President Donald Trump's former campaign adviser and longtime confidante Roger Stone said he exchanged private messages with a hacker implicated in a massive cyberattack that targeted the Democratic National Commitee last year.
Stone told Business Insider in an email late Thursday night that he had a private conversation on Twitter with the person, nicknamed "Guccifer 2.0," and that the interaction was so "brief and banal, I had forgotten it."
"Not exactly 007 stuff even if Gruccifer 2.0 [sic] was working for the Russkies," Stone said. "Meaningless."
Guccifer 2.0 has said that they targeted Democrats in the heat of the election last summer. One such cyberattack hit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, leading to the release of email addresses and phone numbers belonging to nearly 200 Democratic congressional members on August 12, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
Guccifer 2.0 has denied having any links to Russia. But digital fingerprints were left on the hacks that led the US intelligence community — as well as several private cybersecurity firms — to conclude that the cyberattacks were largely, if not entirely, carried out by two Russian intelligence groups.
Piecing together Guccifer's comments and cyber trails, experts soon began to agree that the self-proclaimed hacker was either a poser or the product of a Russian disinformation campaign. ThreatConnect, a cyber-security firm based in Arlington, Virginia, concluded that Guccifer 2.0 had been using the Russian-based Virtual Private Network service, Elite VPN, to secure their communications.
For his part, Stone cast aside any suggestion that he may have collaborated with the DNC hackers, Russian or not, telling Business Insider that he first noticed on August 14 — after he'd written an article for Breitbart saying he thought Guccifer was "the real deal" — that a Twitter account that apparently belonged to Guccifer had been reinstated after a brief suspension.
Screenshots of Stone's back-and-forth with Guccifer via Twitter direct messaging were first revealed by The Smoking Gun. Stone later shared them with Business Insider.
"Long after Grufficer's [sic] bit part in this drama, I did in fact have a short and innocuous Direct Message Exchange with Gruccifer 2.0," Stone said. He told The Smoking Gun that he thought the messages had been public.
Business Insider cannot independently confirm if Stone's screenshots accurately portrayed the entirety of his conversation with Guccifer. But in what appeared to be the first message in their conversation, Stone said he was “delighted” that Twitter had reinstated Guccifer 2.0’s account.
Stone messaged Guccifer again on August 16 and asked if the alleged hacker could retweet his column about the 2016 presidential election possibly being “rigged.”
“i’m pleased to say that u r great man,” Guccifer 2.0 replied on August 17. “please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me.”
Stone's tweets in the days after raised questions about whether he knew in advance that emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, would be imminently published by WikiLeaks.
"Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary," Stone tweeted on August 21.
“Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done," Stone tweeted on October 1. "I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp," he tweeted on October 3.
“Payload coming. #Lockthemup," Stone tweeted on October 5. On October 7, shortly after an Access Hollywood video surfaced of Trump making lewd remarks about women, WikiLeaks published the first batch of Podesta emails.
“I think there’s a reasonable belief that Mr. Assange may have passed this information onto Mr. Stone," Podesta told reporters later.
Stone has denied having any direct contact with WikiLeaks, saying that he had been getting his information from a mutual friend he shared with Assange.
He told BI on Thursday that he "had no contacts or communications with the Russian State, Russian Intelligence or anyone fronting for them or acting as intermediaries for them," Stone said. "None. Nada. Zilch. I am not in touch with any Russians. don't have a Russian girlfriend, don't like Russian dressing and have stopped drinking Russian Vodka."
Seventeen US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the US election — hacking into the DNC and John Podesta's inbox and leaking the stolen documents to WikiLeaks — to undermine Hillary Clinton.
US intelligence agencies and the House and Senate intelligence committees are currently investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with, or was complicit in, Russia's election-related meddling. They have found no evidence so far that the Trump campaign actively collaborated with Russia to affect the outcome of the election.
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