Roger Stone, a longtime confidant and adviser of Donald Trump, exchanged direct messages on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0 before the presidential election, according to a report published Wednesday by The Smoking Gun.
In a joint statement released in October, U.S. intelligence community officials said they had concluded that Guccifer 2.0 is a front for hackers directed by the Russian government. Emails Guccifer 2.0 hacked from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were later shared with and published by Wikileaks, with the DNC emails hitting the internet just before the Democratic National Convention in July and Podesta’s emails trickling out in installments beginning in October.
The report simply cites “a source,” but reached for comment by TSG, Stone didn’t deny anything. He also indicated he’s been afflicted with the same amnesia that has befallen other members of Trump’s inner circle in recent weeks when the topic of their communications with Russian officials has come up.
“Asked if he had exchanged private Twitter direct messages with ‘Guccifer 2.0,’ Stone said in a text, ‘don’t recall,’” TSG reports. “In reply to a question about whether anyone else had access to his Twitter account, Stone — who has called ‘Guccifer 2.0’ his ‘hero’ — said, ‘Numerous people who work for me have access to my twitter feed.’”
The TSG report doesn’t contain details about the contents of the DMs between Guccifer 2.0 and Stone. But in late August, TSG exchanged DMs with Guccifer 2.0 and asked about contacts with Stone.
“After wondering, ‘why r u asking?,’ ‘Guccifer 2.0’ then accused TSG of receiving reportorial guidance from federal investigators: ‘the fbi’s tracing me, reading my dm [direct messages] and giving u hints. no?’” the TSG report says. “When further pressed, ‘Guccifer 2.0’ said, ‘i won’t comment on my conversations with other ppl.’ The self-professed ‘freedom fighter’ added, ‘why r u so interested in stone? he’s just a person who wrote a story about me. or i don’t know some important stuff?’”
Right around that same time, Stone posted a tweet suggesting he knew Podesta’s emails would soon be published.
Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) August 21, 2016
That same month, Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, left the campaign amid reports Ukrainian authorities were investigating him for allegedly receiving $12.7 million in illegal payments from Ukraine’s former pro-Russia ruling party.
Stone again alluded to the Podesta emails just days before they started trickling out via Wikileaks.
Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) October 2, 2016
In a tweets he posted over the weekend and later deleted, Stone acknowledged having a pre-election “back channel” to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
TSG notes that the FBI opened a criminal investigation into Guccifer 2.0 after the entity took credit for the DNC hack, and that investigators might be able to get to the bottom of what Stone’s private messages with Guccifer 2.0.
“As part of the probe being run out of the bureau’s office in San Francisco, agents have obtained detailed records for the ‘Guccifer 2.0’ Twitter and WordPress accounts, according to two sources,” TSG reports. “Stored Twitter records… would include tweets and direct messages, according to the company.”
Trump and his inner circle denied having pre-election contact with Russian officials until after the inauguration, when it was revealed then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had repeated communications with the Russian ambassador on the same day in December that the Obama administration implemented new sanctions against the Putin regime for meddling in the election.
Since then, it’s emerged that at least three other Trump campaign officials, including Trump himself, met with Russian officials during the election. Both Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly lied about their communications with Russians, with Sessions doing so while under oath at his confirmation hearing.
Despite all those contacts and the U.S. intelligence community making public its finding that Russia used Guccifer 2.0 to meddle in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf, no smoking gun evidence has yet emerged of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Stone was an official adviser for the Trump campaign from when he launched his campaign in June 2015 until August 8 of that year. But he remained close with Trump after leaving the campaign, and visited the then-president-elect in Trump Tower in December.
UPDATE (3/10): Stone has admitted to exchanging direct messages with Guccifer 2.0. He provided the Washington Times with copies of at least some of the messages and described the communications as “completely innocuous.”
But in an August 17 message, Guccifer 2.0 offers to help Stone.
“i’m pleased to say that u r great man,” Guccifer 2.0 wrote to Stone. “please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me.”
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 10, 2017