On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported a new wrinkle in the murky overlap between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. Roger Stone, a confidant of Trump, told multiple people during the 2016 campaign that he had directly communicated with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks was the outlet that released thousands of documents believed to have been stolen by Russian actors from the Democratic National Committee and the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Our report indicates that Stone spoke with an unnamed contact during spring 2016 and told them that he had been in contact with Assange. From that contact, Stone learned that WikiLeaks “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.
To clarify the matter, we built out a timeline of Stone’s interactions with WikiLeaks and another online persona calling himself Guccifer 2.0. There are indications later in the year that Stone had no direct contact with WikiLeaks or Assange, including denials made privately by the group.
The cast of characters
- Roger Stone. A longtime adviser to President Trump who consistently pressed the businessman to run for office. During the 2016 campaign, his role was informal; he didn’t work directly for the campaign.
- John Podesta. Campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
- WikiLeaks/Julian Assange. The group that released most of the information stolen from the DNC and Podesta. It’s unclear how often WikiLeaks releases statements from people beyond Assange, who leads the group. For the most part, descriptions of WikiLeaks’ communications below can safely be assumed to have been from Assange.
- Guccifer 2.0. An identity believed to be controlled by Russian intelligence that purported to be a lone hacker from Romania.
- Paul Manafort. Eventually campaign chairman for Trump, he had been a longtime partner with Stone at a prominent lobbying firm in Washington.
- George Papadopoulos. An adviser to the Trump campaign who established a relationship with a person connected to the Russian government.
- Donald Trump Jr. The president’s son.
June 16, 2015. Trump announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
Summer 2015. Hackers believed to be linked to Russian intelligence agencies gain access to the network of the Democratic National Committee.
March 19, 2016. Podesta is sent an email that encourages him to change his email password, probably precipitating the hack of his account.
March 28, 2016. Apparently at the recommendation of Stone, Manafort is hired to lead the Trump campaign’s efforts to secure delegates for the convention.
April 2016. The DNC network is again compromised by hackers believed to be connected to Russian intelligence agencies.
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.”
Spring 2016. Stone tells a confidant that he had spoken with Assange and learned about emails WikiLeaks possessed that would be problematic for Democrats, including Podesta.
June 3, 2016. Trump Jr. is informed over email that the Russian government has incriminating information on Clinton that it wants to share with the Trump campaign. He helps facilitate a meeting for the information to be shared.
June 9, 2016. A meeting is held at Trump Tower predicated on sharing negative information about Clinton with the Trump campaign. Those who attended deny that any such information existed.
June 12, 2016. In an interview with ITV, Assange says the organization has more emails from Clinton.
June 14, 2016. The Post reports that hackers linked to Russia had accessed the DNC network.
June 15, 2016. Guccifer 2.0 releases the DNC’s research file on Donald Trump. He claims to be a “lone hacker.”
July 22, 2016. Shortly before Democratic National Convention begins, WikiLeaks begins releasing documents stolen from the DNC.
Aug. 5, 2016. Stone writes an essay for Breitbart blaming the DNC hacks on Guccifer 2.0 — and not on Russian actors.
Aug. 8, 2016. Stone tells a Republican group that he has been in contact with Assange and that the next documents to be released were related to the Clinton Foundation.
Aug. 9, 2016. WikiLeaks obliquely denies in a tweet having had contact with Stone.
In private messages obtained by the Intercept, the group refers to Stone as a “bulls——” who is “trying to imply that he knows anything.”
Aug. 12, 2016. Guccifer 2.0 releases more information purportedly stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The hacker thanks Stone on Twitter for his defense.
Aug. 14, 2016. Stone and Guccifer 2.0 begin having a conversation over Twitter direct messages.
Aug. 19, 2016. Manafort is fired from the campaign after questions arise about his work in Ukraine.
Aug. 21, 2016. Stone tweets, “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.” (Stone’s Twitter account is later suspended.)
Sep. 9, 2016. Guccifer 2.0 asks Stone his opinion on a Democratic Party document over Twitter direct message; he offers a curt reply.
Oct. 2, 2016. Stone tweets, “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.”
Oct. 3, 2016. Stone tweets, “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. #LockHerUp”
Oct. 5, 2016. Stone tweets, “Libs thinking Assange will stand down are wishful thinking. Payload coming #Lockthemup”
Oct. 6, 2016. With Wednesday having come and gone, Stone again tweets about WikiLeaks: “Julian Assange will deliver a devastating expose on Hillary at a time of his choosing. I stand by my prediction.”
Oct. 7, 2016. WikiLeaks begins releasing documents stolen from Podesta.
Oct. 11, 2016. Podesta tells reporters that he thinks Trump’s campaign was warned about the release of his emails, pointing the finger at Stone.
Oct. 12, 2016. Stone tells a local news station in Miami that he has a mutual friend with Assange who has been giving him a heads-up about upcoming releases. It’s later revealed that the friend is New York radio host Randy Credico.
Stone wrote: “Since I was all over national TV, cable and print defending wikileaks and assange against the claim that you are Russian agents and debunking the false charges of sexual assault as trumped up bs, you may want to rexamine the strategy of attacking me- cordially R”
WikiLeaks responds by asking him to stop drawing a connection between himself and their organization.
“The false claims of association are being used by the democrats to undermine the impact of our publications,” the group writes.
Nov. 8, 2016. Trump wins the presidency.
Nov. 9, 2016. WikiLeaks again messages Stone over Twitter.
“Happy?” the group wrote, referring to the election results. “We are now more free to communicate.”