Newly released emails from the 2016 presidential campaign appear to show political operative Roger Stone presenting himself as a WikiLeaks insider to Steve Bannon, who was at the heart of then-candidate Donald Trump's run for president. The emails, published Thursday by the New York Times, touch on a central question of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation: Did Stone have advance knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans to release hacked material damaging to Hillary Clinton? Stone says no, and the emails don't provide a definitive answer to that question. But the correspondence suggests Stone wanted Bannon to see him as plugged in to WikiLeaks as it was planning to publish documents that would upend the campaign. US intelligence agencies have concluded Russian agents were the source of info released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.
Mueller's team questioned Bannon last month about his exchanges with Stone, a source says. Bannon's interview was with prosecutors, though other people close to Stone have been called before a grand jury to discuss his ties to WikiLeaks. The source said Bannon and other top campaign officials were skeptical of Stone and his claims about having insight into WikiLeaks' efforts. Stone, who confirmed the emails' authenticity, denies being a conduit to WikiLeaks. "What I am guilty of is using publicly available information and a solid tip to bluff, posture, hype, and punk Democrats on Twitter. This is called 'politics.' It's not illegal," he said Thursday in a Daily Caller op-ed. Stone tells the AP: "I had no advanced notice of the source or content or the exact timing of the release of the WikiLeaks disclosures." (Stone thinks he knows who wrote the now infamous anonymous Times op-ed.)