Newly obtained emails, reported by The New York Times, reveal that Roger Stone worked hard to sell himself to the Trump campaign as a direct line to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the last weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
WikiLeaks would go on to release troves of documents stolen by Russia in an effort to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
> 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.
> 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.
> “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.
Bannon and other top campaign officials told special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors that Stone created the impression he was a channel for inside information from WikiLeaks.
> 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.
> 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.
Stone has insisted his information came only from publicly available sources, and that anything he might have said to the contrary was simply hyperbole.
> “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.
However, October 2016 emails between Stone and Bannon indicate that the senior Trump campaign official believed Stone knew what WikiLeaks had in store — and there is no evidence yet that Trump or his advisers alerted authorities, The Times noted.
> 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.
> 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.
> “Assange — what’s he got?” Mr. Boyle asked Mr. Stone on Oct. 3. “Hope it’s good.”
> “It is,” Mr. Stone replied.
At the time, Bannon showed no interest in Stone’s information, telling Boyle he had “important stuff to worry about.”But his interest was piqued after Assange’s news conference:
> 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.
> 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 last of the emails references Stone’s allegations that former President Bill Clinton fathered an illegitimate child.
> Mr. Stone’s Oct. 4, 2016, email to Mr. Bannon suggested another reason prosecutors might be interested in [his nonprofit educational fund called the Committee for American Sovereignty Education 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.
> “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.
The Times said there was no indication that Bannon requested the money from Mercer.
While it isn’t definitive, this is as close to showing a conspiracy between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign in disseminating Hillary Clinton’s emails that were stolen by Russia.