Trump ally Roger Stone is one of the more colorful characters in the President’s arsenal. He wore a top hat and morning coat to Trump’s inauguration. He has a Nixon tattoo between his shoulder blades. He’s a weekly guest host on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio show.
And now, he’s under FBI scrutiny for possibly colluding with the Russian election hacking to help boost President Donald Trump’s campaign — a charge he vehemently denies.
The allegations stem from a series of actions of Stone’s, but chiefly rest on a prediction Stone made in August that it would “soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) August 21, 2016
A little over a month later, Wikileaks published John Podesta’s hacked emails. The FBI later confirmed that the hack, and subsequent leaking, was part of a Russian attempt to undermine the U.S. election.
The simplest interpretation of Stone’s tweet is that he knew the leaks were coming — hence the FBI investigation. Strengthening the circumstantial case, Stone bragged throughout August, September, and October about having “backchannel” communication with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Stone himself has another explanation: In a New York Times profile released this week, Stone told reporter Maggie Haberman that the tweet was referring to information he had on Podesta’s business dealings.
“The Podesta tweet, Mr. Stone said, referred to information in an article Mr. Stone wrote that was published two months later, not any emails,” Haberman reports.
Stone has made this defense before. In October 2016, about a week after the Podesta emails were published, Stone published an article on Breitbart defending himself from accusations of treason related to his August tweet.
“I predicted that Podesta’s business dealings would be exposed. I didn’t hear it from Wikileaks, although Julian Assange and I share a common friend. I reported the story on my website,” he wrote.
The link he embedded — reproduced here — now leads to a deleted article and a 404 error page.
ThinkProgress accessed an archived version of the article — “Russian Mafia money laundering, the Clinton Foundation, and John Podesta” — using Wayback machine.
Stone’s current defense of the Podesta tweet rests on him referring to wholly independent information he had on Podesta’s business dealings.
In the article, however, he heavily relies on the Podesta Wikileaks dumps to make his case.
It was originally published on October 13th, just 6 days before the Breitbart article in which he uses it to defend himself, and 6 days after the Wikileaks first began dumping Podesta’s emails.
At the time, Stone was already under scrutiny for his predictions and alleged relationship with Assange. He begins the article this disclaimer: “To be clear, although I have had some back-channel communications with Wikileaks I had no advance notice about the hacking of Mr. Podesta nor I have I ever received documents or data from Wikileaks.”
He goes on to make a series of logical leaps that he says tie Podesta to shady Russian financial activities — using Wikileaks as a jumping-off point for his own “further research.” Stone’s own claims are garbled and very difficult to follow.
“Wikileaks emails tie John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, into the money-laundering network…” he writes.
He later adds that “as a clear indication of a guilty conscience, the Wikileaks Podesta file further documents that Podesta made a serious effort to keep the transaction from coming to light.”
All of the Wikileaks information Stone uses in the article was publicly available at the time.
His defense of his August tweet, however, is that he was referring to his independent story, not to anything related to Wikileaks. Yet the story he links to was published after Wikileaks dumped Podesta’s emails, and repeatedly references them.
It’s not separate from Wikileaks — meaning that it’s not the alibi Stone claims it is.
Roger Stone did not respond to a request for comment or clarification from ThinkProgress.