The Wall Street Journal reported on April 2 that “The special counsel investigating alleged links between Trump campaign associates and Russians is looking into longtime adviser Roger Stone’s 2016 claim that he had met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to a [anonymous] person familiar with the matter.”
The Journal focuses on an email, dated Aug 4, 2016, that Stone wrote to Sam Nunberg, in which Stone wrote: “I dined with Julian Assange last night.”
Stone said the email was a joke. In fact, Stone said that he was milking a joke first reported by the Washington Post.
In rebuttal to the email, Stone says his passport proves he never left the country in 2016 and that US Customs’ records, airline records, and the surveillance cameras at the Ecuadorian Embassy would all prove he did not meet with Assange on Aug. 3 or at any other time.
“I never dined with Assange,” Stone told the Journal. “I provably didn’t go… there was no such meeting. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. This was said in jest.”
To plump up an arguably skeletal story, one that hinges on an anonymous source, and an email to Nunberg – the Journal tries to make a circumstantial case against Stone.
Among circumstances they report:
On July 27, Trump, while affirming, “I have nothing to do with Russia”, added, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
The reference was to emails Clinton sent using a private server while she was secretary of state – emails she deleted – and which Republicans raised during the campaign as a security concern.
Trump’s comments came amid questions about the leaking or hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, which American intelligence agencies told the Obama White House they had “high confidence” was the work of the Russian government.
They provided no evidence for their “high confidence”, instead asking the American public to have high confidence because they said it was so.
While many Americans want to believe the Intelligence Community for partisan reasons, the Intelligence Community has a credibility problem with most thinking Americans.
Let’s remember that the people currently saying that Assange is a Russian asset are the same people who insisted that the NSA had no meta data collection program on the American people — until Edward Snowden proved that was a lie. These are also the same people who insisted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – another lie. CIA Director John Brennan even spied on a US Senate committee investigating torture, then lied about that spying under oath, when questioned about it by Congress.
This has caused many Americans to have little confidence in their ‘high confidence” assertions.
On the other hand, the hacked or leaked DNC emails, gave the American people high confidence that Hillary Clinton and her associates at the DNC were scheming to deprive Democratic primary voters from having a clear and fair choice in deciding between Bernie Sanders and the cheating Hillary Clinton.
In any event, Stone said he didn’t talk about the DNC emails with Trump: “President Trump and I have never discussed the WikiLeaks disclosures before, during, or after the election,” he said in a television appearance last month.
Stone clarified, “Trump’s call for the Russians to release Hillary‘s emails does not refer to any materials ultimately published by WikiLeaks. Connecting Trump’s comments to Wikileaks is like going to war with Iraq because of 9/11.”
Wikileaks never published Hillary’s suspiciously deleted 30,000 plus emails.
Now comes the fateful day … or where did Roger Stone dine on Aug 3, 2016?
On August 1, Stone said he flew from Los Angles to Miami. In support of his statement, Stone provided flight records from Jet Blue, although the Journal complained that the flight record showed only Stone’s first name.
Stone also produced a screenshot showing a return flight for a person named “Roger Stone” on Delta Air Lines departing Los Angeles for Miami on Aug. 3, 2016 at 9:30 p.m.
As good as Roger Stone is, there is no evidence he has the ability to be in two places at once.
Stone also offered the Journal a look at his credit card receipts. They declined to review them. If they had, they would see that Stone stayed at the London Hotel in West Hollywood on the nights of Aug 1 and 2. While there, Stone said he dined in Los Angeles at Dan Tanas, an Italian eatery in West Hollywood on Aug 2 with businessman John Middleton – and not Assange, who was in London at the time.
A subpoena by the federal government, however, can and will reveal whether Stone was on these flights or not, and whether he even left the country on the dates in question. That will put the matter to rest once and for all.
Wikileaks didn’t respond to the Journal’s request for comment about the alleged dinner meeting with Stone and Assange, but Wikileaks previously tweeted Assange and Stone “never communicated”, much less dined together.
The Journal’s story relies then wholly on the August 4 email where Stone wrote to Nunberg that he had dined with Assange the night before.
Assange was not in Los Angeles and nobody – not even the Journal – claims he was.
So was Stone in London?
Stone’s passport can prove it one way or another. But Stone said the Journal was uninterested in a copy of his passport – which shows no record of his having been outside the USA during 2016.
But then again, they have Nunberg, and Stone’s email to him. Why would Stone write to Nunberg he was dining with Assange if he hadn’t?
Stone explained, “This is the continuation of the same joke on Sam Nunberg first reported in the Washington Post. Sam, being a neurotic, would sometimes call 30 or 40 times a day. Late one Friday night, while I was trying to get him off the phone, he asked me if I had weekend plans. I responded, ‘I think I’ll fly to London and have dinner with Julian Assange’ (misquoted by the Washington Post).
“Sam, a little too intense, and with his head not screwed on quite right, fell for it. It was a throwaway line, a schtick, the way I talk.
“At the end of the day however it’s not what you said you did, but what you actually did that matters. I can say unequivocally that I received no material – including allegedly hacked emails – from WikiLeaks for Julian Assange or anyone else, and never passed any such materials on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign. This is a left-wing conspiracy theory.”
