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Former political consultant Roger Stone told President Donald Trump in 2016 that WikiLeaks would release documents damaging to his opponent Hillary Clinton’s election campaign, according to a newly released, less redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election released last Friday.
In July 2016, Stone told Trump, the then-presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and several of his campaign advisers that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would release the documents in a few days.
According to Mueller’s report, Stone further told Trump via speakerphone that he “did not know what the content of the materials was” to which Trump had responded with, “Oh good, alright.”
On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks had published approximately 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails that were allegedly retrieved by Russian hackers.
The information was revealed to federal investigators by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who had overheard the phone call between Trump and Stone. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, also told investigators that Stone had mentioned “something big” coming from WikiLeaks.
The report further revealed that Trump asked Manafort to keep contact with Stone after the first batch of emails were released by WikiLeaks. Trump had also told Gates that “more releases of damaging information would be coming,” after one of his multiple phone calls to Stone.
On November 6, 2016, WikiLeaks released a second batch of DNC emails.
According to the report, Mueller’s investigation established that the “Trump Campaign displayed interest in the WikiLeaks releases, and that former Campaign member Roger Stone was in contact with the Campaign about those releases, claiming advance knowledge of more to come.”
Mueller also concluded that it was possible that Trump had written a false testimony to the investigators in November 2018 when he denied being aware of any communication between Stone, his former campaign advisers and Assange.
“Trump knew that Manafort and Gates had asked Stone to find out what other damaging information about Clinton WikiLeaks possessed, and that Stone’s claimed connection to WikiLeaks was common knowledge within the Campaign," the report stated, also raising the possibility that Trump may have forgotten his discussions with Stone.
“It is possible that, by the time the president submitted his written answers two years after the relevant events had occurred, he no longer had clear recollections of his discussions with Stone or his knowledge of Stone’s asserted communications with WikiLeaks.”
However the report added that “The president’s conduct could also be viewed as reflecting his awareness that Stone could provide evidence that would run counter to the president’s denials and would link the president to Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks.”
A redacted version of the 448-page Mueller report was released on April 18, 2019 by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ had blocked the portions pertaining to Stone over concerns that it could interfere with his prosecution.
In November of last year, Stone was convicted by a jury of seven felony counts of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress regarding his attempt to contact WikiLeaks about the email. Prosecutors had argued that Stone had committed perjury to protect Trump.
However, when the Justice Department didn’t release the version of the Mueller report containing Stone’s account after his sentencing in February, the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information center and Buzzfeed News filed a lawsuit in court to compel the government to release the unredacted report under the Freedom of Information Act.
Stone will begin his prison sentence of 40 months on June 30.
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