The second half of Donald Trump’s presidency began with the announcement that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had indicted Roger Stone, an infamous political fixer and unofficial advisor to both Trump and the Proud Boys gang, which had engaged in coast-to-coast violence in 2018. (Link to tweet.)
Within days of the announcement, Enrique Tarrio, who was the Proud Boys national chairman at the time, reported for duty outside Stone’s Florida home wearing a black and white tee shirt emblazoned with “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” on the front and “If I Weren’t Effective, You Wouldn’t Hate Me” on the back. (Link to tweet.)
This marked the beginning of the (unfortunately successful) campaign to help Stone circumvent America’s criminal justice system, using many of the same tactics and many of the same players who would later join with Stone in trying to help Trump circumvent the will of the American voters in 2020.
This is the third installment of our series examining how Stone and his nefarious network of pro-Trump miscreants have fractured the United States using a combination of information warfare and physical intimidation, eschewing all ideologies other than a desire for unrestrained corruption and power.
The criminal charges against Stone related to WikiLeaks, an international nonprofit that had helped the Kremlin boost Trump’s otherwise improbable 2016 election prospects — and destroy Hillary Clinton’s — by publishing emails that Russian hackers had reportedly stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and John Podesta, Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman. (You can read the indictment against Stone here and the indictment against the Russian hackers here.)
A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report describes in detail the Russian hack-and-leak operation in 2016, including its ties to WikiLeaks, DC Leaks (a website created by the GRU), and Guccifer 2.0 (a Twitter persona reportedly controlled by the GRU). You can find the relevant sections of the report here, starting on page 178.
According to the report, the intelligence community had assessed, “with high confidence, that ‘the GRU relayed material it acquired … to WikiLeaks…” (page 208). The report continues:
“On July 18, WikiLeaks confirmed receipt to the Guccifer 2.0 persona via Twitter, stating that it had ‘the 1Gb or so archive’ and would be releasing the files ‘this week.’ The accounts exchanged another 29 messages that day. Among other things, WikiLeaks also asked Guccifer 2.0 if it had ‘any bigger datasets’ and whether it had received ‘our fast transfer details,’ and suggested that WikiLeaks had taken the step of ‘arrang[ing] that server just for that purpose’ presumably referring to the transfer of more data.” (page 212.)
Fake medical records released around the same time as the WikiLeaks dumps (by whom we don’t know) created confusion and the false impression that Clinton was gravely ill, a lie promoted by Stone, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, WikiLeaks, Russian social media accounts, and even the National Enquirer, where Stone had planted stories about Senator Ted Cruz during the primary. (Link tweet1; tweet 2; tweet 3; tweet 4; tweet 5.)
Even worse, anonymous posters on the 4chan messaging board falsely claimed that “code language” in some of the stolen documents published by WikiLeaks suggested that Clinton and Podesta were pedophiles. A reference in an email to “cheese pizza” was falsely equated with “child pornography,” birthing the Pizzagate conspiracy that ended with gunfire (but no casualties) by a man searching for non-existent child sex slaves at Comet Pong Pizzeria in DC. (Tweet 1; tweet 2.)
Pizzagate and other unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democrats and pedophilia were promoted in 2016 and beyond by Stone’s minions, including Jack Posobiec (on InfoWars), Alex Jones (founder of InfoWars), and Joe Biggs (a former InfoWars employee). As discussed in part 1, Trump had given InfoWars a false veneer of legitimacy by appearing on the show upon Stone’s urging in 2016. (Link tweet 1; tweet 2.)
These unproven claims were also promoted by the adult son of disgraced retired Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, as well as Flynn himself.
Although Russian hackers had stolen Republican Party emails before the 2016 election (not just Democratic Party emails), those were mostly withheld. Thus, while WikiLeaks has characterized its release of the DNC and Podesta emails as pro-transparency “journalism,” the organization’s actions more closely resembled a targeted political hit.
The seven felony charges against Stone included five counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of witness intimidation. They arose from Stone’s concealment of communications involving Jerome Corsi, a WikiLeaks associate who sat on the Board of Governors of the Council for National Policy (CNP) in 2020.
The CNP is a secretive and highly influential umbrella organization for Christian extremists and billionaires. In 2020, the organization was heavily involved in the effort to overturn Trump’s election loss, as reported by Shadow Network author Anne Nelson.
In 2016, Stone tried and failed to conceal his communications with Corsi, who had served as Stone’s main conduit to WikiLeaks. (Link to tweet.)
As Stone later acknowledged in his book about the 2016 election (Appendix 1), Corsi was involved with more than WikiLeaks. Corsi also promoted efforts that year to reopen the FBI’s closed probe into Clinton’s use of a private email during her time as Secretary of State.
Stone implies in his book that it was Corsi who seeded the idea that a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner — the former spouse of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin — might contain Clinton emails that could be used to reignite the probe:
“Finally, Corsii speculated that if Abedin had taken the trouble to archive State Department emails in her Yahoo.com email account, Abedin may also have surmised that she needed to keep the project secret by using a computer or other divide not issued to her or registered by her with the State Department. Speculation developed that Abedin might have kept such a laptop or other device at her home with Weiner in New York City.” (Appendix 1)
Stone’s book says that Corsi had “intelligence sources” in New York and “reason to believe that certain FBI agents, unhappy with Comey’s decision in July to suspend the criminal investigation into Clinton’s email scandal, had not given up trying to find a way to reopen the investigation.” (Appendix 1)
Conveniently, the New York Police Department (NYPD), which had ties to Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani, had seized Weiner’s laptop due to the strategically timed (Sept 21, 2016) release of an unfortunately true story about Weiner sending sexual text messages (“sexts”) to a minor.
Stone implies that Corsi was privy to the FBI’s investigation into Weiner: “The investigators working with Corsi had reason to believe Weiner was once again under investigation by the New York Police Department and the FBI for sexting to underage girls.” (Appendix 1.)
The publication of the Weiner sexting story was apparently orchestrated by Charles Johnson, a fan of WikiLeaks (Julian Assange) and former employee of Steve Bannon at Breitbart News. Johnson’s behind-the-scenes efforts to release the story are detailed in an investigative report by WhoWhatWhy.
Here’s a photo from August 2017 featuring Johnson (red hair) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) outside the Ecuadorian Embassy where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was holed up.
And here’s a photo from October 2017 featuring Johnson and Steve Bannon at the California Republican Party Convention. The third person in the photo is Palmer Lucky whose sister is married to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a Stone operative who is close with Johnson.
Johnson has boasted publicly about his involvement in brokering the release of the Weiner story.
I’ve seen no indication that Stone and Johnson collaborated on the Weiner sexting story or the reopened email probe. (FN1) Stone did, however, email Steve Bannon (Johnson’s former employer) at 1:02 A.M. on August 18, 2016, stating “Trump can still win — but time is running out. Early voting begins in six weeks. I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty…”
At 6:14 A.M. that day, Bannon responded, “Let’s talk ASAP.”
It was also on August 18 that Stone appeared on Breitbart radio, presumably later in the day, where he accused Abedin (Weiner’s wife) of being a security risk and specifically mentioned Hillary’s emails.
“Why is Huma’s background important? It’s very simple: we know, since she went through all of Hillary’s email, to determine what we should see and what we should not, that she has therefore had access to Top Secret classified documents,” Stone declared.
Alana Goodman of the Daily Mail published the Weiner sexting report on Sept 21, 2016. Johnson later told WhoWhatWhy that he’s the one who put Goodman in touch with Weiner’s 15 year old sexting victim. He also reportedly bragged in a Reddit thread that, “Hillary is collapsing after I helped introduce underaged women who sexted with Weiner to various newspaper journalists.”
Weiner’s underage sexting scandal provided a convenient pretext for the New York FBI to search Weiner’s computer and allegedly discover that it contained Clinton emails. (Appendix 1)
By late September, they were “leaking that information to Rep. Nunes and someone eventually spilled the beans to Rudy Giuliani,” a 2016 Trump campaign surrogate.
“Did I hear about it? You’re darn right I heard about it,” Guiliani has said of the email discovery.
It was in early October that Comey first heard that Clinton emails had been discovered on Weiner’s laptop. For several weeks, as the New York office continued sifting through the computer, Comey kept the information confidential. This was in accordance with FBI policy, which discourages public discussion of investigations that might influence an imminent election.
But on Oct 28, less than two weeks before Election Day, Comey changed his mind and announced the reopened probe.
