroes in on Trump campaign adviser and longtime GOP operative Roger Stone, new evidence appears to show that campaign advisers saw him as a reliable back channel to WikiLeaks, The New York Times reported Thursday.
According to emails obtained by The Times, Stone indicated on at least two occasions that he was in touch with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. On at least one occasion, Stone reportedly indicated that he had advance knowledge of hacked Democratic emails that WikiLeaks was planning to release in October 2016.
If Stone did have such knowledge, it would contradict his claims in congressional testimony and to the media.
According to The Times, Stone discussed the WikiLeaks document dumps with both Steve Bannon, then the chairman of the Trump campaign, and Matthew Boyle, who at the time was the Washington editor of the far-right website Breitbart, which was previously spearheaded by Bannon.
On October 2, 2016, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared on a video link from Europe and indicated the organisation would release a trove of documents related to the 2016 race.
The announcement reportedly caught Bannon’s attention.
“What was that this morning???” Bannon said in an email to Stone, who at the time had reportedly been trying to reach Bannon for days regarding what Assange may have had.
“A load every week going forward,” Stone replied. He appeared to be echoing Assange’s claim that WikiLeaks would dump new documents every week until the election on November 8.
The next day, Boyle followed up with Stone, according to The Times.
“It is,” Stone reportedly responded. Boyle then reportedly pressed Bannon to contact Stone about the impending WikiLeaks dump, telling Bannon, “clearly he knows what Assange has.”
In an op-ed published in The Daily Caller shortly before The Times’ story was published, Stone said his communications with Bannon were not indicative of any inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ activities but based on Assange’s public statements.
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“I had long predicted an October release based on Assange’s June 2016 CNN interview with Anderson Cooper in which he said he had a trove of documents on Hillary and would release them,” Stone wrote. “I had been told this would come in October for months by my source Randy Credico who I identified for the House Intelligence Committee.
Stone has said that Credico, a left-wing radio host, served as an intermediary between him and Assange. Credico, who has testified under oath in the Mueller probe, denies this.
Addressing the exchange with Boyle during which Stone said that WikiLeaks had something “good” on the Clinton campaign, the GOP strategist said his response was based on Credico’s insistence that the material was “devastating,” “bombshell,” and would “change the race.”
Just a few days after the exchange with Boyle, Stone’s prediction came true. On October 7, WikiLeaks released a trove of hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Stone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nearly a dozen of Stone’s associates have been called to interview with the special counsel or testify before a grand jury in the Russia probe. Mueller has long been homing in on Stone as he examines whether Stone had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to disseminate Democratic emails that had been stolen by the Russians.