The Story in yesterdays New York Times is a weird blend of fact and fiction, so much so that it requires a deconstruction to get at the truth.
Roger Stone Sold Himself to Trump’s Campaign as a WikiLeaks Pipeline. Was He?
Nov. 1, 2018
WASHINGTON — When the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, appeared on a video link from Europe a month before the 2016 presidential election and vaguely promised to release a flood of purloined documents related to the race, the head of Donald J. Trump’s campaign, Stephen K. Bannon, was interested.
The New York Times omits from this report that Assange had appeared on CNN in June of 2016 to announce that he had acquired substantial material on Hillary Clinton and would be publishing it before the election. Assange told FOX news on August 24 that his team had “thousands of pages of material” and was “working around the clock” to prepare it for publication” Not only Mr. Bannon but every political reporters and politico in America was waiting for the much-hyped Oct 2 Wikileaks Press event.
He emailed the political operative Roger J. Stone Jr., who had been trying to reach him for days about what Mr. Assange might have in store. “What was that this morning???” Mr. Bannon asked on Oct. 4. There is no evidence I had been trying to reach Bannon for days. I wasn’t.
“A load every week going forward,” Mr. Stone replied, echoing Mr. Assange’s public vow to publish documents on a weekly basis until the Nov. 8 election. The New York Times omits that the schedule of weekly releases was only announced at Assange’s Oct 2 Press event. ‘Assange said the organization would publish documents on various subjects every week for the next 10 weeks, and vowed that the U.S. election-related documents would all come out before Election Day.” is how Politico reported it.
The email exchange, not previously reported, underscores how Mr. Stone presented himself to Trump campaign officials: as a conduit of inside information from WikiLeaks, Russia’s chosen repository for documents hacked from Democratic computers. I never presented myself in any such way. Perhaps they read my twitter feed.
Mr. Bannon and two other former senior campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie- lying schmucks who I had no communication with in 2016 have detailed to prosecutors for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, how Mr. Stone created that impression, according to people familiar with their accounts. One of them told investigators that Mr. Stone not only seemed to predict WikiLeaks’s actions, but that he also took credit afterward for the timing of its disclosures that damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The Times provides no proof of this claim and I have never, in any forum taken credit for the timing of the Wikileaks disclosures- this is called hearsay. In fact I have said quite the opposite .
But at the same time, the top tier of Mr. Trump’s campaign was deeply skeptical of Mr. Stone, who has made a career of merging fact and fiction and seems to prize attention over credibility. The only thing worse in politics than being wrong is being boring. I am a veteran of 10 national presidential campaigns. I can defend my track record of effectiveness.
Whether Mr. Stone was, in fact, a trusted intermediary to WikiLeaks — or simply a master of puffery that made him appear so — remains a paramount question for Mr. Mueller’s investigators, who are examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race and whether any Trump associates conspired with Moscow’s effort. I at no time every claimed to be “a trusted intermediary “to Wikileaks. The New York Times attempts to put words on my mouth.
To tease out the truth, prosecutors have summoned Mr. Stone’s former employees and longtime political allies to testify before a federal grand jury in Washington or be interviewed at the special counsel’s office. Investigators asked them about a range of issues, including Mr. Stone’s relationship with WikiLeaks, his attempts during the presidential race to raise money for his political causes and whether he tried to persuade one associate not to cooperate with the inquiry. I have never urged anyone not to co-operate with the Mueller inquiry. I testified myself before the House Intelligence Committee for four hours voluntarily. Despite claims by partisans protected from suit by Congressional immunity, that testimony is 100 % accurate and truthful.
Mr. Stone has repeatedly said that he had access only to Mr. Assange’s public statements and to secondhand information from journalists or other sources. If he implied that he had more direct sources, he has said, he was simply engaging in political hyperbole.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Stone insisted he did nothing more than “posture, bluff, hype,” based on WikiLeaks’s Twitter feed and miscellaneous tips.
