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On Wednesday, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen stated that Roger Stone communicated with President Donald Trump about a trove of emails dumped by WikiLeaks in advance of the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Cohen promised in his opening testimony that he would discuss WikiLeaks.
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails. In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.’
In his testimony on Wednesday, Cohen was asked about the alleged meeting by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). Massie asked Cohen about the timeline of the meeting; Cohen testified that the meeting took place on July 19, 2016.
“In the days before the Democratic convention, you became privy to a conversation that some of Hillary Clinton’s emails would be leaked. Is that correct?” Massie asked.
After Cohen confirmed the date of the alleged phone call, Massie held up a printout of a Guardian article from June of that year, featuring a photo of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“Did you know that was public knowledge in June?” Massie asked.
“Mr. Assange reported to the media on June 12th that those emails would be leaked. So, I’m not saying you have fake news, I’m saying you have old news, and there’s really not much to that.”
Massie appears to have been referring to an article in the Guardian which discussed emails that had been leaked from Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State and quoted a TV interview that Assange had participated in.
“‘We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton … We have emails pending publication, that is correct,’ Assange said. He did not specify when or how many emails would be published,” the article states.
WikiLeaks also tweeted on Wednesday that the leaks were public knowledge.
(note that WikiLeaks had already publicly announced its pending publications and has always denied speaking to Roger Stone)— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 27, 2019
STATEMENT on Michael Cohen testimony to Congress: WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has never had a telephone call with Roger Stone. WikiLeaks publicly teased its pending publications on Hillary Clinton and published > 30k of her emails on 16 March 2016. https://t.co/XcH75u3kbu— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 27, 2019
While WikiLeaks and Assange had promised more email drumps—and they certainly delivered—neither the article Massie cited, nor the interview referenced in the article, discuss the timing of the upcoming leaks.
The June 2016 Guardian report @RepThomasMassie held aloft and submitted as evidence did not, as he claimed, prove that Assange said "those emails" hacked from the DNC "would be leaked." The Guardian and ITV reported that Assange had Clinton's own emails https://t.co/cnP5fubYQe pic.twitter.com/mzLbXP3n3w— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) February 27, 2019
It is misleading to suggest that anyone knew what Assange had in June 2016, and that it was "old news" by July, which is what Massie claimed. ITV's report shows it was assumed that June that Assange had said he had Clinton's own email, not the DNC hack https://t.co/j4XkkEE4kG …— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) February 27, 2019
Where some of the confusion also stems from is that there were two separate incidents. Hillary Clinton’s campaign teams emails, as well as emails leaked from the Democratic National Committee. While Assange spoke about having Clinton emails, there was no advance public knowledge that a DNC leak would be coming. That is the information that Trump, Stone, and Cohen were possibly privy to.
The emails from the Democratic National Committee were released on July 22, 2016; days after Cohen’s alleged meeting. The DNC hack was first reported in June of that year. So while it would certainly be possible to surmise that WikiLeaks would release information obtained from the DNC hack, the Guardian article and associated television interview did not provide any indication about when the leaks would occur. However, WikiLeaks did mention the DNC hack in a tweet from June 16, 2016.
“DNC ‘hacker’ releases 200+ page internal report on Trump, says gave WikiLeaks the all [sic] rest,” the tweet reads, along with a link to a blog post by Guccifer 2.0, an entity alleged by the Mueller investigation to be tied to the GRU.
The blog post says that WikiLeaks would publish the additional information “soon.”
Roger Stone has refuted Cohen’s testimony, telling the Hill, “Mr. Cohen’s statement is not true.” WikiLeaks also said in a tweet that Stone had never communicated with the organization.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.