Roger Stone, President Trump’s former campaign advisor, engaged privately last year with a person involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee, he told The Washington Times Friday, but insisted the conversations were “completely innocuous.”
“It was so perfunctory, brief and banal I had forgotten it,” the political consultant told The Times on Friday with respect to a private Twitter exchange he had with “Guccifer 2.0,” a pseudonymous entity explicitly tied to the DNC hack.
Guccifer 2.0 appeared last summer shortly after it was revealed that the DNC’s computer network had been breached by hackers. The self-described Romanian hacktivist claimed in a June 15 blog post that he had compromised the DNC — not Russian hackers, as experts had indicated — and said he had supplied WikiLeaks with a trove of documents ultimately published by the antisecrecy website the following month.
Mr. Stone wrote an article for Breitbart News on Aug. 5 attributing the DNC breach to Guccifer 2.0, not Russia, and swapped a handful of direct messages with the persona in the weeks that followed, according to copies of the conversations provided to the Times.
In one of the messages dated Aug. 14, Mr. Stone said he was “delighted” that Twitter had reinstated Guccifer 2.0’s account following a brief suspension. Two days later, Mr. Stone again privately messaged the Twitter account and asked for it to retweet a column he had written about the prospects of the 2016 presidential election being “rigged.”
“wow. thank u for writing back, and thank u for an article about me!!!” Guccifer 2.0 wrote Mr. Stone in the interim, referring to the Breitbart piece. “do u find anything interesting in the docs i posted?”
“i’m pleased to say that u r great man,” Guccifer 2.0 wrote in an Aug. 17 message to Mr. Stone. “please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me.”
The U.S. intelligence community later concluded with high-confidence that the Russian government directed the DNC breach, among other operations, then utilized the Guccifer 2.0 persona in order to publicly release data obtained in the hacks.
“The content of the exchange is, as you can see completely innocuous and perfunctory,” Mr. Stone told the Times of his Twitter conversation, the likes of which was limited to only three messages attributed to his own account, according to the copies he provided.
While Mr. Stone’s private exchange is on the surface mundane, its existence could nonetheless be problematic for Mr. Trump, whose administration has been repeatedly dogged in recent weeks over its ties to Russia.
The Smoking Gun reported earlier this week that U.S. authorities had obtained private messages sent between the two accounts during the course of conducting a federal investigation. Both the DNC breach and Mr. Trump’s purported ties to Russia are the subject of ongoing probes.
When asked last month if anyone from his staff had communicated with Russia during his campaign, Mr. Trump said: “Nobody that I know of.”
“I myself had no contacts or communications with the Russian State, Russian Intelligence or anyone fronting for them or acting as intermediaries for them,” Mr. Stone told The Times in an email Thursday evening.
“Even if [Guccifer 2.0] is/was a Russian asset, my brief Aug. 14 correspondence with him on twitter comes AFTER I wrote about his role in the DNC hacks (Aug 5) and AFTER Wikileaks released the DNC material,” Mr. Stone clarified on Friday. “How does one collaborate on a matter after the fact?”
According to the U.S. intelligence community, Russian hackers penetrated the DNC and other targets prior to releasing the documents to websites, including WikiLeaks, during the course of an multi-pronged operation intended to influence last year’s White House race. Mr. Trump and his Russian counterpart have both denied involvement in the hacks.
Twitter messages sent to Guccifer 2.0 this week failed to garner a response.
• Andrew Blake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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