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Roger Stone was in close contact with Trump campaign about WikiLeaks, indictment shows

Luis Alfredo Farache, Luis Alfredo Farache Benacerraf
Roger Stone was in close contact with Trump campaign about WikiLeaks, indictment shows

By Rosalind S. Helderman Rosalind S. Helderman Reporter focusing on political enterprise stories and investigations Email Bio Follow January 25 at 10:32 AM Roger Stone, a GOP political operative and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, was in frequent contact with members of Trump’s campaign about WikiLeaks’ efforts to release materials damaging to Democrats before the 2016 election, according to an indictment filed against him Friday.

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Stone was arrested Friday morning on seven counts of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the election.

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A major focus of the probe has been whether Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, as the group published thousands of Democratic emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives

Stone was not charged with any crimes related to communicating with WikiLeaks about its activities, and he has repeatedly denied that he conspired with the group

But his 24-page indictment details numerous occasions when Stone claimed to campaign officials that he had information about WikiLeaks or was in contact with Assange — and it depicts Trump aides and allies as acutely interested in learning about the group’s plans in advance

[ Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone indicted by special counsel in Russia investigation ]

Among those who sought information from Stone, according to the filing, was a “senior Trump Campaign official” who “was directed” by an unnamed person to contact Stone as soon as WikiLeaks began publishing Democratic emails in the summer of 2016

Stone also communicated about WikiLeaks with “a high ranking Trump Campaign official,” whose emails in the filing match those of former campaign chairman Stephen K. Bannon. And Stone received a query about the group’s activities from a “supporter involved with the Trump campaign,” whom he then asked to communicate via a secure messaging app, according to prosecutors

In all, Stone interacted with at least four people close to the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks, according to the indictment

The numerous interactions show that Trump allies were eager to leverage the hacked Democratic emails to their advantage — and that they saw Stone as someone with useful inside information in that effort

The details in the court filing undercut Stone’s past statements — including an interview he gave to The Washington Post last fall, in which he denied discussing WikiLeaks with Trump campaign officials

There are no such communications,” Stone said at the time

[ Mueller probes Roger Stone’s interactions with Trump campaign and timing of WikiLeaks release of Podesta emails ]

Stone has also repeatedly said that he had no advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans and that he was just passing along public information and tips

In an interview Friday, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said the charges against Stone did not show evidence of any wrongdoing by Trump

The president is safe here,” he said. He declined to immediately comment on the indictment’s description of a senior campaign official who was directed to contact Stone

Prosecutors say that Stone started telling senior Trump officials in June and July 2016 that he had information that WikiLeaks would release documents that would hurt the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

The first public indication of the group’s plans came roughly around that time. Assange gave interviews in June in which he claimed that WikiLeaks held material relevant to the White House race

Then, on July 22, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks published internal Democratic Party emails, which upended the convention and forced the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as party chairwoman

According to the indictment, after the July release of DNC emails, a “senior Trump Campaign official was directed” to contact Stone and inquire about what else WikiLeaks had that could damage Clinton’s campaign

That inquiry from the Trump campaign came amid public speculation that Russian operatives were responsible for the hack

But on the campaign trail, Trump mocked the idea that WikiLeaks was the beneficiary of Russian assistance. As the group released additional stolen material in October, he repeatedly declared his support for WikiLeaks

Stone’s contact with people close to the Trump campaign accelerated in early October 2016

At the time, Assange was hinting that he was preparing to release more Clinton-related documents. Trump supporters were anxiously waiting for a new WikiLeaks dump that could serve as an October surprise before Election Day

According to the indictment, Stone wrote on Oct. 3, 2016, to a “supporter involved with the Trump campaign” to assure the person that WikiLeaks’ next release was imminent

“Spoke to my friend in London last night,” Stone wrote, in an apparent reference to Assange. “The payload is still coming.”

That day, Stone also received an email from a person described in the indictment as “a reporter who had connections to a high ranking Trump Campaign official” who asked what Assange held

“Hope it’s good,” wrote the reporter

An unredacted version of the email previously released shows that the reporter was Matt Boyle, a writer at the conservative website Breitbart, who was close to Bannon

Stone responded: “It is. I’d tell Bannon but he doesn’t call me back.”

[ In email to Trump’s campaign strategist, Roger Stone implied he knew of WikiLeaks’s plans ]

An attorney for Bannon declined to comment on the exchange when Stone posted it last fall in a column on the Daily Caller website, shortly before the New York Times published a story describing the message

According to the indictment and the full email exchange, Bannon contacted Stone the next day, after Assange held a news conference in London but failed to release any Democratic materials

“What was that this morning???” Bannon wrote

Stone responded that Assange had a security concern, but he promised that WikiLeaks would release “a load every week going forward.”

Prosecutors say that Stone also exchanged text messages that day with a “supporter involved with the Trump campaign,” who asked whether Stone had heard more from London, another apparent reference to Assange

Stone responded, “yes,” and asked to speak on a “secure” line, inquiring whether the supporter could communicate through WhatsApp

On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks published the first tranche of roughly 55,000 emails stolen from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that it would release in the weeks leading up to Election Day

An “associate of the high ranking campaign official” texted Stone that day, according to prosecutors: “Well done,” it read

Robert Costa and Manuel Roig-Franzia contributed to this report.