Conservative author Jerome Corsi alerted longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone in early August 2016 that WikiLeaks planned to release material damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, including documents related to her campaign chairman John Podesta, according to a draft court filing.
Corsi emailed Stone about WikiLeaks’s plans nearly 10 weeks before the group published Podesta’s hacked emails in October, according to the document, which was prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller III’s team as part of plea negotiations with Corsi that have collapsed.
“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging,” Corsi wrote in the email quoted in the draft document, referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London since 2012. The email was sent while Corsi was traveling with his wife in Italy.
The email continued: “Time to let more than [Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop [Clinton]. That appears to be the game hackers are now about.”
[Stone associate Jerome Corsi says he is rejecting plea deal from special counsel]
The draft filing, first reported by NBC News and provided by Corsi to The Washington Post, provides a remarkable look at the case Mueller is building related to WikiLeaks and the most detailed allegations yet that a key associate in Trump’s orbit was provided with advance knowledge of the group’s plans.
In July, Mueller indicted a dozen Russian military intelligence officers accused of conspiring to hack Democrats, including Podesta, and leaking their stolen emails to WikiLeaks.
In an interview, Corsi accused Mueller’s team of pressuring him to say he intentionally lied about his communications about Assange’s plans, when he simply forgot about them and exaggerated his knowledge.
“I never met Assange, I never talked to him,” he said. “I’m convinced my memory is correct that I didn’t have a source that connected me to Assange. I really don’t think so.”
[Mueller said ready to deliver key findings in his Russia probe]
Stone, who has long denied coordinating with WikiLeaks, reiterated that denial Tuesday.
“None of the emails cited prove I had advance notice of the source or content of either allegedly hacked or allegedly stolen emails published by WikiLeaks,” he wrote in a text message to The Post. “When did political gossip become a criminal activity? More importantly these emails provide no evidence that I received any materials from WikiLeaks or Assange or Corsi or anyone else and passed them on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign or anyone else.”
Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for Trump, said the president does not recall ever speaking to either Stone or Corsi about WikiLeaks. He said the president’s legal team obtained a copy of the Corsi document earlier this month and lodged a complaint with the Justice Department about the inclusion of Trump’s name in the draft filing. The episode delayed the delivery of Trump’s written responses to questions posed by the special counsel.
A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.
Corsi’s release of the draft filing provides a rare window into the evidence gathered by Mueller’s team, which has conducted its investigation in extraordinary secrecy.
[Trump team turns over written answers to Mueller’s questions]
It is unclear what effect the disclosure will have on the case. Making such documents public before a court filing would infuriate most prosecutors, because sharing such details could compromise ongoing investigative work and tip off other suspects about what the FBI knows.
Prosecutors allege in the draft that Corsi deleted his emails from the campaign period last year and initially lied to federal investigators about his interactions with Stone.
In an interview, Corsi acknowledged that he may have deleted some emails, but he said he was not trying to intentionally hide anything from prosecutors. He said his message to Stone was based on his speculation of what WikiLeaks might have, not any inside knowledge.
“I was probably pumping myself up in an email,” Corsi said.
The document was drafted by Mueller’s team as part of recent plea talks with Corsi. The special counsel offered to let the 72-year-old conspiracy theorist plead guilty to a single felony count of lying to federal investigators – an offer that Corsi said Monday he was rejecting.
He said that any inconsistencies between his statements to investigators and his email correspondence were based on faulty memory, not an intention to deceive.
“They have a narrative and they want the facts to fit in their narrative. … If you don’t tell them what they want to hear, they will charge you with lying,” Corsi said.
[Julian Assange has been charged, prosecutors reveal inadvertently in court filing]
Giuliani said the special counsel overplayed his hand. “They’ve screwed it up,” he said of Mueller’s team. “You don’t want your cooperator going public and complaining about you.”
The document indicates that Mueller is building a case that Trump associates were actively seeking information about WikiLeaks’ activities.
According to the document, Stone wrote to Corsi on July 25, 2016, urging him to find out Assange’s plans. “Get to [Assange] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [WikiLeaks] emails,” Stone wrote to Corsi.
In his text message to The Post on Tuesday, Stone said he sent the email hours after he had been tipped about a possible WikiLeaks disclosure by viewing an email that James Rosen, then a Fox News reporter, sent to blogger Charles Ortel.
When first asked about the email, Corsi told investigators that he had declined Stone’s request. But prosecutors said that claim was not accurate. Instead, the draft document indicates, he forwarded the email to Ted Malloch, a London-based author and Trump ally.
Eight days later, Corsi wrote to Stone appearing to offer details of Assange’s plans, according to the document.
Malloch declined to comment. He has previously said he was questioned by the FBI in March about WikiLeaks, Corsi and Stone. Malloch said he told investigators that he had never visited the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.
On Aug. 21, 2016, a few weeks after Corsi’s email, Stone tweeted, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
Stone has said the tweet had no connection to WikiLeaks and the group’s later release of Podesta’s emails. Instead, he has said it was based on research Corsi had conducted about Russia-related work by John Podesta and his lobbyist brother Tony. He has denied that Corsi ever told him that WikiLeaks might have Podesta’s emails.
[Acting attorney general said to have no plans to recuse himself from Russia probe]
The draft statement of offense describes Stone as “Person 1″ and someone that Corsi “understood to be in regular contact with senior members of the Trump Campaign, including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump.”
The inclusion of Trump by name infuriated Trump’s legal team, which obtained a copy of the draft the week before Thanksgiving. In response, the president’s attorneys delayed submitting his written answers to Mueller and formally complained to both the special counsel’s office and the Justice Department, according to Giuliani.
“It’s gratuitous. It’s not necessary,” he said. “If you read out of context, it creates a misimpression that they were in contact with the president during this critical time. And I believe that was done deliberately.”
A spokesman for Mueller did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Washington Post writer Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.