This article was updated on Nov. 27, 2018.
One of the challenges with assessing claims made by Roger Stone, the longtime political operative and President Trump ally now apparently at the center of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, is that he’s made a career of offering spin. Stone’s claims have long been best served with a grain of salt; now that most of his public comments are insistences that he had no awareness of WikiLeaks' information releases during the election, it’s hard to give him the benefit of the doubt.
We’ve previously walked through the timeline of Stone’s claims about WikiLeaks. Since then, though, we’ve learned a lot more about what he has alleged and when. We’ve also learned more details about how WikiLeaks came into possession of the material allegedly stolen from the Democratic Party by hackers affiliated with the Russian government. So we’ve created the more expansive timeline below, using a number of items from the prior versions.
June 16, 2015. Trump announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
March 19, 2016. Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, is sent an email that encourages him to change his email password, probably precipitating the hack of his account.
March 21, 2016. Hackers gain access to Podesta’s account.
March 28, 2016. Apparently at the recommendation of Stone, Paul Manafort is hired to lead the Trump campaign’s efforts to secure delegates for the Republican National Convention. The two had worked together at a prominent lobbying firm for years.
Spring 2016. Stone tells a confidant that he had spoken with Julian Assange and learned about emails in the possession of WikiLeaks that would be problematic for Democrats, including Podesta.
April 18, 2016. Using credentials obtained by hacking the Democratic Party’s congressional campaign arm, hackers believed to be linked to Russian intelligence gain access to the Democratic National Committee’s network.
April and May. Hackers steal large quantities of files from the DNC network and emails from the DNC’s Microsoft Exchange server.
June 8, 2016. The site DCLeaks.com launches. It will eventually publish material stolen from the DNC, among other things.
June 12, 2016. In an interview with the British network ITV, Assange says the organization has emails from Clinton. The organization had “accumulated a large cache of information about the Democratic presidential nominee that could be used to bring an indictment against her,” according to ITV.
Among that material? A message with Clinton “instructing her staff to remove the ‘classified’ header from a classified document and send it by unclassified fax.”
This had been reported in January 2016.
June 14, 2016. The Washington Post reports that the DNC network was illegally accessed by people believed to be Russian hackers. The Russians allegedly create a persona called “Guccifer 2.0” — a reference to a prominent Romanian hacker.
June 15, 2016. Guccifer 2.0 releases the DNC’s research file on Donald Trump.
June 22, 2016. WikiLeaks reaches out to Guccifer 2.0 (apparently over Twitter) to request he/they “[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”
WikiLeaks subsequently requests any information about Clinton over the short term because the Democratic convention was approaching, after which Clinton “will solidify bernie supporters behind her,” referring to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). WikiLeaks notes that they think “trump has only a 25% chance of winning” so “conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”
July 14, 2016. The hackers allegedly send a file to WikiLeaks with instructions on downloading the full archive of DNC documents.
July 18, 2016. WikiLeaks allegedly confirms to Guccifer 2.0 that it has accessed the 1-gigabyte file and would publish the documents “this week.”
July 22, 2016. Days before Democratic convention opens, WikiLeaks begins releasing documents stolen from the DNC.
July 25, 2016. According to NBC News, Stone emails Jerome Corsi, a conservative media personality who was known for questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace and who used to work for the conspiracy site InfoWars. In that message, Stone asks Corsi to go to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London where Assange lives to “get the pending (WikiLeaks) emails."
Corsi allegedly passed the email to writer Ted Malloch, who was based in London. Malloch later tells the BBC that he’s had a lot of contact with the Trump campaign.
Stone told The Post that he was tipped off about new emails by an email sent by a Fox News reporter to a blogger named Charles Ortel, who forwarded it to Stone.
July 27, 2016. At a news conference, Trump asks Russia to release emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
July 31, 2016. The FBI begins an investigation into possible collusion between Russian agents and the Trump campaign. The investigation is triggered by WikiLeaks' release of the DNC files. A Trump campaign aide had informed an Australian diplomat during the spring that he knew Russia had possession of emails incriminating Clinton. The release of the DNC files prompts Australian agents to inform the FBI.
Aug. 2, 2016. Corsi emails Roger Stone from Europe. In the message, Corsi tells Stone that Assange “plans 2 more dumps” of documents.
“One shortly after I’m back,” he writes about the timing of the dumps. “2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”
The message refers to Podesta, though the context isn’t clear: “Time to let more than [Podesta] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop [Clinton]. That appears to be the game hackers are now about.”
“Would not hurt to start suggesting [Clinton] old, memory bad, has stroke -- neither he nor she well,” Corsi wrote. “I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for [Clinton] Foundation debacle.”
Aug. 3, 2016. Stone has dinner with Assange, according to an email he sent to Trump ally Sam Nunberg. Stone claims that the remark was a joke. Assange has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy since 2012, making meetings with him far from simple.
Aug. 4, 2016. During a conference call as part of his “Ultimate Political Insider” program, Stone claims to know about more information held by Assange.
“In the background of this entire race going forward is the fact that Julian Assange . . . is going to continue to drop information on the American voters that is going to roil this race,” Stone said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “He has made that very clear.”
In an interview with InfoWars, Stone claims to have contacted Trump on Aug. 3.
Aug. 5, 2016. Stone writes an essay for Breitbart blaming the DNC hacks on Guccifer 2.0 instead of on Russian hackers.
