Dispatch January 25, 2019

The Stone Indictment Shows the Trump Campaign Directed Collusion

Longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone has been arrested and indicted by the special counsel on seven charges, including obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering. This is the first indictment that shows directed collusion from the top of the Trump campaign – potentially from Trump himself.

  • The indictment alleges that Stone lied to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election and attempted to obstruct later investigations into these contacts. Stone has stated that he will plead not guilty.
  • The witness tampering charge is related to Stone’s attempt at intimidating radio host Randy Credico into lying to investigators about contacts with WikiLeaks.
  • The indictment also alleges that Stone communicated with InfoWars conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi about Assange and WikiLeaks.
    • An earlier draft plea agreementprovided to Corsi detailed how Stone directed Corsi to connect with WikiLeaks about the trove of stolen materials it received from Russia. Corsi subsequently communicated back to Stone WikiLeaks’ release plan.

The indictment references a “high-ranking Trump Campaign official,” identified by the media as former Trump campaign chief executive Steve Bannon. It also alleges that a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about the WikiLeaks releases, raising the question of who on the campaign was high-ranking enough to issue such an order.

  • Stone himself revealed that he communicated with then-chief executive of the Trump campaign Steve Bannon in October 2016 about the WikiLeaks dumps.
    • The conversation, which began a few days before WikiLeaks began publishing emails stolen from John Podesta’s inbox, shows how eager the Trump campaign was to capitalize on Russia’s illegal activities.
    • According to the published emails, Bannon initially blew off Stone until his successor at Breitbart, Matthew Boyle, assured him Stone “knows what Assange has.”
    • By October, it was public knowledge that Stone claimed inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’s plans. The Trump campaign also knew better than anyone else that WikiLeaks was getting the emails from Russia. In his first briefing as the Republican nominee, the intel community reportedly warned Trump that the Kremlin was behind the hacks.
    • Plus, the campaign knew of the heads-up aide George Papadopoulos got from the Kremlin-linked professor Joseph Mifsud in April.
    • Even these limited transcripts demonstrate once again Roger Stone’s closeness to the campaign and clearly debunk his insistence that he never communicated with the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks.

Stone has been Trump’s associate for decades, and the two remained in contact following Stone’s departure from the campaign.

  • Stone was a longtime business partner with Paul Manafort, and advocated for Trump’s selection of Manafort as his campaign manager.
  • Stone also claims to have been the first to urge Trump to run for President in 1988.
  • After briefly working on the Trump campaign in its early days, Stone officially departed the campaign in August of 2015. The two men continued to speak and support one another during the campaign and through Trump’s inauguration.
    • We know of at least six calls between the two men during the campaign, and at least four known calls/meetings between the two since Election Day 2016.

Stone played a large role in the story of collusion as an intermediary between hackers and the Trump campaign. It wasn’t just Assange – Stone was in communication with Guccifer 2.0, who was responsible for hacking the DNC.

  • Guccifer was eventually revealed to be a persona created by Russian intelligence officers of the GRU. These officers have since been indicted on charges of alleged conspiracy, identify theft, and money laundering. In April 2016, Guccifer tweeted to thank Stone for his defense.
  • Stone was involved in more than just the email release: he was mentioned, unnamed, in the GRU indictment, which notes that the Russian officers asked Stone what he thought about a voter turnout model stolen from the DCCC. Stone replied it was “pretty standard.”
  • Throughout the campaign, as he claimed to be in contact with Assange, Stone seemed to have advance knowledge of WikiLeaks email dumps containing emails stolen from the DNC network.
    • In August 2016, Stone said that the next batch of documents released by WikiLeaks would be from the Clinton Foundation.
    • Stone was the first person to suggest that John Podesta’s emails had been hacked, tweeting on August 21, “Trust me, it will soon [be John] Podesta’s time in the barrel.” At the time of this revelation no one, including Podesta himself, knew that the emails had been hacked.
  • Even after the election, Stone continued to try to maintain his relationship with Assange. Once Trump was in office, Stone attempted to leverage his relationship with the president to secure a pardon for Assange.

Stone’s advanced knowledge of the emails would fit into the pattern of Russian-linked operatives approaching Trump campaign operatives about the stolen materials before publicly releasing them, although he has denied any prior knowledge of the email dumps.

  • George Papadopoulos was informed about the stolen materials on April 26, 2016.
  • Other campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., were informed of dirt on Clinton at the June 9 Trump Tower meeting.
  • Stone also had other Russian contacts offering him compromising material on Hillary Clinton.
    • He revealed in an interview with The Washington Post that in May of 2016, he was offered a deal by a Russian national in which the Trump campaign would receive compromising material on Hillary Clinton in exchange for $2 million.
    • Stone’s meeting with the alleged Russian, Henry Greenberg, adds him to the long list of Trump-affiliated individuals who met with Russians during the campaign.
    • The meeting was facilitated by Trump associate Michael Caputo. Both Stone and Caputo neglected to notify members of Congress who were investigating Russian efforts to aid the Trump campaign of their contacts with Greenberg, saying that they had forgotten about the meetings. They have since amended their testimony to include the meetings.

As his campaign communicated with WikiLeaks, Trump was “briefed and warned” about Russia.

  • A senior Trump campaign official was directed to ask Stone about WikiLeaks “after the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails.” By this time, the Trump campaign had reason to strongly suspect that WikiLeaks was linked to Russia, and a month later, they knew for certain.
    • On June 14, The Washington Post reported that Russia had hacked the DNC, but didn’t mention WikiLeaks specifically.
    • On July 26, The New York Times reported that the U.S. intelligence community believed the emails coming through WikiLeaks were from Russia.
    • Stone began claiming to be in contact with WikiLeaks in early August 2016.
    • As early as August 17, 2016, Trump was “briefed and warned” by U.S. intelligence officials on Russian efforts to interfere in the election.
    • In September 2016, more than a month after the briefing, Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks several times over Twitter.
  • Despite being warned about “potential espionage threats from Russia,” Trump continued to publicly doubt Russian involvement.
  • Officials told Trump that Russia “would probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign,” and urged Trump to report any “suspicious overtures” to the FBI.

It has always been clear that Trump ran the Trump campaign—he was completely in control of his campaign team. The Stone indictment is the latest in a long string of indictments linked to Trump campaign associates, but it is the first to show such a clear top-down direction of collusive activity.

Further reading: