Roger Stone a focus at Comey Russia hearing

Longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone was mentioned several times at Monday's House hearing on Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

The Trump confidant was mentioned by Democrats pressing FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers over alleged links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

"On August 8th, Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political adviser and self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in a speech that he 'has communicated with (WikiLeaks founder Julian) Assange,' and that more documents would be coming, including an 'October surprise,'" said Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. "In the middle of August, he also communicates with the Russian cutout Guccifer 2.0, and authors a Breitbart piece denying Guccifer's links to Russian intelligence."

"Then, later in August, Stone does something truly remarkable, when he predicts that John Podesta's personal emails will soon be published. 'Trust me, it will soon be Podesta's time in the barrel. #Crooked Hillary,'" Schiff said, quoting an August 21 Stone tweet.

Schiff asked Comey if he was aware that Stone, a former aide of President Richard Nixon, played a role in the Trump campaign.

"I'm not going to talk about any particular person here today, Mr. Schiff," he replied.

The Democratic lawmaker asked Comey if he'd read press reports where Stone "proudly boasts of engaging in political dirty tricks."

"I give you the same answer, sir," Comey replied.

Schiff also asked if the FBI director was aware of communications between Stone, Assange and his associates. Comey did not provide any details.

During the hearing, Stone tweeted that he hopes to testify before the intelligence committee to respond to the "smears" and "half truths" he claims have been launched against him.

"It's only fair that I have a chance to respond 2 any smears or half truths about alleged "Collusion with Russians" from 2day's Intel Hearing," Stone tweeted.

The hearing is designed to shed light on the state of FBI investigations into the extent of Russian meddling in the election campaign. Democrats are convinced that there is circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing in need of deeper investigation -- including with Stone.

"In terms of trying to understand this, I think of a spider web with a tarantula in the middle and the tarantula in my view is Vladmir Putin, who is entrapping many people to do his bidding and to engage with him and I would include those like Roger Stone," said California Rep. Jackie Speier.

Asked about Stone at a White House briefing Monday, press secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged that Trump has known him for a long time but didn't believe the two had spoken "any time recently."

The Senate Intelligence Committee previously asked Stone, who has been connected to Trump for years, to preserve any records he might have that could be related to the panel's investigation into Russian actions targeting the US election, Stone confirmed to CNN recently.

Stone said his communication with "Guccifer 2.0" -- the online persona who claims responsibility for hacking the Democratic National Committee -- was an innocuous "brief exchange" consisting of a few direct messages that amounted to nothing.

Any suggestion otherwise, he told CNN, is "a fabrication."

Stone also has previously told CNN he wants to testify before the committees as long as it is done publicly.
"I am anxious to rebut allegations that I had any improper or nefarious contact with any agent of the Russia state based on facts -- not misleading and salacious headlines," he said. "I am willing to appear voluntarily if the committee isn't looking for the headline of issuing a subpoena."

Roger Stone has made a variety of claims since Election Day that could make lawmakers circumspect about his value as a witness and his motives for wanting to appear on Capitol Hill. | Getty

Roger Stone takes center stage as Congress lines up Russia probe witnesses

Pro-Trump provocateur Roger Stone repeatedly came up in Monday’s opening hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election — but leading lawmakers have indicated they’re still eager to hear from him directly.

And Stone says he would be eager to comply.

Already, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr said his panel has sent Stone a letter asking him to preserve relevant documents and communications, setting the right-wing agitator on a course to eventually come to Capitol Hill.

Stone confirmed he received the letter — which POLITICO first reported on over the weekend — in an email exchange with POLITICO on Monday. The missive is dated Feb. 17, but Stone said he received it on Friday.

“I am anxious to rebut allegations that I had any improper or nefarious contact with any agent of the Russia State based on facts not misleading and salacious headlines. Claims of Russian influence or collusion in the Trump Campaign by the Intelligence Community are backed up buy ZERO evidence,” Stone said in an email.

