May 142020

Mr. Stone, a longtime friend of President Trump, had denied such a relationship,

but newly revealed court documents unveiled private exchanges.


By Sharon LaFraniere


WASHINGTON — One of the enduring mysteries left unsolved by the Mueller inquiry was whether Roger J. Stone Jr., President Trump’s longtime friend and political adviser, ever communicated during the 2016 presidential campaign with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.


Federal investigators chased the question for months to figure out who, if anyone, in Mr. Trump’s world knew that WikiLeaks was going to release a trove of damaging Democratic emails in an effort to bolster his chances of winning.


Now hundreds of pages of court documents from the federal investigation of Mr. Stone, released late Monday, show that at least after the election, the two men had maintained a personal relationship. Mr. Stone had repeatedly denied that fact after federal and congressional inquiries got underway.


Records show he exchanged messages with Mr. Assange in June 2017, seven months after Mr. Trump’s election victory. The men discussed a different federal inquiry into the release by WikiLeaks in 2010 of classified American documents, a decade-long saga that resulted in criminal charges against Mr. Assange.


“If the US government moves on you I will bring down the entire house of cards,” Mr. Stone wrote in a private Twitter message to Mr. Assange. In another message, Mr. Stone said that he was trying to intercede “at the highest level of government” on Mr. Assange’s behalf. “Fed treatment of you and WikiLeaks is an outrage,” he wrote.


Mr. Assange is now in a London prison, fighting extradition to the United States.


The records shed no new light on whether Mr. Stone, 67, directly communicated with Mr. Assange before the election. Investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, failed to resolve that question at least in part because both Mr. Stone and Mr. Assange refused to cooperate. The team found insufficient evidence to charge anyone associated with the Trump campaign of conspiring with Russia to influence the results of the election.


Questioned by a congressional committee about his contacts with WikiLeaks in September 2017, Mr. Stone lied repeatedly under oath. He was convicted last year of obstructing a congressional inquiry, lying to federal authorities and witness tampering and was later sentenced to 40 months in prison. He has yet to begin serving his prison term, and has repeatedly and publicly implored Mr. Trump to pardon him.


In a statement, Mr. Stone reiterated his protests that he was wrongly prosecuted and said that the documents showed “the baseless overreach of the Mueller witch hunt and exonerate me from the crazed left-wing media charges of Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration and the receipt and dissemination of stolen emails, false narratives that ruined my life for the last three years.”


The hundreds of pages of search warrants and affidavits were released in response to a lawsuit filed by The New York Times and other news media organizations.


Prosecutors said that Mr. Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks before the 2016 election because the truth would have embarrassed Mr. Trump and his campaign.


Earlier this month, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court for the District of Columbia, who oversaw Mr. Stone’s case, rejected his request for a new trial. Federal authorities are expected to order him to begin serving his sentence soon.


Mr. Stone’s explanations of his relationship with Mr. Assange have varied widely. Before the 2016 election, he first said he was in direct touch with Mr. Assange, then said he was communicating with him through an intermediary. Later, when those claims became a political liability for Mr. Trump, he said he was only bluffing.


“I have never met with, nor spoken to Julian Assange, either in person, by telephone or email or any other means,” he said on his website in April 2018. “Assange himself has repeatedly and publicly said the same thing.”


The June 2017 exchange of messages shows that Mr. Stone tried to reassure Mr. Assange that he would escape criminal prosecution. “With the trumped-up sexual assault charges dropped, I don’t know of any crime you need to be pardoned for,” he wrote. He was apparently referring to a decision by Swedish authorities to drop a sexual assault investigation that focused on Mr. Assange.


Mr. Assange replied: “Between CIA and DoJ they’re doing quite a lot. On the DoJ side that’s coming most strongly from those obsessed with taking down Trump trying to squeeze us into a deal.”


Six days later, Mr. Stone wrote: “I am doing everything possible to address the issues at the highest level of Government,” adding that he had to be circumspect because his communications were monitored.


The records also reveal that before the 2016 election, Mr. Stone created hundreds of fake Facebook accounts. One of his assistants told investigators that he created “a couple hundred” Facebook accounts for Mr. Stone and that aides helped Mr. Stone shape them to appear real.


Mr. Stone apparently wanted fake accounts so he could call greater attention to stolen emails, released by WikiLeaks, that proved damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Facebook requires users to provide their real names and information, but it is not a crime to create fake accounts


Kitty Bennett contributed research.


Sharon LaFraniere is an investigative reporter. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for national reporting on Donald Trump’s connections with Russia. @SharonLNYT

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