Six days before WikiLeaks began releasing Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, Roger Stone had a text message conversation with a friend about WikiLeaks, according to copies of phone records obtained exclusively by NBC News.
“Big news Wednesday,” the Stone pal, radio host Randy Credico, wrote on Oct. 1, 2016, according to the text messages provided by Stone. “Now pretend u don’t know me.”
“U died 5 years ago,” Stone replied.
“Great,” Credico wrote back. “Hillary’s campaign will die this week.”
Credico turned out to be wrong on one count — nothing incriminating about Clinton came out that Wednesday. But two days later, on Oct. 7, WikiLeaks released its first dump of emails stolen from Podesta, altering the trajectory of the 2016 presidential election.
Stone, a confidante of then-candidate Donald Trump and notorious political trickster, has denied any collusion with WikiLeaks.
But the text messages provided by Stone to NBC News show that Credico appeared to be providing regular updates to Stone on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s plans in the days before the hacked emails were released. In the texts, Credico told Stone he had insights into Assange's plans through a longtime friend, who was also Assange’s lawyer, according to the text messages.
Reached Wednesday, Credico downplayed the text exchanges. “There's absolutely nothing there that I had any knowledge of anything that Assange was going to do because I didn't,” he told NBC News.
"Where's the smoking gun?" he added.
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Stone said the messages support the story he's been telling all along. “These text messages prove beyond dispute that Randy Credico was the source who told me of the significance of the material that Julian Assange told CNN he had and would publish in June 2016 and that Credico’s source was indeed a woman attorney who worked for WikiLeaks," Stone said. "If Randy said anything different to the grand jury, he perjured himself under oath.”
Stone’s lawyer Grant Smith said the messages vindicate his client.
“The texts provided to NBC News demonstrate that my client, Roger Stone, has been consistent for the past two years in his assertion that Randy Credico was the person who was providing him what limited information Mr. Stone had regarding WikiLeaks,” Smith said.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating whether Stone had any advance knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans to publish Podesta's emails, according to people familiar with the investigation. Nearly a dozen Stone associates have been summoned by Mueller to appear before his Washington grand jury, the sources said.
The text messages obtained by NBC News appear to show that Stone and Credico exchanged messages about Assange having damaging information about Clinton at least as early as Aug. 27, 2016. The texts show that at 6:07 p.m. that day, Credico wrote to Stone, “Julian Assange has kryptonite on Hillary.”
Stone did not appear to reply to that particular message but the conversations ramped up over the following weeks.
“I think it’s on for tomorrow,” Credico texted Stone on Oct. 3, 2016, according to the messages obtained by NBC News.
The message is time-stamped 2:42 p.m. About 40 minutes earlier, Stone fired off a tweet suggesting he had intimate knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans. It’s not clear if a time zone difference meant that Stone had already received Credico’s message, or if there was another reason behind the timing of his tweet.
“I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp,” read Stone’s tweet.
Later that day, Credico texted Stone asking, “Why can't you get Trump to come out and say that he would give Julian Assange Asylum[?]” according to the texts obtained by NBC News.
The texts appear to show that Credico sent another message less than three hours later: “Off the Record Hillary and her people are doing a full-court press they keep Assange from making the next dump…That's all I can tell you on this line…Please leave my name out of it."
Stone responded with a question: “So nothing will happen tonight?” according to the texts obtained by NBC News.
Credico responded: “tuesday….There is so much stuff out there… There will be an announcement but not on the balcony.”
Credico followed up five minutes later: “And by the way your friend did not have a meeting with Julian Assange that's a complete lie.”
Stone replied: “How would u know, rummy?” according to the texts obtained by NBC News.
According to Stone, the “friend” the men were referring to was blogger Charles Ortel, who Stone mistakenly thought had met with Assange.
Credico responded to that message: “Because I'm best friends with [Assange's] lawyer and leave it at that and leave it alone.”
The lawyer Credico referred to is Margaret Ratner Kunstler. Kunstler declined requests for comment.
The next day, Oct. 4, Assange announced that his organization would publish emails related to the 2016 campaign.
The email dump actually came three days later, only hours after The Washington Post released a recording of a lewd conversation between then-candidate Donald Trump and TV host Billy Bush.
Anna Schecter is a producer for the NBC News Investigations Unit.