Special counsel Robert Mueller might be zeroing in on Roger Stone — but the longtime Trump associate claims he has nothing to worry about.
Stone, who has worked as an on-again, off-again adviser to President Trump for decades, vehemently denied Monday that Mueller could be building a case against him based on his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.
“The fake news media is in overdrive,” Stone, 65, told the Daily News. “This is a wild goose hunt seeking something that didn’t happen.”
Stone’s name has come up at an increasing rate in relation to Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, according to reports and witnesses.
Informal ex-Trump campaign adviser Ted Malloch revealed over the weekend that FBI agents arrested him and asked him about Stone and WikiLeaks after he recently returned to the U.S. from London. Malloch, who was once considered to become Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, said in a statement that the agents served him a subpoena to appear before Mueller’s grand jury later this month.
Sam Nunberg, another ex-Trump campaign aide, testified before the Mueller grand jury last month — and many questions focused on Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to reports.
Mueller is reportedly interested in whether Stone was aware of or in any way coordinated WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. Sources told the Wall Street Journal Monday that the investigators are particularly interested in an email Stone wrote to Nunberg on Aug. 4, 2016, in which he said that he “dined with Julian Assange last night.”
Stone maintained Monday that he had nothing to do with the WikiLeaks email dump, which was facilitated by Russian hackers and proved a significant political embarrassment for Hillary Clinton.
“I never received any allegedly hacked e-mails or anything else from WikiLeaks or Assange or anyone else and therefore never passed anything regarding WikiLeaks to Trump or the Trump campaign,” Stone told The News. “I had no advance notice of the source, contents or exact timing of the WikiLeaks disclosures despite hearsay to the contrary.”
Stone also took a shot at Nunberg, saying that his email about meeting Assange was a joke.
“Sam, a little too intense and with his head not screwed on quite right, fell for it,” he said. “It was a throwaway line, a shtick, the way I talk.”
But Stone’s previous statements about WikiLeaks and Assange have been inconsistent.
He testified to the House Intelligence Committee last year that he had never communicated directly with WikiLeaks. However, direct messages obtained and published by The Atlantic in February, showed that Stone communicated directly with the anti-secrecy organization a few weeks before the 2016 election.
Stone also repeatedly stated during the campaign that he was in direct contact with Assange, once telling a group of Republicans that the WikiLeaks founder had informed him that he had damaging information and emails from the Clinton camp.
About a week after that, WikiLeaks released the first batch of hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
In another apparent reversal, Stone said Monday that he has never communicated with Assange.
“This is politics. I’ve said a lot of things,” he said. “At the end of the day, however, it’s what you actually did that’s important.”
The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
Stone and the Trump campaign have denied that the President or his associates colluded with the Russian government before, during or after the 2016 election. Nonetheless, Mueller has indicted four Trump associates, including ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
In addition to WikiLeaks, Stone boasted during the campaign about being in direct contact with Guccifer 2.0, the hacker believed to be responsible for stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee and providing them to WikiLeaks.
Stone maintained at the time that the mysterious hacker was a stateless vigilante, penning an op-ed in August 2016 calling on his political opponents to “Stop Blaming Russia.” But sources told the Daily Beast last month that U.S. investigators have learned that Guccifer 2.0 is not a vagabond vigilante, but a Russian intelligence agent.
Nonetheless, Stone insisted that he’s a target of a baseless smear.
“In the past few weeks I have been the subject of a virtual torrent of fake news,” he said. “Hearsay is the new standard.”