Conservative author Jerome Corsi said Monday that he has rejected a deal offered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to plead guilty to one count of perjury, saying he would have been forced to say untruthfully that he intentionally lied to investigators.
In fact, Corsi said he was merely forgetful in his initial answers to Mueller’s team about his interest in the activities of WikiLeaks, which released hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign.
His apparent rejection of a plea offer is the latest twist in a months-long effort by Mueller’s team to secure the cooperation of the author and conspiracy theorist.
Corsi provided research during the 2016 White House race to Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Donald Trump. For months, the special counsel has been scrutinizing Stone’s activities to determine whether he coordinated with WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, in the release of Democratic emails. Stone and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied any such coordination.
In several interviews Monday, Corsi alleged that Mueller is trying to use him to build a case that a Trump associate coordinated with WikiLeaks.
“They’re trying to fit facts into their predetermined narrative,” he told the conservative cable channel One America News Network. “What they wanted me to testify was that I was the conduit to WikiLeaks and Assange for Roger Stone, who in turn had a conduit to the campaign. And it just isn’t so.”
A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment, as did David Gray, an attorney for Corsi.
In his sessions with Mueller’s team, prosecutors seized on inconsistencies between his statements and emails, Corsi told The Washington Post.
He said he first told investigators that he never encouraged anyone to go see Assange in the summer of 2016. However, Corsi told The Post, he amended his testimony after Mueller’s investigators allowed him to refresh his memory and review his emails, which were housed on a laptop he had provided under a subpoena.
Corsi said he doesn’t understand why he should plead guilty to lying when he voluntarily turned over his records and spoke based on poor memory.
“I am not going to lie to avoid going to prison,” Corsi said, adding: “I found my recollection was horrible. But I am not swearing to a federal judge that I intentionally lied to the special counsel.”
Corsi told The Post that after reviewing his emails, he realized that between July 2016 and August 2016 he had offered to go visit Assange in the Ecuadoran Embassy if his then-boss, WorldNetDaily editor in chief Joseph Farah, purchased him a plane ticket to London.
Corsi said he also forwarded to his friend Ted Malloch an email in which Corsi said Stone urged that someone “get to Assange” immediately.
Farah and Malloch did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Stone confirmed Monday that he emailed Corsi to suggest that Malloch meet with Assange. Stone said his interest had been piqued because Assange had said in a June 2016 television interview that WikiLeaks planned to publish damaging information it had obtained about Hillary Clinton.
“Every politico and every political reporter wanted to know what was in the material,” Stone said in a text message Monday.
Stone said the exchange with Corsi, which was first reported in September by ABC News, supports his claim that he had no advance knowledge of the impending WikiLeaks releases.
“Why would I be asking for something I already had?” Stone said.
Stone, who recently brought a new defense attorney onto his legal team, said he does not have a joint defense agreement with Corsi or anyone else who is involved in the investigation.
In his interview with The Post, Corsi also accused Mueller prosecutor Jeannie Rhee of telling him that he did not need to report his proposed plea deal to a private self-regulatory agency, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, known as Finra.
Corsi has a securities license and said he is required to notify Finra of any development that could affect his ability to hold a license. He said Rhee told his attorney that he need not report his guilty plea to Finra because it would remain a sealed matter.
“She is a lawyer. I am not . . . but I know I have a duty to inform them,” said Corsi, who said he plans to file a complaint with the Justice Department about Rhee’s advice.
Peter Carr, Mueller’s spokesman, declined to comment on Corsi’s allegations.
Jacob S. Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor and Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement lawyer, said Finra rules require that a licensed broker who pleads guilty to a felony promptly update their regulatory registration filing and alert their firm.
Frenkel said the requirement would be triggered even if the plea were entered under seal but only after it had been accepted by a judge.
“A signed plea agreement, under Finra’s rules, is not enough,” he said.
Frenkel said that violating the rules would result in a sanction from Finra and does not constitute a felony.
Prosecutors have spent the past two months examining Corsi’s communications with Stone, seizing two of his computers and interviewing him for more than 40 hours in six sessions, Corsi has said.
On Nov. 12, Corsi said that his initial cooperation with the special counsel had collapsed and that he was expecting to be charged.
But days later, Corsi reopened negotiations with Mueller’s office, as The Post first reported.
After Corsi predicted he would be indicted, Stone suggested that the special counsel had “squeezed poor Dr. Corsi to frame me.”
During the 2016 race, Stone made public comments suggesting that he had inside information about material held by WikiLeaks.
Since the election, Stone has said repeatedly that his comments were exaggerations or came from tips from associates and that he had no advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’s plans.
Stone has said one of his most intriguing pre-election comments was inspired by material provided by Corsi.
On Aug. 21, 2016, Stone tweeted that “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Six weeks later, WikiLeaks began to publish online emails hacked from the account of John Podesta, chairman of Democratic nominee Clinton’s campaign.
Stone has said his tweet had nothing to do with WikiLeaks.
Instead he has said he was referring to research material he had discussed with Corsi about links between Russia, Podesta and his brother, lobbyist Tony Podesta.
In 2017, Corsi wrote a column in which he, too, said he believed Stone’s tweet was prompted by his research.
However, he told the Daily Caller this month that he had told Stone in early August 2016 that he believed WikiLeaks had John Podesta’s emails and planned to publish them before the election. He said that he had surmised WikiLeaks had the correspondence and that he did not have a contact with WikiLeaks, but he said that Mueller’s team did not believe him.
On his live-streamed program this month, Corsi said he had never met Assange and had no connection to him — “to the best of my recollection,” he added.
Stone has disputed Corsi’s account, insisting the author never suggested to him that WikiLeaks might have Podesta’s emails.
Corsi, 72, has published numerous books and was a leading proponent of the false theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and was therefore not qualified to serve as president.
Stone has previously told The Post that Corsi developed a relationship with Trump over their shared interest in that theory.
Corsi and Trump met during the 2016 campaign, according to Stone.
Stone recalled that Trump asked him around that time, ‘Who is this guy, Jerome Corsi?’ ” Trump then informed Stone that he had been discussing the subject of Obama’s birth certificate with Corsi.