- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 U.S. presidential race has set its sights on former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone’s claim that he met WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Stone bragged multiple times during the race about allegedly being in contact with Mr. Assange, and the special counsel’s office has expressed an interest in an August 2016 email he wrote that mentioned him, the Journal reported.

“I dined with Julian Assange last night,” Mr. Stone, 65, wrote to fellow former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg on Aug. 4, 2016, according to a copy of the email seen by the Journal.

Reached for comment, Mr. Stone said Monday that his email was to meant be a joke.

“I never dined with Assange,” Mr. Stone told the Journal. “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. This was said in jest.”

Regardless of their veracity, Mr. Stone’s repeated claims about his alleged ties to Mr. Assange have garnered the attention the special counsel’s office, according to multiple witnesses questioned by Mr. Mueller’s team.

Mr. Nunberg, 36, revealed last month that he was served with a subpoena from Mr. Mueller’s office seeking records of his contacts with individuals including Mr. Stone, and fellow former Trump adviser Ted Malloch announced last week that he was recently detained and questioned about both Mr. Stone and WikiLeaks.

Both WikiLeaks and its publisher have denied ever communicating with Mr. Stone.

“We stand by our earlier statements,” the anti-secrecy group said when reached by The Washington Times Tuesday.

Russian state-sponsored hackers breached targeted including the Democratic National Committee and the personal email account of John Podesta, the chairman of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and stole sensitive material ultimately provided to WikiLeaks for publication, U.S. officials have assessed.

Mr. Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department in May to investigate allegations of foreign interference as well as any possible links between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, and his office has returned criminal indictments against at least 19 individuals so far, Russians and Americans alike.

Mr. Stone’s email to Mr. Nunberg was sent a few weeks after after WikiLeaks published a trove of internal DNC emails, and about two months before the website began leaking Mr. Podesta’s stolen emails.

“Hillary lies about Russian Involvement in DNC hack -Julian Assange is a hero,” Mr. Stone tweeted a day after emailing Mr. Nunberg.

Mr. Stone claimed to have communicated with Mr. Assange during a public speech on Aug. 8, 2016, but he walked back that claim days later.

“I can say unequivocally that I received no material including allegedly hacked emails from WikiLeaks from Julian Assange or anyone else and never passed any such materials on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign,” Mr. Stone said in a statement Tuesday. “This is a left-wing conspiracy theory.”

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