Roger Stone Sought WikiLeaks’ Plans Amid 2016 Campaign, Associate Says
Posted November 27, 2018 11:44 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON — An associate of former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone released documents Tuesday showing that as the presidential campaign heated up in the summer of 2016, Stone tried to dispatch him to find out what information WikiLeaks had that could prove damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The associate, Jerome Corsi, a conservative author, said he might be indicted on a charge of lying to federal investigators because he told them that he refused Stone’s request when in fact he passed it on to an intermediary. He said he had refused a plea deal offered by the office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, because he did not intentionally lie, but merely forgot events of more than two years ago.
Corsi’s dealings with Mueller’s prosecutors have caused alarm among the president’s legal team, who were informed of developments by Corsi’s lawyer. President Donald Trump’s lawyers were especially troubled by a draft statement of offense against Corsi that was passed on to them, according to people familiar with the situation. In it, prosecutors claimed that Corsi understood that Stone was “in regular contact with senior members of the Trump campaign, including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump” when he asked Corsi in late July 2016 to “get to” Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
The reference to Trump coincided with other events that so disturbed the president’s lawyers that they delayed turning in his responses to written questions after negotiating over them with the special counsel for nearly a year. At roughly the same time, the Justice Department inadvertently released a secret criminal complaint against Assange and Trump’s legal team learned that prosecutors were accusing Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, of lying. Only after Mueller’s team reassured Trump’s lawyers that they were not trying to lure the president into a trap did they forward his answers on Nov. 20.
A conservative best-selling author, Corsi, 72, has suddenly emerged as an intriguing figure in the special counsel’s investigation of Russia’s interference into the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign knew about or aided with Moscow’s covert operation. By speaking openly about his dealings with the special counsel, and giving reporters draft documents from prosecutors of a proposed plea deal, a criminal charge and a statement of offense, he has provided new information about the direction of Mueller’s investigation.
He said prosecutors are especially interested in an email he sent to Stone on Aug. 2, 2016, saying “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” he wrote. “Impact planned to be very damaging.” He said he was referring to Assange, who has lived in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for years, but he was merely speculating about what WikiLeaks had planned and had no inside information.
He said that prosecutors are wrongly accusing him of lying to them about that message and others when he is guilty of no more than a faulty memory. Asked if he expected to be indicted, he said in an interview Tuesday, “I don’t know.” After he refused to plead guilty to a felony, he said, the prosecutors told him, “We will take it from here.”
His interactions with prosecutors started out amicably, he said. They were pleased when he testified before a grand jury Sept. 21 that he helped Stone devise a false story to explain a message he posted on Twitter on Aug. 21, 2016. Stone wrote: “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
Stone’s prediction seemed remarkably prescient because about six weeks later, WikiLeaks began releasing 50,000 emails that Russian agents had stolen from the computer of John D. Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. The emails threw the Clinton campaign off stride just as Trump’s own campaign was imperiled by the release of a recording in which he boasted of grabbing women’s genitals.
Stone, who advised the Trump campaign in 2015 and remained in touch with campaign officials, has insisted that he was referring to business dealings of Podesta and his brother Tony, not to Podesta’s emails. Corsi had publicly backed Stone’s account, saying that he provided Stone with research that formed the basis for his Twitter message.
But he now says that he and Stone came up with the explanation of the Podestas’ business dealings to deflect controversy. He said he was given a limited grant of immunity before he testified about the “cover story” for the Twitter message because otherwise he might have been charged with suborning perjury. Among other issues, prosecutors are examining whether Stone testified truthfully to the House Intelligence Committee a year ago that he had no “advance knowledge of the source or actual content of the WikiLeaks disclosure.”
Stone said on his website that Corsi was confused about what took place. “Jerry is simply mistaken that what we discussed was a cover. Ask yourself, ‘a cover for what?' ” he wrote. “In August 2016, there was no investigation, no special counsel, no congressional committees and no subpoenas, why would a story be necessary?”
He was also quoted as saying that while he was curious about information WikiLeaks had in 2016 that could affect the presidential race, so too was “every politico and political reporter in America.” He said that nothing in the newly released documents showed that he had advance knowledge that Podesta’s emails had been stolen or what WikiLeaks possessed or planned to release.