Roger Stone, a longtime advisor to President Trump, sent an email to Trump’s chief campaign strategist in October 2016 that implied that he had information about WikiLeaks’ plans to release material that would be damaging to then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
In an email to Stephen Bannon on Oct. 4 — days before WikiLeaks began releasing emails hacked from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta — Stone said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange feared for his personal safety but would nevertheless be releasing “a load every week going forward.”
Stone posted the exchange with Bannon on Thursday in a column on the Daily Caller website, shortly before the New York Times published a story describing the message.
The 2016 email suggests that Stone — long known for a tendency to exaggerate and hype — was nevertheless viewed by Bannon and the Trump campaign as a source to consult for information about WikiLeaks.
The group’s release of documents allegedly hacked by Russian operatives in the final months of the 2016 White House race is being investigated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Mueller’s team has been intently focused on the question of whether Stone had knowledge of WikiLeaks’ activities.
Stone has long insisted that he did not know what WikiLeaks planned to release and that predictions he made were based on public information and tips from associates.
His newly revealed exchange with Bannon undercuts Stone’s insistence this week that he never communicated with Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks.
“There are no such communications, and if Bannon says there are, he would be dissembling,” Stone told the Washington Post, which reported Tuesday that Bannon had been asked about Stone’s interactions with the campaign in a recent interview with the Mueller team.
On Thursday, Stone told the Post that he “was unaware of this email exchange until it was leaked.”
“We had not turned it up in our search,” he added. “We can find no others to campaign officials.”
William Burck, an attorney for Bannon, declined to comment.
Stone’s email to Bannon came in the key week before WikiLeaks began releasing Podesta’s emails — a time when Stone had been publicly trumpeting his belief that WikiLeaks would drop material that would reshape the campaign’s final weeks.
On Sunday, Oct. 2, Stone tweeted: “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.”
The next day, Stone received an email from Matt Boyle, an editor for Breitbart News, the conservative publication that Bannon led before he was named Trump’s campaign chief in August 2016, the New York Times reported.
“Assange - what’s he got?” Boyle asked. “Hope it's good.”
Stone wrote back: “It is.”
Boyle then forwarded the message to Bannon, writing, “You should call Roger.”
A Breitbart spokesman told the Post that Boyle “acted in his role as a journalist to attempt to uncover the story behind Roger Stone’s public claims.” Boyle has not been contacted by Mueller, according to a person close to him.
On Oct. 4, Assange spoke by video conference to reporters gathered in Berlin. Instead of releasing material, as had been expected, Assange announced a vague plan to publish documents sometime in the future, suggesting that there would be weekly releases at some point.
An apparently disappointed Bannon wrote Stone: “What was that this morning???”
Stone replied: “Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done. However — a load every week going forward.”
On Thursday, Stone said the idea of weekly releases was based on Assange’s public announcement. He said that his information about Assange’s fears came from Randy Credico, a New York comedian and radio host who had hosted Assange on his show.
Credico has denied providing Stone with inside information about WikiLeaks.
According to Stone, Credico told him that Assange had been warned to delay the release of hacked emails in early October 2016 by Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst famed for his role as the source of the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s. In Stone’s account, Ellsberg is described as a WikiLeaks “attorney.”
Reached by phone Thursday, Ellsberg broke into laughter when told of Stone’s claim.
“How absurd,” Ellsberg said. “I am not, of course, a lawyer. That doesn’t make any sense at all. That story is totally false.”
Ellsberg had been supportive of WikiLeaks in 2010, when he appeared with Assange at a news conference in London after the group released hundreds of thousands of Iraq War documents. He said he later visited Assange at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been confined for years.
But Ellsberg said he had had no contact with Assange about the WikiLeaks releases during the 2016 campaign. Ellsberg said he opposed the releases and thought Assange had used “bad judgment” in an effort to defeat Clinton.