Yesterday, Donald Trump’s House Republican allies announced that they had found no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign had colluded with Russia. And yet the considerable body of public evidence to the contrary continues to grow. Today, the Washington Post reports that Trump’s friend and informal adviser Roger Stone had advance knowledge that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had obtained stolen emails from John Podesta. Two sources — one of whom is Sam Nunberg, and the other of whom is not named — tell the Post that Stone knew about the email hack before it was publicly disclosed.
Stone had teased his knowledge of the hacks repeatedly. His now-suspended Twitter account enthralled his audience during the campaign by promising, “Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary,” “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp,” and “Payload coming. #Lockthemup.”
Perhaps recognizing the legal danger he placed himself in, Stone has since denied having had any direct contact with Assange, and has implausibly cast his remarks as mere speculation. Last September, according to the ranking Democrat on the committee, Stone refused to answer a direct question from the House Intelligence Committee about his contacts with WikiLeaks.
The Post story makes it clear that Stone’s implausible public story and reported refusal to testify in Congress are a cover story because he is an accessory after the fact to Russian-orchestrated email theft. Stone denies the account of both sources. If Stone, who has gleefully cultivated a reputation as a dirty trickster, has to deny a charge, you know it’s serious.
The Post’s story does not speculate about whether Stone shared his knowledge with other Trump campaign officials, including Donald Trump himself. It would be stunning and bizarre if he did not. Stone held an official role in the Trump campaign, but departed his official role in August 2015 on what he later called “excellent terms.” Later in August, Stone was characteristically cagey about his contacts with the candidate. “Asked if he had spoken with Mr. Trump since they apparently went their separate ways, Mr. Stone said: ‘I would rather not say. I still consider him a friend, and think he still considers me a friend; let’s just leave it at that,’” reported the New York Times.
Soon after, Stone grew less hesitant to tout his access to Trump. “We’re on cordial terms. We talk. … We talk on the phone from time to time,” he told TPM in September. In a April 2016 Politico interview, he described more about his relationship with Trump, and repeatedly emphasized his close ties with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. “By turning to Paul Manafort, who’s a former partner of mine, a very skilled guy … by going to Manafort, I think that Donald has made an excellent selection.” In May, he told Jeffrey Toobin he speaks with Trump “now and then.” In August, he told C-span, “I have no formal nor informal role but I do have access to all the right people.” In October, he boasted of “firing off long memos to the Donald once or twice a week.”
During all these conversations, when Stone was jockeying for access and favor with the candidate, what are the odds he did not disclose the delicious secret he had obtained? It is impossible to believe that, after Donald Trump Jr. and other high-ranking campaign officials met in Trump Tower with a Russian agent who promised them dirt on Hillary Clinton, Donald Jr. did not excitedly tell his father about his impending coup. It is even more difficult to believe Stone did not share what he had learned months earlier.