Podesta says Trump adviser Roger Stone may have had ‘advance knowledge’ of hack

John Podesta speaking in the spin room at the second presidential debate, held at Hofstra University. (Photo: Yahoo News)
John Podesta speaking in the spin room at the second presidential debate, held at Hofstra University. (Photo: Yahoo News)

Clinton campaign chair John Podesta told reporters Tuesday night that longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone may have had “advance knowledge” that Podesta’s private emails were hacked and about to be published on Wikileaks. Stone quickly rebutted the allegations, calling them “laughably absurd.”

“I think it is a reasonable assumption — or at least a reasonable conclusion — that Mr. Stone had advance warning and the Trump campaign had advance warning about what [Wikileaks founder Julian] Assange was going to do,” Podesta said about the hack, which Wikileaks posted on Friday. “I think there is a reasonable belief that Mr. Assange may have passed this information on to Mr. Stone.”

Podesta said the FBI was investigating the hack, which the Clinton campaign and U.S. government believe was the result of a Russian state-sponsored cyberattack. He said he did not know whether the FBI was looking into Stone. The FBI had not yet returned a request for comment on Podesta’s claims as of Tuesday night.

Podesta said the campaign believes Stone was aware that his emails were going to be released based on a Tweet the campaign operative posted in August. “Trust me, it will soon” be “Podesta’s time in the barrel,” Stone wrote.

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon also pointed to a interview Stone did in August with Alex Jones’ InfoWars, when he said he had been in touch with Assange through “mutual friends.” In late September and early October, Stone repeatedly touted that Assange would soon release more information on Clinton, both on his Twitter and in another interview with Jones.

But Stone denied Podesta’s allegations. “Laughably absurd and categorically false,” Stone wrote to Yahoo News. “He should make any evidence he has that would prove this claim public. There is none.” Stone did not deny that he had been in touch with Assange, but he said his communication with him had no connection to Podesta. “His name never came up,” he wrote.

Stone added that his August tweet about Podesta was “based entirely on my own research. I am well aware of Podesta’s activities abroad.” At the time Stone tweeted the comment, Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort had resigned his job under fire for his past connections to Russia as a lobbyist. Trump allies at the time were pointing to the firm of Podesta’s brother Tony Podesta, which also did work for foreign governments.

Since Friday, Wikileaks has posted thousands of emails hacked from Podesta’s private Gmail account, including ones written by Hillary Clinton, in what appears to be an attempt to embarrass the Clinton campaign. The campaign has struggled to respond to the contents of the emails, and has declined to authenticate them.

Podesta suggested that Wikileaks timed the latest release to drown out the scandal over Trump saying in leaked audio from 10 years ago that he liked to grab women by the genitals. He called the timing “a curious coincidence.”

“Clearly Mr. Assange wanted to change the subject,” he said. “He didn’t succeed in doing it.”

Podesta strongly condemned Trump for refusing to say Russia is behind the hacks in the most recent debate, saying that he knows from his intelligence briefings as a candidate that’s not true. Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader.

“I would say that the Russian interference in this election and their apparent attempt to influence it on behalf of Mr. Trump should be of utmost concern to all Americans, whether Democrat, Independent or Republican,” Podesta said.