Mueller Investigators Probe Roger Stone Conference Calls

Longtime Trump adviser spoke of WikiLeaks’ plans to release emails ahead of 2016 election

The Aug. 4, 2016, conference call marks one of Mr. Stone’s earliest known predictions that WikiLeaks would release more hacked emails before election day, beyond the ones published in July 2016. Hours before the call, Mr. Stone emailed an associate, saying, “I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite,” the Journal previously reported.

Four days later, in an appearance before the Southwest Broward Republican Organization, Mr. Stone made another prediction: “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,” he said.

On Aug. 21, 2016, Mr. Stone appeared to foreshadow trouble for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, whose emails would be dumped online by WikiLeaks in mid-October. “Trust me,” Mr. Stone tweeted, “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel. [sic] #CrookedHillary.”

In an email, Mr. Stone told the Journal that his email about dining with Mr. Assange was a joke, and that his tweet about “Podesta’s time in the barrel” was in reference to the lobbying activities of Mr. Podesta and his brother Tony. Mr. Stone also said he “had no advance knowledge about the acquisition and publication of John Podesta’s e-mail.”

Wired: Indicting 12 Russian Hackers Could be Mueller’s Biggest Move Yet

The same unit, according to public reports, has been involved in attacks on

  • French president Emmanuel Macron,
  • NATO,
  • the German Parliament,
  • Georgia,

and other government targets across Europe.

.. Each of Mueller’s indictments, as they have come down, have demonstrated the incredible wealth of knowledge amassed by US intelligence and his team of investigators, and Friday was no exception. The indictment includes the specific allegations that between 4:19 and 4:56 pm on June 15, 2016, the defendants used their Moscow-based server to search for the same English words and phrases that Guccifer 2.0 used in “his” first blog post, where “he” claimed to be a lone Romanian hacker and claimed to be solely responsible for the attacks on Democratic targets.

.. It doesn’t rule out that future indictments might focus on the criminal behavior of Americans corresponding with the GRU or the IRA—nor would Americans necessarily have to know they were communicating with Russian intelligence officers to be guilty of various crimes.

.. the charging documents include intriguing breadcrumbs. The indictment references at one point that Guccifer 2.0 communicated with an unnamed US congressional candidate and, especially intriguingly, that the GRU for the first time began an attack on Hillary Clinton’s personal emails just hours after Trump publicly asked Russia for help in finding them.

.. one of the early tips to the US government that launched the FBI investigation eventually known by the codename CROSSFIRE HURRICANE: Trump aide George Papadopoulos telling an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton, weeks before the GRU attacks became public. The charges against the GRU make clear that its effort began at least by March 2016. Papadopoulos, arrested last summer and already cooperating with Mueller’s team, might very have provided more information about where his information came from—and who, in addition to the Australians, he told.
Thus far, Mueller’s probe has focused on five distinct areas of interest:

1. An investigation into money laundering and past business dealings with Russia by people like former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort
2. The active information influence operations by Russian trolls and bots on social media, involving the Russian Internet Research Agency
3. The active cyber penetrations and operations against the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton campaign leader John Podesta
4. Contacts with Russian officials by Trump campaign officials during the course of the 2016 election and the transition, like George Papadopoulos and former national security advisor Michael Flynn
5. Obstruction of justice, whether the President or those around him sought to obstruct the investigation into Russian interference

.. What Mueller hasn’t done—yet—is show how these individual pieces come together. What level of coordination was there between the Internet Research Agency and the GRU or FSB? What ties, if any, exist between the business dealings of Manafort, Gates, and the Russian efforts to influence the election?

How coordinated were unexplained oddities, like the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians, and the Russian government efforts by the IRA, GRU, and FSB?

.. He knows far, far more than the public does. There was little sign in Friday’s indictment that any of it came from the cooperation and plea agreements he’s made with figures like Flynn, Gates, and Papadopoulos—meaning that their information, presumably critical enough to Mueller that he was willing to trade it for lighter sentencing, still hasn’t seen the light of day.