While leading lawmakers have been mostly coy about which Trump associates they plan to call in their probes of alleged Russian influence, they are willing to break their silence when it comes to Stone. That’s because the fringe Trump adviser has repeatedly drawn attention to his role in the alleged Russian hacks that destabilized the race and undermined Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“Listen, if we’re investigating Russian interference, here’s someone who’s acknowledged he’s been in contact with the Russians,” said Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters last week.

It “absolutely” makes sense to bring him in, Warner added.

Unlike other Trump aides, Stone has freely discussed his communications with Moscow-linked affiliates, including “Guccifer 2.0” — the hacker persona U.S. intelligence officials believe was a Russian front to launder stolen documents, but who Stone is not convinced is a Moscow asset — and WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy site that published personal emails stolen from Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta.

Stone even cryptically tweeted about Podesta two weeks before the Clinton aide’s emails were dumped online, although Stone insists he did not know a leak was on the horizon and that the tweet was actually about an article he wrote on Podesta and his brother.

Still, between the Podesta prediction and acknowledging he’d had contact with groups that helped disseminate stolen documents, Stone has “hit the trifecta,” Warner said.

“There’s certainly a lot of questions that I would like to ask him,” agreed Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

On Monday, Schiff placed Stone front-and-center as he questioned FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers.

Schiff made the most of his opportunity Monday during the committee’s first public hearing of its probe into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow officials on the alleged digital meddling campaign that bruised Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The lawmaker pressed Comey on whether he knew who Stone is and if he was aware of Stone’s interactions with suspected hackers.

Comey said he was “generally” aware of who Stone is but wouldn’t comment on his reported activities.

“I'm worried we're going to a place I don't want to go, which is commenting on any particular person,” Comey added. “So I don't think I should comment. I'm aware of public accounts.”

Comey later said Schiff had the “correct chronology” in terms of Stone predicting the Podesta emails.

Schiff wasn’t the only lawmaker to mention Stone during Monday’s hearing.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) described a spider-web with Putin as the “tarantula in the middle” who is “entrapping many people to do his bidding and to engage with him” including Stone.

Yet despite the bipartisan consensus among lawmakers that they, at some point, would like Stone to appear before their committees, it’s unclear what, if anything, the longtime GOP operative would actually add to their investigations.

Stone’s position within the Trump campaign hierarchy was never concretely defined, raising questions about what level of access he enjoyed.

On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer described Stone and Trump as having "a long relationship, going back years, where he would provide counsel."

But Stone, according to Spicer, only "worked briefly on the campaign I think until about August of 2015, from recollection." He added that the duo "have talked from time to time, but I don’t think any time recently."

Stone, who is in the midst of promoting a book on last year’s election, has a ready explanation for each action that has drawn the attention of lawmakers. He will gladly share them if asked.

“I don’t have to be subpoenaed,” Stone told POLITICO in an interview last week. “I’d come voluntarily, but if they want to issue a subpoena to get a headline, that’s fine, too. I’m anxious to speak, the sooner the better. I would like to put an end to this myth about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

But Stone has made a variety of claims since Election Day that could make lawmakers circumspect about his value as a witness and his motives for wanting to appear on Capitol Hill.

Right around the time the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it would examine the alleged Russian cyberattacks, Stone claimed he was poisoned with polonium — the same radioactive material used to kill a former KGB spy in 2006.

Then in Florida this past week, Stone said he was a passenger in a vehicle struck in a hit-and-run collision, an accident he believes was deliberate as it occurred the same day Nunes and Schiff weighed in on the possibility of his testimony.

“It’s conceivable that someone does not want me to testify,” he said, claiming that the other vehicle struck directly where he was sitting and that a witness at the scene said the temporary license plate on the other car was fake.

The sheriff report of the incident doesn’t mention Stone’s involvement, but Stone said that’s because he left the scene in an Uber.

A potential upside to bringing in Stone — for both Republicans and Democrats examining Russia’s digital tampering — is that his testimony offers more evidence that Congress is making progress on probing the possible connections between the Trump camp and Moscow, a sticking point that nearly derailed the Senate’s inquiry.

