Roger Stone, a GOP political operative and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, was in frequent contact with members of Trump’s campaign about WikiLeaks’ efforts to release materials damaging to Democrats before the 2016 election, according to an indictment filed against him Friday.
Stone was arrested Friday morning on seven counts of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the election.
A major focus of the probe has been whether Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, as the group published thousands of Democratic emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives.
Stone was not charged with any crimes related to communicating with WikiLeaks about its activities, and he has repeatedly denied that he conspired with the group.
But the 24-page indictment against him details numerous occasions when Stone claimed to campaign officials that he had information about WikiLeaks or was in contact with Assange — and it depicts Trump aides and allies as acutely interested in learning about the group’s plans in advance.
Among those who sought information from Stone, according to the filing, was a “senior Trump Campaign official” who “was directed” by an unnamed person to contact Stone as soon as WikiLeaks began publishing Democratic emails in the summer of 2016.
Stone also communicated about WikiLeaks with “a high ranking Trump Campaign official,” whose emails in the filing match those of former campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon. And Stone received a query about the group’s activities from a “supporter involved with the Trump campaign,” whom he then asked to communicate via a secure messaging app, according to prosecutors.
In all, Stone interacted with at least four people close to the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks, according to the indictment.
The numerous interactions show that Trump allies were eager to leverage the hacked Democratic emails to their advantage — and that they saw Stone as someone with inside information useful in that effort.
The details in the court filing undercut Stone’s past statements — including remarks in an interview he gave to The Washington Post last fall, in which he denied discussing WikiLeaks with Trump campaign officials.
“There are no such communications,” Stone said at the time.
Stone has also repeatedly said he had no advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans and was just passing along public information and tips.
In an interview Friday, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said the charges against Stone did not show evidence of any wrongdoing by Trump.
“The president is safe here,” he said. He declined to comment immediately on the indictment’s description of a senior campaign official being directed to contact Stone.
Prosecutors say that Stone started telling senior Trump officials in June and July 2016 that he had information that WikiLeaks would release documents that would hurt the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The first public indication of the group’s plans came roughly around that time. Assange gave interviews in June in which he claimed that WikiLeaks held material relevant to the White House race.
Then, on July 22, days before the start of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks published internal Democratic Party emails, upending the convention and forcing the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as party chairwoman.
According to the indictment, after the July release of DNC emails, a “senior Trump Campaign official was directed” to contact Stone and inquire about what else WikiLeaks had that could damage Clinton’s campaign.
That inquiry from the Trump campaign came amid public speculation that Russian operatives were responsible for the hack.
But on the campaign trail, Trump mocked the idea that WikiLeaks was the beneficiary of Russian assistance. As the group released additional stolen material in October, he repeatedly declared his support for WikiLeaks.
Stone’s contact with people close to the Trump campaign accelerated in early October 2016.
At the time, Assange was hinting that he was preparing to release more Clinton-related documents. Trump supporters were anxiously waiting for a new WikiLeaks dump that could serve as an October surprise before Election Day.
According to the indictment, Stone wrote on Oct. 3, 2016, to a “supporter involved with the Trump campaign” to assure the person that WikiLeaks’ next release was imminent.
“Spoke to my friend in London last night,” Stone wrote, in an apparent reference to Assange. “The payload is still coming.”
That day, Stone also received an email from a person described in the indictment as “a reporter who had connections to a high ranking Trump Campaign official” who asked what Assange held.
“Hope it’s good,” the reporter wrote.
An unredacted version of the email previously released shows that the reporter was Matt Boyle, a writer at the conservative website Breitbart who was close to Bannon.
Stone responded: “It is. I’d tell Bannon but he doesn’t call me back.”
An attorney for Bannon declined to comment on the exchange when Stone posted it last fall in a column on the Daily Caller website, shortly before the New York Times published a story describing the message.
According to the indictment and the full email exchange, Bannon made contact with Stone the next day, after Assange held a news conference in London but failed to release any Democratic materials.
“What was that this morning???” Bannon wrote.
Stone responded that Assange had a security concern, but he promised that WikiLeaks would release “a load every week going forward.”
Prosecutors say that Stone also exchanged text messages that day with a “supporter involved with the Trump campaign,” who asked whether Stone had heard more from London, another apparent reference to Assange.
Stone responded “yes” and asked to speak on a “secure” line, inquiring whether the supporter could communicate through WhatsApp.
On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks published the first tranche of roughly 55,000 emails stolen from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that it would release in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
An “associate of the high ranking campaign official” sent Stone a text message that day, according to prosecutors. “Well done,” it read.
Robert Costa and Manuel Roig-Franzia contributed to this report.