David Cay Johnston, John Nichols, Joshua Green & Katy Tur Disucss The Trump Admin

Katy Tur: Donald Trump is not complicated: it’s a very simple formula — how does this affect Donald Trump

Joshua Green: Trump is an incredible intuitive politician (8:29)  Sam Nunberg gave him the idea for the wall and he tried it out in Iowa and then he riffed on it: Mexico will pay for it, No one builds like Trump.  He tries to figure out what will make the crowd roar.

19:30 He would bury one controversy with another controversy.  He would steal coverage from Obama by calling for a Muslim Ban.  During the Democratic convention, he asked Russia for help with the emails.

If there is any down time, he needs attention.

Trump wouldn’t have been president without Stephen Bannon, because Bannon brought the focus on immigration and egged him on.  After the bad publicity for the Elevator Speech, Bannon had him pay a visit to the border.  Bannon had spent years studying how to tear down Hillary.

Bannon, as a finance and Hollywood guy, had a lot of experience manipulating rich men.

28:04” : You can’t calculate how much WikiLeaks helped Trump:  October 7, the day that the Access Hollywood tape came out,  a few hours later the John Podesta emails were leaked.  And the leaks came out every day until the election.

Donald and Stephen Bannon really like propaganda.

Donald Trump was a pioneer of Fake News.  He would call Tabloids (Rupert Murdoch’s papers) and make up affairs with Kim Bassinger, Madonna, Carla Bruni.

Donald Trump was too much of a good story and he did/didn’t know who he was.

David Clay Johnson: the New York Times never scrutinized his drug/mafia connections. (40 minutes)

The media isn’t capable of dealing with the Presidency

You can’t say I’m not going to write about today’s story because I haven’t finished reporting on yesterday’s outrage  (44 min)

Roger Stone claimed contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, according to two associates

The second, former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg, said in an interview Monday that Stone told him that he had met with Assange — a conversation Nunberg said investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III recently asked him to describe.

 .. “I wish him no ill will, but Sam can manically and persistently call you,” Stone said, recalling that Nunberg had called him on a Friday to ask about his plans for the weekend. “I said, ‘I think I will go to London for the weekend and meet with Julian Assange.’ It was a joke, a throwaway line to get him off the phone. The idea that I would meet with Assange undetected is ridiculous on its face.’ ’’
.. “The allegation that I met with Assange, or asked for a meeting or communicated with Assange, is provably false,” he said, adding that he did not leave the country in 2016.
.. Nunberg told The Post that the questions he was asked by Mueller’s investigators indicated to him that the special counsel is examining statements Stone has made publicly about WikiLeaks.“Of course they have to investigate this,” he said. “Roger made statements that could be problematic.”

.. He said he did not recall the exact date when Stone told him that he had met with Assange, adding that he did not take the comment as a joke at the time. He said he was glad to hear Stone told The Post that the remark was made in jest.

“No one connected to the president should be connected with Julian Assange,” he added.

.. WikiLeaks has come under intense scrutiny from U.S. officials for its distribution of hacked materials. Last year, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said it was “time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors, like Russia.”

.. In response, Assange said that Pompeo had chosen “to declare war on free speech.”

During the 2016 race, the organization released hacked Democratic emails at two key junctures:

  1. A cache of DNC emails landed on the eve of the party’s national nomination convention and
  2. a collection of Podesta emails appeared on the same day in October that The Post revealed a tape of Trump speaking about women in lewd terms.

.. On Aug. 8, 2016, in an appearance at the Southwest Broward Republican Organization in Florida, Stone answered a question about what he suspected would be the campaign’s October surprise by saying: “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.

.. He later said he had not meant that he had communicated with Assange directly.

On Aug. 21, Stone tweeted that something grim was looming for Podesta.

“Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary,” he tweeted.

On Oct. 3, he tweeted: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.”

“Payload coming. #Lockthemup,” Stone tweeted on Oct. 5.

Two days later, WikiLeaks published a cache of Podesta’s hacked emails describing internal conflicts within the Clinton Foundation and excerpts of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street executives.

President Trump, if You’re Innocent, Why Act So Guilty?

4. Trump picked people with ties to Russia. He named as a foreign policy adviser Carter Page, who was investigated by the F.B.I. as far back as 2013 for possible ties to Russian intelligence

To run his campaign, Trump selected Paul Manafort, who had long experience working for Russian interests and once wrote a memo offering a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government.”