Unlike Paul Manafort, Trump’s second campaign manager who is suspected to have long-standing ties ties to pro-Russian interests in Ukraine, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was pushed out of his highly-sensitive post for misleading colleagues about communications he had with a top Russian diplomat, Stone represents a potentially far less complex witness.

Nunes would be happy to hear from any of them.

“If these people want to come forward to our committee they’re welcome to and they’re welcome to provide either depositions [or] written testimony,” he said. “That remains the case.”

“But as I’ve said we’re not going to just call in witnesses based on just press reports alone,” Nunes added.

Depending on when he’s called, Stone’s appearance could be the first in a parade of Trump associates to appear before Congress.

“I’d like Roger Stone. I’d like Carter Page. I’d like the head of Donald Trump’s security team in front of the committee,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, the top Democrat on House Intelligence Committee’s CIA subpanel, referring to another Trump adviser who met with Russian officials.

“People who are in his orbit who have personal political or financial ties to Russia, we’d like to see them before the committee,” Swalwell added, before mentioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions and J.D. Gordon, another former Trump campaign adviser.

Sessions recused himself from any Justice Department investigations related to the election after it was revealed he met twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, when he served as a Trump surrogate. Gordon, who played a small role in crafting the Republican Party’s platform, has admitted he and other Trump personnel also met with the Russian ambassador during the Republican National Convention.

The document sent to Stone requests he retain pertinent documents from the campaign. However, Burr said there is no timeline yet for bringing in Stone.

“Sometimes the people that want to talk the most are not the ones who are the most valuable,” he said.

Trump adviser Roger Stone repeatedly claimed to know of forthcoming WikiLeaks dumps

In the final months of the 2016 campaign, longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone repeatedly discussed his backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and claimed knowledge of forthcoming leaks from the group, a CNN KFile review of his public statements shows.

Stone's comments about WikiLeaks have come under increased scrutiny as the FBI and congressional committees investigate whether Trump associates were involved in Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Stone has repeatedly and publicly denied that he had any contact with Russian officials during the campaign. Stone declined to answer questions from CNN for this story. After this story was published, WikiLeaks tweeted, "WikiLeaks & Assange have repeatedly confirmed that they have never communicated with Stone."

But Stone's many statements have fueled suspicions that figures in Trump's orbit played a role in releases of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
On July 22 of last year, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 internal DNC emails, which ultimately sparked the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

"Guccifer 2.0," the online persona US intelligence officials believe is a front for Russian intelligence, claimed responsibility for the hacks.

WikiLeaks began to serially release emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in October. The US intelligence community has attributed those hacks to Russian intelligence.

Stone began discussing WikiLeaks and Assange in August 2016. Stone told a local Republican Party group in Florida on August 10 that he had "communicated with Julian Assange." In an interview later in August, Stone suggested that Assange had material that included emails deleted by Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. At other times, Stone said the material released would be related to the Clinton Foundation.

On August 21, Stone tweeted that "it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel." Stone claimed in an October 19 Breitbart post that he did not have advanced knowledge that Podesta's hacked emails would be leaked, claiming his tweet was about Podesta's business dealings.

In mid-September, Stone said on Boston Herald Radio that he expects, "Julian Assange and the Wikileaks people to drop a payload of new documents on a weekly basis fairly soon. And that of course will answer the question of exactly what was erased on that email server."

In late October, Stone told a local Florida television station he only knew of the material that would be released in "a broad sense" from a source who was a friend of Assange.
Here's a timeline of Stone's statements:

Aug. 10:
Stone tells a local Republican Party group in Florida "I've actually communicated with Julian Assange."

Aug. 12:
Stone says on the #MAGA podcast he believes Assange has emails deleted by Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. He adds that he knows he has them and they should be expected to drop in the next three months.
"In fact I know [Assange] has them," Stone said. "And I believe he will expose the American people to this information in the next 90 days."

Aug. 14:
Stone engages in direct messages with DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0, according to direct messages reported by the Washington Times and The Smoking Gun. Stone tells the hacker he was "delighted" Twitter reinstated his account.

Aug. 15:
Stone tells World Net Daily he communicated with Assange and forthcoming material will be related to the Clinton Foundation.

