Roger Stone, former Trump adviser, denies advance knowledge of Podesta leak in response to report
Former Trump adviser Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange pushed back Tuesday against a report that alleged they were in communication during the 2016 presidential election.
Mr. Stone told two associates during the 2016 presidential race that he was in contact with Mr. Assange, notwithstanding his repeated claims to the contrary, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
An unnamed source speaking on condition of anonymity said that Mr. Stone mentioned during a phone call in the spring of 2016 that he had learned from Mr. Assange that his website was in possession of emails damaging to Democrats, including specifically John Podesta, the chairman of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, according to the report.
That alleged conversation happened before the public was aware that WikiLeaks had obtained emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Mr. Podesta, the likes of which the website ultimately began publishing in July and October 2016, respectively, The Post reported.
A second source fellow former Trump campaign official Sam Nunberg told The Post that Mr. Stone said that he had met with Mr. Assange, and that he was recently asked to describe the conversation to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators probing the 2016 race, according to the report.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, Mr. Stone denied he knew in advance about the publication of Mr. Podesta’s emails and said that his remark about meeting Mr. Assange was meant in jest.
“Sam Nunberg’s statements do not create evidence. There is no evidence that I participated in or have any knowledge of any collusion with the Russians to effect the 2016 elections. I had no advance notice of the content, source or timing of the Wikileaks publication of any material,” Mr. Stone told The Washington Times.
“Nor did I receive any allegedly hacked material from any source and pass them on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign. Nor did I know in advance that Wikileaks had obtained John Podesta’s emails and would publish them nor did I predict that his e-mail would be published.”
Mr. Stone acknowledged telling Mr. Nunberg in a phone call that he was planning on “flying to London to have dinner with Julian Assange,” but he told The Times that he was joking when he made the remark.
“It was jocular and of course provably false via passport record and security video,” said Mr. Stone, but Mr. Nunberg “was too intense to figure out it was a joke,” he added.
“Sam is a talented researcher and writer and a relentless gossip and yenta. In this case he has done me a disservice,” said Mr. Stone.
Mr. Assange dismissed both the report and Mr. Stone when reached for comment Tuesday.
“Washington Post has no credibility when it knowingly participates in Mr. Stone’s hoaxes,” Mr. Assange told The Times.
Allegations involving any ties between Mr. Stone and WikiLeaks resurfaced after Mr. Nunberg revealed last week that he was subpoenaed by the special counsel’s office for his communications with several fellow former Trump campaign officials, Mr. Stone included. He subsequently appeared before Mr. Mueller’s team on Friday, then told reporters that investigators appeared interested in Mr. Stone in particular.
“I’m very worried about him,” Mr. Nunberg told ABC News on Saturday. “He’s certainly at least the subject of this investigation, in the very least he’s a subject.”
The special counsel’s office is currently investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 race, including any potential collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and foreign operatives. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Russian hackers breached both the DNC and Mr. Podesta’s personal email account in order to obtain sensitive correspondence subsequently published by WikiLeaks during the 2016 race as part of a Kremlin-authorized campaign meant to target the election and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign in particular.
Mr. Stone made several comments in 2016 that suggested he was aware of WikiLeaks’ plans to target Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman prior to publication of Mr. Podesta’s personal emails, including notably tweeting: “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.” He’s since denied being in cahoots with the anti-secrecy group, however, and Mr. Assange has denied communicating with Mr. Stone.