One of the most curious episodes of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is also one of its most intriguing: Did Roger Stone—the eccentric informal Trump adviser—have backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?
The question has perplexed Trump/Russia investigators, in part because Stone tweeted on Aug. 21, 2016, that then-Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta would soon have his “time in the barrel” before WikiLeaks started releasing Podesta’s emails. Forensics experts say Russian state-backed hackers stole them.
Stone told the House intelligence committee that he had a intermediary to Assange, according to CNN, and named lefty comedian-turned-radio host Randy Credico as that person. The WikiLeaks founder has been on Credico’s radio show three times, and Credico tweeted a picture of himself outside the London Ecuadorian embassy on Oct. 5, 2016.
The House intelligence committee subpoenaed Credico to testify in November, and he replied by asserting his 5th amendment right to remain silent.
Now, Credico is speaking out. In a wide-ranging interview, he told The Daily Beast that despite Stone’s statements, he never passed messages from Assange to anyone, and that Stone never had a backchannel to the WikiLeaks founder.
Credico also ripped Stone for giving his name to Hill investigators without first being subpoenaed, and said special counsel Robert Mueller hasn’t reached out to either of them.
“There was no backchannel to Roger Stone, and I think that his testimony was a lot of bravado,” Credico said. “Roger’s a showman.”
That matches what Assange said in private Twitter chats, published last week by the Intercept. “Stone is a bullshitter,” Assange posted. “Trying to a) imply that he knows anything b) that he contributed to our hard work.”
Stone told The Daily Beast that his claim that he had a backchannel to Assange—which he first made to Alex Jones on Aug. 16, 2016—“may be an over-dramatization,” but added that Credico “confirmed” to him that Assange had damaging material on Hillary Clinton.
“His claim that the confirmation came prior to his first interview with Assange is irrelevant, as Credico knows others who work for WikiLeaks,” Stone said.
Credico said the notion that he was a backchannel from Assange to anyone during the campaign is laughable.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he added. “It’s not even reasonable to assume that Assange somehow would give material to me to give to Roger Stone. What purpose? The guy operates in secrecy, that’s his whole deal.”
“He’s certainly not going to tip off someone like me, who is a noted big mouth,” Credico continued. “I have loose lips and I sink ships, that’s my reputation. I can’t keep a secret.”
Credico joked that if he had gotten a damning document from Assange, he would have given it to the president’s first son.
“I would give it straight to Donald Trump Jr. and say, look what I got!” he said.
WikiLeaks actually did in fact reach out to Trump Jr. during the election. Their main account DM’d with him about Hillary Clinton’s emails and urged him to reject the election results, according to The Atlantic.
That’s not to say Credico didn’t try to talk to Assange. According to Credico, he first spoke with the WikiLeaks founder on Aug. 25, 2016, when he appeared on his radio show. Stone’s Podesta claim came a few days before that.
A few weeks before the 2016 election, he went to the Ecuadorian embassy with a letter for Assange from his radio station, WBAI, asking if he wanted a show there. Credico said he went into the building where the embassy is located. After going into its entryway, he knocked on a door to the left (the embassy, he said, was behind that door).
“Somebody puts their hand out like the Thing in the Addams family, grabbed the letter and closed the door,” he said. “I didn’t even see the face. I just gave them a letter.”
Credico also criticized Stone for giving his name to House investigators without being subpoenaed first.
“He was worried about being thrown in jail, as if he’d last one minute in jail,” Credico said. “He wanted to maximize his visibility, his faux indignation over this.
“Roger Stone folded like a house of cards in a Saudi windstorm,” Credico added.
He also said that neither he nor Stone has heard from Mueller.
“He understands that Stone is not a player,” he said. “Even if it were true, it would be so insignificant. But it’s not true.”