“I didn’t need any inside knowledge to do that. They keep looking for some direct communication with WikiLeaks that doesn’t exist,” he said of journalists reporting on the Russia investigation. He added that he had paid for two polygraph tests that prove he is telling the truth.
This article is based on interviews with people familiar with the Russia investigation and the inner workings of the Trump campaign, as well as a review of hundreds of text messages and emails that Mr. Stone exchanged over months with several associates, including Randy Credico, a New York comedian, former radio host and left-wing activist whom Mr. Stone has repeatedly identified as his source about WikiLeaks. The e-mails leaked to and reviewed by the Times appear to have been cherry-picked and in some cases altered. Clever.
Besides the confusion caused by Mr. Stone’s penchant for innuendo and outright lies, being called a liar by the New York Times is like being called ugly by a frog investigators are hampered by the fact that Mr. Assange remains out of reach, holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has lived for six years in fear of extradition to face possible criminal charges. Actually, Assange has said “Roger Stone is a rather canny spinmaster and we have not had any communications with him whatsoever,” as reported by CNN and as the Washington Post reported “WikiLeaks & Assange have repeatedly confirmed that they have never communicated with Stone”. These quotes, and others like them, are easily findable by the Times, if they had bothered to try.
Still, Mr. Bannon’s October 2016 email correspondence shows that the perception that Mr. Stone knew what WikiLeaks had in store for Mrs. Clinton spread to the highest levels of the Trump campaign. No evidence has emerged that Mr. Trump or his advisers alerted the authorities. Although I had no advance knowledge of the content of the Wikileaks disclosures this implies such knowledge at the time would be illegal. It would not.
As the month began, Mr. Stone peppered Twitter with predictions of an October surprise from Mr. Assange, whipping up speculation in the American news media and beyond. Mr. Assange, too, had been hinting at coming bombshells. Simply by setting a Google News Alert on “Julian Assange” and watching the official Wikileaks twitter feed I could easily make vague but ominous predictions. This is not rocket-science.
Unable to reach Mr. Bannon, Mr. Stone communicated with Matthew Boyle, the Washington political editor of the far-right Breitbart News, which Mr. Bannon ran before joining Mr. Trump’s campaign. Actually, the e-mail trail shows Boyle reached out to me not the other way around as the Times has reported.
“Assange — what’s he got?” Mr. Boyle asked Mr. Stone on Oct. 3. “Hope it’s good.”
“It is,” Mr. Stone replied. This is based on the tip from Randy Credico , a Bernie Sanders and later a Jill Stein supporter who insistence the material was “devastating”, “bombshell” and would “change the race” from early August to October. Although he never told me the source or content of what he said was coming he insisted it would be ‘big’ and would be in October.
A half-hour later, Mr. Boyle emailed Mr. Bannon, urging him to call Mr. Stone. Mr. Bannon replied, “I’ve got important stuff to worry about.”
Mr. Boyle continued to press: “Clearly he knows what Assange has.” Conjecture by Mr. Boyle. I said no such thing in my e-mail.
A Breitbart spokesman said in a statement, “Matt Boyle acted in his role as a journalist to attempt to uncover the story behind Roger Stone’s public claims.”
The next day, after Mr. Assange’s news conference via video link, Mr. Bannon followed up with his email to Mr. Stone. According to one person familiar with Mr. Bannon’s account to prosecutors, the exchange ended with Mr. Stone’s reply, in which he essentially repeated what Mr. Assange or his allies had already said publicly. Again Assange said “the organization would publish documents on various subjects every week for the next 10 weeks, and vowed that the U.S. election-related documents would all come out before Election Day.” As reported by Politico which was widely overlooked in the coverage of his October 2 announcement.
Three days later, on Oct. 7, Mr. Stone’s prediction of an October surprise came true when WikiLeaks unleashed a trove of emails hacked from the computer of John D. Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman. The disclosure came just a half-hour after the publication of a recording in which Mr. Trump boasted of grabbing women’s genitals and was an apparent attempt to divert attention from that explosive story, which threatened to derail Mr. Trump’s chances of capturing the White House. The implication that I somehow coordinated the date of the release of John Podesta’s e-mail to change the news narrative after the Billy Bush “grab their p***y” recording on October is totally without foundation. In fact Assange had announced his weekly release schedule on October 2.