Nunberg said on March 29, on MSNBC, that he didn’t realize Stone was joking about meeting Assange in August.
But to bolster their circumstantial story, the Journal provided selective tweets of Stone following the alleged and impossible dining experience with Stone in Los Angeles and Assange in London.
On Aug. 5, 2016, Stone tweeted: “Hillary lies about Russian Involvement in DNC hack -Julian Assange is a hero.”
On Aug. 8, Stone spoke at the Southwest Broward Republican Organization. A questioner there asked, “With regard to the October surprise, what would be your forecast on that given what Julian Assange has intimated he’s going to do?”
Stone replied he was uncertain. “Well, it could be any number of things. I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.”
Stone has been emphatic that this communication with Assange was through a “back channel” which Stone describes as a “confirming source.” Stone identified this individual under oath for the House Intelligence Committee as Randy Credico, a New York activist, and at the time, a radio commentator for WBAI. It is important to note that while Stone addressed these questions under oath to the committee, Credico – who has denied it in the media – asserted his 5th Amendment rights and refused to be formally questioned.
The Journal continued with their selective recounting of Stone tweets:
On Aug. 21, Stone tweeted, “Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary.”
While some have incorrectly said that this tweet foreshadows Wikileaks publication of John Podesta’s allegedly hacked emails, Stone said the reference is not to John Podesta but to the Russian business dealings of John and Tony Podesta, which he says, were exposed in the Panama Papers published in April 2016.
That Stone’s tweet said, “The Podesta’s time in the barrel ‘ would seem to indicate Stone was talking about both Podestas. No one refers to John Podesta as “The Podesta.”
Stone said, “I never predicted that John Podesta’s emails would be hacked; I predicted that his business activities would come under scrutiny — his ‘time in the barrel.’ That is based on the January 2016 disclosures in the Panama Papers where his Russian business dealings are fully exposed, the uranium deal, the bank deal, the gas deal.”
But circumstances are further twisted into purported fact by more selective tweets.
The Journal failed to mention that on Oct. 1, Assange held a press event but made no disclosures on that particular day. He did however announce a weekly schedule for disclosures that would begin the following week.
The Journal did note that, on Oct. 3, Stone tweeted: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.” And on Oct. 5, Stone tweeted, “Libs thinking Assange will stand down are wishful thinking. Payload coming #Lockthemup.”
Stone turned out to be right about both those predictions. But now says that Credico had continued to assure him that, while he did not know the source or content of the Wikileaks disclosures, that the material would be devastating to Hillary’s campaign and that Assange would ultimately release what he had.
On Oct 7, WikiLeaks released the first batch of John Podesta’s hacked or leaked emails. It gave the American public a rare but accurate look at Hillary Clinton. It was not a pretty picture.
U.S. intelligence officials quickly concluded with ‘high confidence’ that Wikileaks received Podesta’s emails from operatives working on behalf of Russia’s military intelligence group. US Intelligence provided no proof of this to the public. Assange denied the assertion. Stone denied it.
“I had no advance notice of the source contents or exact timing of the WikiLeaks publications regarding the Clinton campaign,” Stone said. “Any claim that I said otherwise is uncorroborated hearsay.”
Wikileaks also denied Stone had contact with Assange or Wikileaks right after the leak or hacked emails of Podesta were published. On Oct. 12, Wikileaks tweeted: “As we have already stated clearly: WikiLeaks has had no contact with Roger Stone.”
But, returning to Sam Nunberg, he told CNN that he told Stone several times he was concerned about Stone’s (nonexistent) “relationship“ with Assange.
Stone rebutted, “Actually Sam never brought the matter up once, but, hey, it got him on CNN for another media cycle.” Nunberg told MSNBC that Stone was cultivating a relationship with Assange to “ingratiate “ himself with Donald Trump.
“I never discussed the matter with Trump,” said Stone. “The comments did get Sam on MSNBC to circulate yet another mouthful of fake news.”
The Journal asked Stone if he spoke by telephone with Assange in those days. Stone answered no.
Appearing on CNN, the Reporter who wrote the Wall Street Journal told Anderson Cooper that a federal prosecutor from the special counsel office told her that it’s possible that Stone and Assange may have ‘dined’ on Face Time or over skype. Even Cooper found that to be farfetched, particularly since such a communication would clearly leave a record that would be available to federal prosecutors.
Stone said, “I never received any allegedly hacked emails or anything else from Wikileaks or Assange or anyone else and therefore never passed anything regarding Wikileaks to Trump or the Trump campaign. I had no advance notice of the source, contents or exact timing of the Wikileaks disclosures despite hearsay to the contrary reported without corroboration by the Washington Post.”
Finally, it might be added that it is not a crime to know Assange, meet him or dine with him. There is no proof that Assange is a Russian asset. Stone said he did not believe Assange has been proven to be a Russian asset or that WikiLeaks was a Russian front.
Stone said, “I have no knowledge or involvement with Russian collusion and I don’t know anybody else who does.”
Meantime, according to the Journal, Robert Mueller’s team has asked about Stone’s email to Nunberg during testimony before a grand jury, according to an unnamed person who the Journal wants readers to be assured is familiar with the matter.