The political operative Roger Stone has admitted he is “probably” the Donald Trump associate cited in a grand jury indictment as communicating with Russians who attacked the US presidential election in 2016.
Trump is defying calls to cancel a high stakes meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday after a dozen Russian military intelligence officers were charged with hacking and leaking the emails of senior Democrats.
The indictment says the Russians, using the persona Guccifer 2.0, wrote to an unnamed person “who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J Trump”. On 15 August 2016, according to the indictment, Guccifer 2.0 wrote: “thank u for writing back … do u find anyt(h)ing interesting in the docs i posted?”
Two days later, Guccifer 2.0 added: “please tell me if i can help u anyhow … it would be a great pleasure to me.”
In September, the Russians wrote to the person again and referred to a stolen Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) document posted online: “What do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.”
The person responded: “(p)retty standard”.
The indictment does not identify the person but Stone, a political consultant and friend of Trump for nearly four decades, told the Guardian via text message: “I am probably the person mentioned on the indictment. Indictments are charges and until there is a trial all claims remain unproven.”
In a dramatic split screen moment on Friday, the charges were announced in Washington at the moment Trump was meeting the Queen at Windsor Castle. The 29-page indictment laid out how Russians schemed to break into key Democratic email accounts, including those belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, the Democratic National Committee and the DCCC. Stolen emails appeared on WikiLeaks and received widespread media coverage.
Intriguingly, the charges say that on 27 July 2016, the very day Trump held a press conference and urged Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails, Russian hackers tried for the first time to break into email accounts used by her personal office. They do not allege that Trump campaign associates were involved in the hacking effort, that Americans were knowingly in touch with Russian intelligence officers or that any vote tallies were altered by hacking.
Stone protests his innocence. He wrote on Saturday that what he described as a 24-word exchange with someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 “is benign based on its content, context and timing”.
He added: “This exchange is entirely public and provides no evidence of collaboration or collusion with Guccifer 2.0 or anyone else in the alleged hacking of the DNC emails, as well as taking place many weeks after the events described in today’s indictment and after WikiLeaks had published the DNC material.”
Stone is a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” who has a tattoo of the former president Richard Nixon on his back. He added: “The indictment does not allege or even allude that I was part of this alleged hacking nor does it allege or allude to me having anything to do with getting the allegedly hacked material to WikiLeaks. The indictments show I did not conspire with any of the defendants to do the alleged hacking, distribute the allegedly stolen emails or aid them in any way.”
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