Aug. 8, 2016. Stone tells a Republican group that he’s been in contact with Assange and that the next documents to be released were related to the Clinton Foundation.
Aug. 9, 2016. WikiLeaks denies having had contact with Stone in a tweet and in internal communications obtained by the Intercept.
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. Stone later releases the messages.
Aug. 17, 2016. Stephen K. Bannon is hired to serve as Trump’s campaign CEO.
Aug. 18, 2016. In another conference call, Stone claims to have been in touch with Assange.
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.” He later claims to have been referring to John Podesta and his brother, former lobbyist Tony Podesta.
Aug. 23, 2016. New York radio host Randy Credico interviews Stone on his show.
"What about the October surprise?” Credico asks. “I mean, you've been in touch and indirectly with Julian Assange. Can you give us any kind of insight? Is there an October surprise happening?”
“Well, first of all, I don’t want to intimate in any way that I control or have influence with Assange, because I do not,” Stone replies, according to CNN. He mentions that the material will probably address the Clinton Foundation. “We have a mutual friend, somebody we both trust, and therefore I am a recipient of pretty good information.”
Aug. 25, 2016. Credico interviews Assange, who dismisses the idea that he’s been in contact with Stone.
"Roger Stone is a rather canny spinmaster, and we have not had any communications with him whatsoever,” Assange says.
Aug. 27, 2016. Credico texts Stone, according to NBC News: “Julian Assange has kryptonite on Hillary.”
Aug. 30, 2016. Stone calls Corsi, according to the Wall Street Journal, asking Corsi to help create an “alternative explanation” for Stone’s tweet about Podesta on Aug. 21. In response, Corsi claims to have drafted a memo about Podesta which he and Stone then used to explain the tweet.
Stone denied this allegation to the Journal.
Sept. 9, 2016. Guccifer 2.0 asks Stone his opinion on a Democratic Party document over Twitter direct message; Stone offers a curt reply.
Sept. 20, 2016. WikiLeaks messages Donald Trump Jr. privately over Twitter, pointing to a new site linking Putin to Trump. The next day, Trump Jr. responds to say that he’ll “ask around” about it. Trump Jr. then emailed senior campaign staff about the message. “Do you know the people mentioned,” he wrote, apparently referring to those behind the Putin-Trump site, “and what the conspiracy they are looking for could be?”
Oct. 1, 2016. Credico again texts Stone. Typos and stray characters below are in the original.
CREDICO: big news Wednesday
CREDICO: now pretend u don’t know me
STONE: U died 5 years ago
CREDICO: ) Hillary’s campaign will die this week
Oct. 2, 2016. Stone tweets, “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
Oct. 3, 2016. Credico texts Stone: “I think it’s on for tomorrow”.
Stone tweets, apparently after receiving that message: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. #LockHerUp.”
Oct. 5, 2016. This is the Wednesday referred to in the Oct. 2 tweet. There’s no release.
Stone tweets, “Libs thinking Assange will stand down are wishful thinking. Payload coming #Lockthemup."
Credico and Stone then exchange more texts. Again, typos are in the original, obtained by NBC News.
CREDICO: Why can’t you get Trump to come out and say that he would give Julian Assange Asylum
CREDICO: Off the Record Hillary and her people are doing a full-court press they keep Assange from making the next dump
CREDICO: That’s all I can tell you on this line
CREDICO: Please leave my name out of it
STONE: So nothing will happen tonight ?
CREDICO: There is so much stuff out there
CREDICO: There will be an announcement but not on the balcony
That last comment is a reference to the balcony at the Ecuadoran Embassy where Assange has been living.
Credico then told Stone that Stone’s friend Charles Ortel hadn’t met with Assange, despite Ortel’s representations to Stone. Stone asked how he knew that. Credico replied, according to NBC, “Because I’m best friends with [Assange’s] lawyer and leave it at that and leave it alone.”
Oct. 6, 2016. 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, hours after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape. The leaks continue for weeks.
In a copy of a book by Corsi obtained by the Daily Caller, Corsi claims that Stone had forewarning about the tape’s release and asked Corsi to press Assange to drop the Podesta emails after it became public. Stone denies this allegation.
Oct. 11, 2016. Podesta tells reporters that he believes Trump’s campaign had advance warning of 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 is later revealed that the friend is Credico. Credico later denies being a go-between.
Oct. 13, 2016. WikiLeaks releases a public editorial denying contact with Stone. Shortly afterward, Stone contacts the organization over Twitter direct messages in an exchange reported by the Atlantic.
“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,” Stone wrote, “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 more you ‘correct’ me the more people think you’re lying,” Stone replies. “Your operation leaks like a sieve. You need to figure out who your friends are.”
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.”
In recent months, Mueller’s team has interviewed a number of the people mentioned above, including Bannon, Credico, Malloch and Nunberg. Mueller’s investigators have also spoken with former Stone aides about the subject. One, Andrew Miller, has been held in contempt of court for refusing to testify.
It’s worth noting that there are multiple contemporaneous examples of WikiLeaks privately denying having communication with Stone (as on Aug. 9 and Oct. 13). Stone offers no concrete, plausible explanation for when he communicated with Assange. It’s the coincidences that are most compelling — the mention of Podesta and the timing of the early October taunts.
The question, as usual, is which Roger Stone to believe.
This article was updated with details of the Credico-Stone text messages.