As the Russia investigation keeps chugging along, it’s newly taking another Trump associate along with it — Roger Stone, who’s known President Donald Trump for decades, worked briefly on his campaign in an official capacity, and has stayed in touch with the president’s inner circles. During an interview written up for The New Yorker, Stone at one point refused to explicitly deny that that he’d discussed Wikileaks with Trump via speakerphone when he was still a candidate.
He’d offered a broader denial, claiming to have “no memory” of ever discussing Wikileaks with Trump, but when journalist Jeffrey Toobin pressed Stone about the specific allegation that there’s a witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe who heard him and Trump discussing Wikileaks on the phone, Stone offered simply:
If the two of them did discuss Wikileaks, the situation would offer yet another condemnation of the Trump campaign and team overall. As Mueller’s indictment against Stone lays out, the long infamous right wing political operative worked in the months before the 2016 elections to get in touch with Wikileaks, which distributed the troves of emails that Russian hackers stole from the Democratic Party. As early as July 2016, Stone sought to have his associate Jerome Corsi patch through a request to the organization’s leader Julian Assange for emails they supposedly had that dealt with the Clinton Foundation.
Stone sought to conceal these machinations with a false cover story that journalist Randy Credico was his go-to guy for getting in touch with Assange and Wikileaks, a line he proved committed to enough to threaten Credico — and his dog — in an effort to get him to agree to the cover story.
That plot finished falling apart when FBI agents knocked at Stone’s door recently, arresting him on charges including witness tampering, lying to Congress, and obstruction of justice. The charges do not cover specific questions of collusion, per se, as many of those overarching, “final” determinations have been left out of indictments from Mueller’s team that have emerged so far. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker claimed recently that Mueller’s investigation was close to its conclusion, but time will tell if that was just wishful thinking or based on some hard evidence.
Stone has fought the charges to the point of a federal judge working his case reportedly considering a gag order. Very soon after he got out of jail on bond, he launched himself into the cable news circuit, claiming his innocence via outlandish assertions like that terror leader Osama bin Laden — who was shot by Navy SEALs and dumped in the ocean — was treated better.
He’s even gotten the president on his side in that nonsense. Trump tweeted that “Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better” than Roger Stone was — although again, he was simply (in his own words!) taken into custody by “courteous” FBI agents on serious federal charges and soon afterwards released on bond.
Trump could be so keen to jump to his questionable conclusions because he’s guilty too. Besides his public statements during the campaign explicitly in support of both Wikileaks and the Russian hacking efforts, the full scope of what he and his campaign knew and did behind the scenes keeps proving bigger and bigger. An unnamed individual in Trump’s world explicitly directed a senior campaign official to stay in touch with Stone about Wikileaks.
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