According to an Inspector General report produced in 2018, Comey’s change of heart was most likely prompted by the leaks. (See page 388.)
On Nov. 6, 2016 (two days before Election Day), Comey announced that the reopened investigation would be reclosed with no criminal charges recommended against Clinton. He said that almost all of the Clinton emails on Weiner’s laptop had turned out to be duplicates of emails that the FBI had previously reviewed. The handful of new emails were inconsequential. “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” Comey wrote that day.
By then, however, millions of Americans had already cast their votes by mail or through early voting. A few days later, Trump was determined to have eked out a razor thin victory against Clinton.
Comey’s earlier decision to go public with the reopened email probe may well have cost Clinton the election. By contrast, Comey had managed to keep secret the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, which had begun before the election as well.
On May 3, 2017, after Trump had moved into the Oval Office, Comey told Congress that his office was investigating the leaks from the New York Field office in 2016, as reported in HuffPost.
Trump fired Comey less than a week later (on May 9). His decision was reportedly made upon Stone’s urging, although Trump denied Stone’s involvement, insisting that he and Stone hadn’t spoken in a long time. Stone disputed Trump’s assertion, stating that they had spoken “very recently.”
In 2018, the nonprofit Citizens for Ethics submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for records of the FBI’s investigation into the leak from the New York field office, but the request was rebuffed. The Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, announced three years later that an internal inquiry had failed to identify the source of the leaks, noting that the office’s subpoena power did not extend to officials’ “personal communication devices,” as reported by the New York Times.
Many questions thus remain unanswered about what happened behind the scenes at the New York FBI.
We also know that Mike Flynn, a member of Trump’s 2016 campaign, paid an FBI agent in the New York office $28,000 from Oct 2016 through Dec 6, 2016, allegedly for pro-Turkey “lobbying work.” (Link to tweet; link to FARA.)
In addition, we know that the New York FBI’s counterintelligence unit was led in 2016 by Charles McGonigal who was recently indicted for allegedly working with indicted Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in 2018. (Link to tweet; indictment.)
Stone, who had owned a lobbying firm with Manafort in the ‘80s, helped Manafort by recommending him to Trump’s 2016 campaign, which hired Manafort in March 2016 as campaign convention manager and later elevated him to the campaign chairman position. Manafort hoped to use his campaign involvement to “get whole” with Deripaska, as we discussed in part 1. (Link to tweet.)
The ensuing “October surprise,” the reopened Clinton email probe, presumably pleased Deripaska.
The reopened probe is discussed in the same section of Stone’s book where Stone talks about the October 1980 Iran hostage crisis, which helped destroy then President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 reelection campaign. According to Stone, the phrase “October surprise” originated with the Iran hostage crisis. (Appendix 1)
Coincidentally, former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes revealed last week that the Iran hostage crisis was manipulated by another Republican operative, the late John B. Connally, Jr., who allegedly flew with Barnes to Iran to ensure that the hostages remained captive until after the presidential election.
Due to the delayed hostage release, Carter was blamed for his inability to resolve the crisis, while Reagan got to claim credit for successfully “negotiating” the release after “winning” the presidency.
Carter’s declining health (he’s on hospice care) apparently prompted Barnes to come forward. “History needs to know that this happened,” Mr. Barnes explained. “I think it’s so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we’ve got to get it down some way.”
It took 42 years for the alleged manipulation of the 1980 hostage crisis and 1980 U.S. presidential election to come out.
Wouldn’t it be a “hoot” if our children and grandchildren learn decades from now that the NYPD or New York FBI planted some or all of the Hillary Clinton emails found on Weiner’s laptop?
Johnson and Stone crossed paths during the 2016 campaign season; both of them claim to have paid for Kathy Shelton, one of former president Bill Clinton’s accusers, to attend a presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016. According to the Associated Press, Stone’s $2,500 payment was listed on financial disclosures for the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness PAC, which was founded by Stone. Johnson used Twitter to announce his company’s payment to Shelton. Johnson and Stone later had a falling out, unless it’s an act.
Credit where credit is due! This article was informed by an insightful Twitter thread posted by human rights advocate Bruce Mainzer, as well as the ebook October 28, 2016: A Day That Will Live in Infamy.
Excerpts from Stone’s book, the Making of the President 2016, Chapter 9: