Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump who was convicted last year in Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, was in contact with one or more apparently well-connected Israelis at the height of the 2016 US presidential campaign, one of whom warned Stone that Trump was “going to be defeated unless we intervene” and promised “we have critical intell[sic].”
The exchange between Stone and this Jerusalem-based contact appears in FBI documents made public on Tuesday. The documents — FBI affidavits submitted to obtain search warrants in the criminal investigation into Stone — were released following a court case brought by The Associated Press and other media organizations.
A longtime adviser to Trump, Stone officially worked on the 2016 presidential campaign until August 2015, when he said he left and Trump said he was fired. However he continued to communicate with the campaign, according to Mueller’s investigation.
The FBI material, which is heavily redacted, includes one explicit reference to Israel and one to Jerusalem, and a series of references to a minister, a cabinet minister, a “minister without portfolio in the cabinet dealing with issues concerning defense and foreign affairs,” the PM, and the Prime Minister. In all these references the names and countries of the minister and prime minister are redacted.
Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel’s prime minister in 2016, and the Israeli government included a minister without portfolio, Tzachi Hanegbi, appointed in May with responsibility for defense and foreign affairs. One reference to the unnamed PM in the material reads as follows: “On or about June 28, 2016, [NAME REDACTED] messaged STONE, “RETURNING TO DC AFTER URGENT CONSULTATIONS WITH PM IN ROME.MUST MEET WITH YOU WED. EVE AND WITH DJ TRUMP THURSDAY IN NYC.” Netanyahu made a state visit to Italy at the end of June 2016.
The explicit reference to Israel appears early in the text of a May 2018 affidavit by an FBI agent in support of an application for a search warrant, and relates to communication between Stone and Jerome Corsi, an American author, commentator and conspiracy theorist. “On August 20, 2016, CORSI told STONE that they needed to meet with [NAME REDACTED] to determine “what if anything Israel plans to do in Oct,” the affidavit states.
The explicit reference to Jerusalem appears later in the same document, in the context of communication between Stone and his unnamed contact in the Israeli capital. “On or about August 12, 2016, [NAME REDACTED] messaged STONE, “Roger, hello from Jerusalem. Any progress? He is going to be defeated unless we intervene. We have critical intell. The key is in your hands! Back in the US next week. How is your Pneumonia? Thank you. STONE replied, “I am well. Matters complicated. Pondering. R” The “he” is an apparent reference to Trump.
The redacted material features numerous references to an “October surprise,” apparently relating to a document dump by Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, intended to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and salvage Trump’s.
Referring to the Israeli mentions in a report on the documents late Tuesday, the US website Politico noted: “The newly revealed messages often raise more questions than answers. They show Stone in touch with seemingly high-ranking Israeli officials attempting to arrange meetings with Trump during the heat of the 2016 campaign.”
The newly released documents reveal the extent of communications between Stone and Assange, whose anti-secrecy website published Democratic emails hacked by Russians during the 2016 presidential election, and underscore efforts by Trump allies to gain insight about the release of information they expected would embarrass Democratic opponent Clinton.
They were made public as Stone, convicted last year in Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, awaits a date to surrender to a federal prison system that has grappled with outbreaks of the coronavirus.
In a June 2017 Twitter direct message cited in the records, Stone reassured Assange that the issue was “still nonsense” and said “as a journalist it doesn’t matter where you get information only that it is accurate and authentic.”
He cited as an example the 1971 Supreme Court ruling that facilitated the publishing by newspapers of the Pentagon Papers, classified government documents about the Vietnam War.
“If the US government moves on you I will bring down the entire house of cards,” Stone wrote, according to a transcript of the message cited in the search warrant affidavit. “With the trumped-up sexual assault charges dropped I don’t know of any crime you need to be pardoned for — best regards. R.”
Stone was likely referring to a sexual assault investigation dropped by Swedish authorities. Assange, who at the time was holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, was charged last year with a series of crimes by the US Justice Department, including Espionage Act violations for allegedly directing former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history.
According to the documents, Assange, who is imprisoned in London and is fighting his extradition to the United States, responded to Stone’s 2017 Twitter message by saying: “Between CIA and DoJ they’re doing quite a lot. On the DoJ side that’s coming most strongly from those obsessed with taking down Trump trying to squeeze us into a deal.”
Stone replied that he was doing everything possible to “address the issues at the highest level of Government.”
The records illustrate the Trump campaign’s curiosity about what information WikiLeaks was going to make public. Former White House adviser Steve Bannon told Mueller’s team under questioning that he had asked Stone about WikiLeaks because he had heard that Stone had a channel to Assange, and he was hoping for more releases of damaging information.
Mueller’s investigation identified significant contact during the 2016 campaign between Trump associates and Russians, but did not allege a criminal conspiracy to tip the outcome of the presidential election.
In a statement Tuesday, Stone acknowledged that the search warrant affidavits contain private communication, but insisted that they “prove no crimes.”
“I have no trepidation about their release as they confirm there was no illegal activity and certainly no Russian collusion by me during the 2016 Election,” Stone said. “There is, to this day, no evidence that I had or knew about the source or content of the Wikileaks disclosures prior to their public release.”
Stone was among six associates of Trump charged in Mueller’s investigation. He was convicted last year of lying to House lawmakers, tampering with a witness and obstructing Congress’ own Russia probe.
A judge in February sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison in a case that exposed fissures inside the Justice Department — the entire trial team quit the case amid a dispute over the recommended punishment — and between Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who said the president’s tweets about ongoing cases made his job “impossible.”