The kind of case prosecutors might be trying to build against Mr. Stone is difficult to determine. According to people familiar with the inquiry, they are focused in part on whether Mr. Stone testified truthfully when he told the House Intelligence Committee a year ago that he had no “advance knowledge of the source or actual content of the WikiLeaks disclosures.” I had no advance knowledge of the source, content or exact timing of the Wikileaks disclosures. There is no evidence or witness who can honestly prove otherwise. My testimony before the House Committee is 100% accurate and truthful.
Investigators are also examining whether Mr. Stone engaged in witness tampering or obstruction of justice stemming from his dealings with Mr. Credico, the people said. I never urged anyone not to co-operate with the Mueller inquiry. Credico has however threatened third party witnesses to whom he confirmed he was my back-channel.
In a statement this week, Mr. Stone again labeled Mr. Credico his source about WikiLeaks. Mr. Stone said Mr. Credico “was emphatic over a 50-day period, insisting that this ‘bombshell’ was coming” from WikiLeaks that would undermine Mrs. Clinton before the election.
Mr. Credico has vehemently denied Mr. Stone’s account. Though he interviewed Mr. Assange in August 2016 for a radio show and visited him in London after the election, he has said he never conveyed inside information from WikiLeaks to Mr. Stone. Randy Credico never told me the source or content of the Wikileaks disclosures, only that they would be significant and would “roil the race.
The two men, once friends, have fallen out over the dispute. In one text exchange in May obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Credico told Mr. Stone, “You are an inveterate liar everybody knows that,” to which Mr. Stone replied, “You ain’t exactly George Washington yourself.”
From the beginning, I wanted to protect the identity of Credico, because I knew that his support for Julian Assange and the journalistic independence of WikiLeaks would not be popular in the progressive left circles where he made a living.
I have stressed from the beginning that he confirmed for me that what Julian Assange said on CNN in June of 2016 was true, the WikiLeaks publisher had a treasure trove of documents that would rock the Presidential Campaign.
I turned over Randy Credico’s name to the House Intelligence Committee only reluctantly. I feared that there would be professional and economic repercussions to him if his name leaked, and, as I thought, he was fired at the Progressive radio station where he worked.
When I told Randy that I might be forced to disclose his name as the House Intelligence Committee, he did not react well. In fact he said repeatedly that I should be willing to go to jail rather than disclose that he was my source, rather dramatic I thought.
It was Credico who was distraught at the prospect of testifying not me. I repeatedly told him to tell the truth.
Mr. Credico testified before the grand jury in September and has been interviewed in recent weeks by federal investigators. They are reviewing his communications with Mr. Stone, including emails and text messages, in which Mr. Stone told Mr. Credico not to talk to the F.B.I. and to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself before the grand jury, according to people familiar with the inquiry. This is false. We discussed his fifth Amendment rights only in connection with his role as a journalist and in connection with the House Intelligence Committee. The claim that I somehow threatened or coerced or intimidated Credico are false. I never told him not to talk to the FBI or not co-operate with the Grand Jury. I consistently told him to tell the truth.
Recall that although he refused to testify before the House Intelligence Committee he later met with Democrat members after which he announced on MSNBC that Assange was willing to interview with them. The Democrats and Wikileaks quickly denied it.
Investigators have also questioned Bill Samuels, a wealthy progressive activist in New York and a friend of Mr. Credico’s, in what appears to be an attempt to corroborate portions of Mr. Credico’s account, people familiar with the investigation said. Mr. Samuels once accompanied Mr. Credico to a media interview in which Mr. Credico asserted that he was not Mr. Stone’s link to Julian Assange. So Samuels heard Credico lie in an interview…and ?
