Roger Stone in an email to TPM Monday said that an August 2016 email he sent a former Trump campaign aide claiming that he dined with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was the “continuation” of a joke he played on the ex-aide, Sam Nunberg.
“It was a throwaway line, a schtick, the way I talk. This dope believed it. I was playing him,” Stone told TPM. He later added, “I can say equivocally that I received no material including allegedly hacked emails from WikiLeaks for Julian Assange or anyone else and never passed any such materials onto Donald Trump or the Trump campaign.”
Stone’s email to Nunberg, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, was sent on Aug. 4, 2016, during an exchange about Trump’s polling.
“I dined with Julian Assange last night,” Stone’s email to Nunberg said.
Stone, in his email to TPM, referenced a Washington Post report from last month, in which Nunberg recalled Stone telling him he had met with Assange. Stone told the Post that he said that during a telephone conversation in an effort to get Nunberg off the phone.
“Sam, being a neurotic, would sometimes call you 30 and 40 times a day. Late one Friday night while I was trying to get him off the phone, he asked me if I had weekend plans,” Stone told TPM. “I responded ‘I think I’ll fly to London and have dinner with Julian Assange’ …. Sam, a little too intense and with his head not screwed on quite right, fell for it.”
Stone provided for the Journal a screenshot of a booking for “Roger” for a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Miami for the evening of August 3. Delta confirmed to the Journal the existence of the flight on the booking screenshot, but would not say whether Stone was on it.
“Airline and hotel records prove I was in California on August 3 and 4,” Stone told TPM. He later clarified that he flew into Los Angeles on August 1 from New York, and then to Miami from Los Angeles on August 3.
The email has been raised in questioning in front of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury as he probes Russian meddling in the election, according to the Journal. Stone’s denial Monday is not the first time he has had to explain things he said during the 2016 campaign that suggested communications with the founder of Wikileaks, which published thousands of hacked emails from associates of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
He told a group of Florida Republicans on Aug. 8, 2016, “I actually have communicated with Assange.” He later explained that he was referring to communications through a “journalist” intermediary he at first refused to name. Unnamed sources went on to tell CNN that intermediary was New York radio host Randy Credico.
“I have never said or written that I had any direct communication with Julian Assange and have always clarified in numerous interviews and speeches that my communication with WikiLeaks was through the aforementioned journalist,” Stone said in his prepared remarks for the House Intelligence Committee last September.
The Atlantic earlier this year obtained Twitter direct messages between Stone and the Wikileaks Twitter account sent in October of 2016.
Nunberg was subpoenaed by the Mueller investigation last month — a subpoena he first said he was resisting an a series of erratic cable news hits. Nunberg ultimately cooperated with Mueller’s request.
Nunberg said on MNBC Thursday evening that Stone told him he had met with Assange in early August, and noted that was around the time that Trump was publicly calling for more Clinton emails to be released.
“I think he’s trying to ingratiate himself back with Trump,” Nunberg said. Nunberg did not immediately responded to TPM’s inquiry about Stone’s claims.
“Politics is a game of smoke and mirrors and my emails would certainly show that I was deeply enmeshed in the presidential political maneuvering in 2016,” Stone told TPM. “At the end of the day however it’s not what you said you did but what you actually did that matters.”
Update: This story has been updated to include a clarification from Stone on when he says he was in California.