During his public testimony Wednesday, Michael Cohen told Congress that Roger Stone called Donald Trump on either July 18 or 19, 2016 and gave him the heads up that WikiLeaks was going to dump a trove of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton. WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of stolen Democratic National Committee emails on July 22.
If true, Cohen’s account, which he provided in sworn testimony to the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, would be a dramatic revelation — indicating that Trump misled the public about his knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans and, importantly, provided false written testimony to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
A close examination of the activities of the three men in the July 2016 time frame cited by Cohen shows there was a window of time in which the phone call could have occurred, according to public accounts and a travel itinerary Cohen provided The Washington Post in 2017.
However, there appears to be little other publicly available information to corroborate the claim by the former Trump attorney, who has pleaded guilty to nine felonies, including lying to Congress. He has provided no evidence to support his account, and both Trump and Stone have denied that they ever discussed WikiLeaks with one another.
And Cohen’s testimony raises a major question: If the call happened as he described, why was it not specifically cited by Mueller in Stone’s seven-count indictment last month, which included other references to conversations Stone allegedly had with Trump associates about WikiLeaks?
Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan, said the decision by prosecutors not to include a description of that call in the Stone indictment may be a sign that the “evidence is not sufficient” to corroborate Cohen’s claims.
Or, she said, Mueller may be holding back information about such a call while continuing to develop evidence of a WikiLeaks-related conspiracy.
Stone told The Post that he never discussed WikiLeaks with Trump. “Mr. Cohen’s statement is not true,” he wrote in a text earlier this week.
Likewise, WikiLeaks has repeatedly said that [Julian] Assange and Stone never communicated, including again Wednesday as Cohen testified ...
In written answers he submitted to Mueller in November in response to questions from the special counsel, Trump asserted that Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks’ upcoming release and that he had no prior knowledge of it, according to people familiar with the material he submitted.
Cohen told Congress this week that he believes the conversation he overheard between Trump and Stone took place that Monday or Tuesday.
He said Trump was alerted to the call by his secretary Rhona Graff, who called out “Roger’s on Line 1,” according to Cohen’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee.
Trump then put Stone on speakerphone, Cohen said.
Cohen alleged Stone told Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Assange and learned that a “massive dump” of emails would be published “within a couple of days.”
“Wouldn’t that be great?” Trump replied, according to Cohen’s testimony.
At that point, there were a few public indications that Assange was planning to release information that would be damaging to Clinton — and a hint that Russia was going after the Democratic Party.
But exactly what was coming — and when — was unknown.
The previous month — on June 12 — Assange had appeared on a British television network and said WikiLeaks had “emails related to Hillary Clinton” that it planned to publish.
Two days later, The Post reported that the Democratic National Committee’s servers had been hacked and the party’s forensic analysis had identified Russian military intelligence as the likely culprit.
An online persona named Guccifer 2.0 then began to offer some of the stolen material online. Guccifer 2.0 was actually a front used by Russian intelligence officers, according to a July 2018 indictment of 12 Russian nationals accused of stealing and distributing the material.
Guccifer 2.0 tried and failed to send documents to WikiLeaks in June 2016, according to court documents. On July 14, Guccifer 2.0 sent the group an email with an encrypted file explaining how to access an archive of the material, prosecutors say.
On Monday, July 18 — one of the possible dates of the call that Cohen said occurred between Stone and Trump — WikiLeaks confirmed it had retrieved the archive and told Guccifer 2.0 it would release the stolen documents “this week,” according to court documents.
In the wake of the emails’ release, a senior Trump campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone to find out what else WikiLeaks might have about the Clinton campaign, according to Stone’s indictment.
Prosecutors did not disclose why the Trump campaign believed Stone was the person who would know about WikiLeaks.
But they noted that Stone had informed senior campaign officials “by in or around June and July 2016” that WikiLeaks had documents “whose release would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.”