Trump’s aides also tweaked the Republican Party platform in a way that would please Moscow.

6. Trump aides secretly met with Russians. In June 2016, Russia offered the Trump campaign “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” Instead of calling the F.B.I., Donald Trump Jr. responded, “I love it,”

.. 7. A Trump ally secretly communicated with a Russian mouthpiece. In August 2016, Trump ally Roger Stone communicated with Guccifer 2.0, believed to be an outlet for Russian military intelligence. Separately, Stone tweeted that “it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in a barrel”; seven weeks later, WikiLeaks began releasing emails Russia had hacked from John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

.. 8. … more secret contacts. WikiLeaks, presumably representing Russian interests, engaged in secret correspondence with Donald Trump Jr.

.. 9. Kushner met a Putin ally. Jared Kushner met in December 2016 with a Russian, Sergey Gorkov, who is close to Putin. Kushner also privately asked the Russians about using Russian equipment to establish a secret communications channel to the Kremlin.

.. 10. Trump aides falsely denied contacts. Campaign officials denied innumerable times that there had been any contact with Russia. “Of course not,” said Mike Pence shortly before the inauguration. “Why would there be any contacts?”

.. 11. Russia is still at it. Russian bots are joining Trump supporters in tweeting hashtags like #MAGA and #FullOfSchiff. These same Russian bots are promoting Fox News links that disparage the Russia investigation.

.. 12. This is not normal!

Actually, I doubt that there was anything so straightforward as a secret quid pro quo. Indeed, some of these links are so blatant that they seem confusingly exculpatory: Why would anybody conspiring with Putin raise suspicions by publicly praising him?

.. Frankly, it’s suspicious that Trump is throwing up so much dust and trying so hard to delegitimize the investigation.

He is not acting innocent.☐

Trump wants to upend 230 years of constitutional principle

Okay, it’s official. President Trump wants to upend 230 years of constitutional history and principle to run the U.S. justice system like a banana republic, or perhaps more aptly like what now passes for the rule of law in the country he aspires to emulate, the Russian Federation.

.. For months, Trump has been trying to divert attention from the walls closing in on his former campaign chairman, his former national security adviser and his own son Donald Trump Jr., who are caught up in the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump has practiced some of the favorite tactics of his role model Vladimir Putin, labeling any damaging revelation as “fake news” and practicing a refined form of “whataboutism.”

.. This is what authoritarians and tyrants do. They use the instruments of state power, particularly the wrath of the prosecutor, to rain opprobrium down upon citizens with whom they disagree.
.. The first line of defense against authoritarianism is an independent Justice Department committed to the rule of law. In 1940, Attorney General (and future Supreme Court Justice) Robert Jackson, in a famous speech to U.S. attorneys in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice warned that when “the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that [is where] the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group.”

The rise and fall of the Podestas, Washington’s powerful political brother act

Fox News is calling the Podesta brothers “central figures” in the Mueller probe.

.. Tony is obviously a big Democrat, but he has Republican friends and represents some clients that have more in common with the Republican side than the Democratic side. John is a hard partisan — a lot of people think of him as more strident, doing things that have never been done before to get your way.”

.. Tony built his firm into one of the top lobbying shops in the country — walks a delicate line between principle and profit. For every feel-good cause or nonprofit client, there’s a corporation or a foreign government with public relations problems and buckets of money to spend.

.. Tony’s work for Saudi Arabia has caused some raised eyebrows among human rights activists. Last year, the Podesta Group — one of several lobbying and PR shops the Saudis hired — was paid $140,000 a month by the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court

.. “You try to help people tell their story, and you try to make them better. I think that’s all to the good.”

.. Podesta and the other firm, Mercury Public Affairs, say that they were hired by the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, a nonprofit group based in Brussels, to boost Ukraine’s reputation in the United States and increase its chances of joining the European Union.

.. the question among lobbyists in Washington is why someone at the top of his game like Tony would have anything to do with Manafort, whom one Republican lobbyist described as a “shady businessman advocating for murderers, thugs and thieves — even if those criminals were heads of states.