Aug. 16:
Stone tells radio host Alex Jones he has "backchannel communications" with Assange who has "political dynamite" on the Clintons.

Aug. 18:
Stone says in an interview on C-SPAN he's been in touch with Julian Assange "through an intermediary—somebody who is a mutual friend." WikiLeaks would later tweet in response to Stone's appearance, "We are happy to hear true information from everyone. But so far, we have not heard from Mr. Stone."

Aug. 21:
Stone says he is not "at liberty to discuss" information he received from Assange. Stone claims he was hacked after speaking with Assange.

Aug. 21:
Stone says on The Blaze radio that he had "communicated" with Assange through a "mutual acquaintance."

Aug 21:
Stone tweets that "it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel." Stone later says his tweet was about Podesta's business dealings.

Aug. 21:
Stone denies Guccifer 2.0 is connected to the Russians on local Maryland radio.
"The DNC leaks that nailed Deborah Wasserman Schultz in the heist against Bernie Sanders was not leaked by the Russians, it was leaked by Cruccifer [sic] 2, I should say hacked and leaked first by Cruccifer 2, well known hacker who is not in the employment of the Russians and then Wikileaks. So that whole claim is a canard."

Aug. 26:
In an interview with Breitbart Radio, Stone says, "I'm almost confident Mr. Assange has virtually every one of the emails that the Clinton henchwomen, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, thought that they had deleted, and I suspect that he's going to drop them at strategic times in the run up to this race."

Aug. 29:
Stone says on local Florida radio of Assange and the Clinton Foundation, "Perhaps he has the smoking gun that will make this handcuff time."

Sept. 16:
Stone says on Boston Herald Radio that he expects Assange the WikiLeaks to "drop a payload of new documents on a weekly basis fairly soon. And that of course will answer the question of exactly what was erased on that email server."
Stone adds of Assange, "I am in touch with him through an intermediary."

Oct. 1:
Stone tweets, "Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks."

Oct. 12:
Stone tells a local Florida radio station that he has "a back-channel communication with Assange, because we have a good mutual friend."

"That friend travels back and forth from the United States to London and we talk. I had dinner with him last Monday," Stone said.

Oct. 19:
Stone writes on Breitbart: "I had no advance notice of WikiLeaks' hacking of Podesta's e-mails."

Oct. 29:
Stone says on local Florida television that he had no advanced knowledge of the forthcoming hack of Podesta's emails, but says he has a "backchannel contact" to Assange.
"We have a mutual friend," Stone says.

When asked about the content of the information shared, Stone said, "Broad information pertaining to the fact that Wikileaks has information pertaining to massive secret surveillance, war, oil, the U.S. election."
Stone says he only knew about emails being released "in the broad sense." He says he has never met or spoken to Assange and didn't pass any information about it to Trump.

Jan. 10:
Stone calls claims that he colluded with Assange "false" in a blog post and says he only knew of forthcoming material because, "Julian Assange of WikiLeaks on numerous occasions had signaled that he had unspecified political dynamite that would shake up the presidential race."

Feb. 3:
Stone explains his WikiLeaks contacts in a Reddit ask me anything.
"I have been forthright about the fact that Julian Assange of Wikileaks and I share a common friend who has communicated with both of us," he writes. "I was simply told Wikileaks was in possession of 'political dynamite' that would 'rock Hillary's campaign,' and they would release it in late October."

"I had no previous knowledge of the subject of the disclosures, although I've speculated that it would be related to the Clinton Foundation. I've had no advance knowledge of the hacking of Podesta or anyone else. Nor do I believe that Assange is an agent of the Russians, a charge which is yet undocumented with proof and which he denies."

March 6:
Stone tweets -- then deletes -- about communicating with Assange, writing that he "never denied perfectly legal backchannel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary."

March 11:
Stone says charges he colluded with Russian hacker Guccifer are "demonstrably false."

March 20:
Stone tweets in response to the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election: "It's only fair that I have a chance to respond 2 any smears or half truths about alleged "Collusion with Russians" from 2day's Intel Hearing."

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