It’s been just over a week since former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg conducted a mad scramble across America’s newsrooms going from newspaper to television and back again. And again. There may or may not have been chemical propellants involved in Nunberg’s flight across the public stage, but he made no secret about the reason for his panic—he was sure that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is out to get his friend and mentor Roger Stone. While Nunberg started the evening claiming that Stone had done something wrong, eventually he let slip that Stone “might have lied.”
And it seems clear that Roger Stone did lie. Often. About something that actually means more than it may seem.
Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The timing on this is interesting.
The hack of Podesta’s emails itself began only in mid-March 2016. Russian hackers were allegedly still breaking into the DNC’s network that April. The suggestion, then, is that Stone may have known about the hacked information shortly after it was hacked — which would raise questions about how rapidly the information was transferred from the hackers to WikiLeaks.
And of course, there is a Trump connection that already had that early knowledge. Because that was just at the time when the Russians approached George Papadopoulos, and Papadopoulos took that information back to the Trump campaign.
This more than suggests that Stone’s contact with Assange was prompted by the Trump campaign. Which would make this particularly interesting to Mueller, and make Stone’s lies about the matter a direct cover-up of collusion within the Trump campaign.
The House GOP has signaled to Donald Trump that there is no crime they won’t forgive, but at least until Trump uses his get out of constitution free card to clear the decks at the DOJ, Mueller is continuing his investigation. And it seems clear that the special counsel knows where he is going.
The indictments that Mueller has produced so far have been detailed, but none of them carried the extensive backstory of the indictment against Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. It was obvious from the moment that it was produced, that Mueller didn’t want to just indict Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI, he wanted to put out the timeline of the Trump representative’s contact with Russian operatives.
April 26, 2016. Papadopoulos is informed by his contact that the Russians have “dirt” on Clinton in the form of emails. It’s not clear whether he conveys this information to the campaign, although he later emails a senior campaign staffer to inform him of “interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”
The very next day, Papadopoulos was on the phone to the Trump campaign, informing several of the senior staff there—including Roger Stone’s long-time partner, Paul Manafort—both that the Russians had the stolen emails and that they were offering the material to the Trump campaign.
If Stone then turned around and made contact with Assange, it means that the Trump campaign was aware of Russia’s intention to distribute the emails through Wikileaks well before the DNC was even aware that they had been hacked. In other words, while Stone may seem like a peripheral figure, his communication with Assange on this topic, at that time, would mean that the Trump campaign was in on the theft of Democratic emails from the very beginning, from the time it was happening, and also integral to the release and distribution of those emails.
Without Stone, Mueller already has enough to show that Trump’s team was eagerly seeking Russian information, and communicating with both the Russians and their distributor. With Stone, Mueller would be able to show that the Trump team was involved in every step of the effort. Stone’s advance knowledge of WikiLeaks involvement adds a whole new dimension to the conspiracy to defraud the American public.
That’s why Stone has to deny that he had the communications he once bragged about.
“The allegation that I met with Assange, or asked for a meeting or communicated with Assange, is provably false,” he said, adding that he did not leave the country in 2016.
Yeah … except
The person, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing federal investigation into Russian campaign interference, is one of two Stone associates who say Stone claimed to have had contact with Assange in 2016.