Mr. Stone said he pressed Mr. Credico only to tell the truth. “I didn’t urge him to plead the Fifth, I didn’t urge him not to testify. He made those decisions on his own,” he said. He added that Mr. Credico was “furious” because he had identified him to the House committee as his WikiLeaks source rather than shielding him. I had no interest in Credico doing anything but telling the truth.
At various points, Mr. Stone has also suggested that he gleaned information about WikiLeaks from Jerome Corsi, a conservative journalist who trades in conspiracy theories. I never “suggested” any such thing. Corsi pointed me to published information regarding the Podesta brothers business interests in Russia and provided a well-researched memo on same. A lawyer for Mr. Corsi, who was also subpeonaed to testify before the grand jury, did not respond to a message seeking comment. Andrew Miller, another former aide to Mr. Stone, was also ordered to testify and is fighting the subpoena.
Mr. Mueller’s investigators have also delved into the operations of Mr. Stone’s political organizations. Mr. Stone has said investigators are examining a nonprofit educational fund called the Committee for American Sovereignty Education Fund, which he said produced a film alleging that former President Bill Clinton fathered an illegitimate child, a favorite theme of Mr. Stone’s. Anyone who watches the documentary produced by this non-profit or reads my book ‘The Clintons’ War on Women “will disagree.
The organization bills itself as a nonprofit social welfare organization that has been designated by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(4) group. But there is no indication in I.R.S. records that it has that status. The Committee for American Sovereignty Education Fund, the non-profit which produced the documentary “Banished The Danney Williams Story” referred to in today’s New York Times was filed with the IRS in 2016 allowing it to begin raising and expending funds. That filing was rejected by the IRS after the election and submitted. The IRS now says that filing is ” in process”. Upon approval all contributor and expenditure information will be required to be filed with the IRS. Thanks to digital advertising millions of Americans saw this documentary.
Mr. Stone’s Oct. 4, 2016, email to Mr. Bannon suggested another reason prosecutors might be interested in the fund. Asking the campaign to promote his theory of an illegitimate son of Mr. Clinton, he wrote: “I’ve raised $150K for the targeted black digital campaign through a C-4,” he wrote. This refers to the perfectly legal effort described above.
“Tell Rebecca to send us some $$$,” Mr. Stone added, apparently referring to Rebekah Mercer, a wealthy Republican donor close to Mr. Bannon. There is no indication that Mr. Bannon replied to him or sought out Ms. Mercer, and it is unclear whether Mr. Stone’s solicitation, alone, violated federal election laws. Mr. Stone said he was referring to a campaign targeting African-American voters. No money was raised from the Mercer family or any source connected to Steve Bannon.
Several advisers connected with another organization founded by Mr. Stone, the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness, have been questioned before the grand jury in Washington — both about donations to the PAC and how the group’s money was dispersed, according to people familiar with the interviews. This Committee ran the ‘Stop the Steal“project that generated enormous publicity for an impending effort to hijack the Republican nomination from Donald Trump in the Rules or Credentials committees at the Republican National Convention and collected data for potential credentials challenges to Cruz delegates improperly selected in in seven states. The Cruz and Kasich campaigns did launch such an effort. It was defeated. The PACS activities were legal and in compliance with FEC regulations although delegate activities could have been funded without public disclosure.
The witnesses include Jason Sullivan, whom Mr. Stone hired as a social media specialist during the months before the election. Another is John Kakanis, an aide who carried out tasks for Mr. Stone as varied as driving him around and doing his accounting.
Mr. Kakanis is listed as the president of a Florida firm called Citroen Associates, which received $137,000 of the $561,968 that the super PAC spent in the 2016 election cycle. He has spent hours under questioning by prosecutors as the special counsel’s team tries to decipher how Mr. Stone used the donations. All PAC expenditures were legal and reported as required.
Sharon LaFraniere and Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman and Danny Hakim from New York. Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting from Washington, and William K. Rashbaum from New York. Kitty Bennett contributed research.