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Stone associate Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 11/24/2018 Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, Manuel Roig-Franzia

Conservative author Jerome Corsi provided Trump adviser Roger Stone with research on Democratic figures during the 2016 campaign. © STR/ASSOCIATED PRESS Conservative author Jerome Corsi provided Trump adviser Roger Stone with research on Democratic figures during the 2016 campaign. Conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to Corsi and another person with knowledge of the talks.

The talks with Corsi — an associate of GOP operative Roger Stone — could bring Mueller’s team closer to determining whether Trump or his advisers were linked to WikiLeaks’ release of hacked Democratic emails in 2016, a key part of his long-running inquiry.

Corsi provided research on Democratic figures during the campaign to Stone, a longtime Trump adviser. For months, the special counsel has been scrutinizing Stone’s activities in an effort to determine whether he coordinated with WikiLeaks. Stone and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied any such coordination.

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Stone has said that Corsi also has a relationship with President Trump, built on their shared interest in the falsehood that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Corsi confirmed the plea negotiations after they were first reported by The Washington Post on Friday. “It’s true. Your story is accurate,” he said, declining to comment further except to say there may be further developments next week.

David Gray, an attorney for Corsi, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mueller. An attorney for Trump declined to comment.

Stone said in a statement that he was not aware of any plea discussions involving Corsi, describing him as an investigative journalist “whose activities I would think would largely be covered under the First Amendment.”

The deal is not yet complete and could still be derailed. Last week, Corsi said his efforts to cooperate with prosecutors had broken down and that he expected to be indicted on a charge of allegedly lying. He described feeling under enormous pressure from Mueller and assured his supporters that he remains supportive of the president.

In a webcast and interviews, Corsi said he had spoken to prosecutors for 40 hours and feared that he could spend much of the remainder of his life in prison.

After two months of interviews, Corsi, 72, said he felt his brain was “mush.”

“Trying to explain yourself to these people is impossible. . . . I guess I couldn’t tell the special prosecutor what he wanted to hear,” he added.

At that time, he gave no indication that he intended to plead guilty, instead casting himself as an unfairly targeted victim of a Mueller campaign against Trump.

Then Corsi abruptly fell silent, canceling a scheduled Nov. 13 interview with NBC. Gray, his attorney, told NBC that he had just spoken to the special counsel’s office and had advised Corsi to cancel.

Since then, Corsi has resumed talks with Mueller’s team about a possible deal that could result in him agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for leniency, according to the person familiar with the situation.

Speaking on a Buffalo radio station Friday, Stone said Corsi is under pressure “to say what the special counsel wants him to say, rather than the truth.”

“I feel badly for Jerry Corsi. He looks like he’s been squeezed,” Stone said on the WBEN radio program hosted by his longtime ally and friend Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign communications official.

Stone questioned the credibility of Corsi as a witness, calling him an “eccentric guy. He doesn’t believe the moon landing happened, for example. He believes it was staged.”

“I don’t know how credible a witness he would be,” Stone added.

It is not clear what information Corsi could leverage to get a deal with prosecutors. However, he told the Daily Caller last week that prosecutors are focused on whether he had developed a source with inside information about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s plans.

Corsi said he did not have a direct source to the group. Instead, he said he developed a theory that Assange had access to hacked emails belonging to Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and that WikiLeaks would release them in October 2016.

He told the Daily Caller that he shared his prediction with many people, including Stone.

If Mueller could prove that Corsi learned about Podesta’s emails from Assange or another person in contact with him, he could try to link WikiLeaks’ releases to Stone or others in Trump’s world.

Stone said Friday that Corsi never relayed such information.

“Jerry Corsi never told me that John Podesta’s emails had been stolen and would be published,” he said on WBEN.

On Aug. 21, 2016, Stone tweeted that “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.” He has insisted his tweet had nothing to do with any plan by WikiLeaks and that it was based on research Corsi had provided to him about work Podesta and his lobbyist brother Tony had done involving Russia.

“He simply told me of their Russian business deals in banking gas and uranium,” Stone said in a text message this week to The Post. “There was NO WikiLeaks context.”

Stone told the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017 that his Podesta tweet was “based on a comprehensive, early August opposition research briefing provided to me by investigative journalist, Dr. Jerome Corsi, which I then asked him to memorialize in a memo that he sent me on August 31st, all of which was culled from public records. There was no need to have John Podesta’s email to learn that he and his presidential candidate were in bed with the clique around Putin.”

Stone has since said that the information in the Aug. 31 memo — which he received 10 days after his now-infamous tweet — was similar to information that Corsi had relayed to him verbally before the tweet.

The prediction that Corsi said he made that Assange would publish Podesta’s emails was correct: On Oct. 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began publishing 50,000 emails stolen from Podesta’s account, releasing them in batches of a few thousand at a time each day leading up to the November election.

Corsi told the Daily Caller that hebased his prediction on public sources of information, including the fact that Podesta was not among the Democrats whose emails had been published by WikiLeaks when the group released Democratic National Committee correspondence in July.

He said he concluded that WikiLeaks must be holding back Podesta’s correspondence to make a bigger splash later in the campaign.

Podesta did not work for the DNC and the emails were stolen from his private Gmail account, not an address linked to the Democratic Party.

Corsi told the Daily Caller that Mueller’s prosecutors did not believe his explanation and pressed him to name his WikiLeaks source. They were especially interested, he said, in a trip he took to Italy with his wife that he said coincided with his realization about the Podesta emails.

“They said they wanted me to tell the truth, but when I did tell the truth they told me it was preposterous, and they wouldn’t accept it,” Corsi said.

Stone is under scrutiny because he made a series of comments during the campaign that suggested he was in contact with Assange and knew of WikiLeaks’ plans.

Since then, Stone has vigorously contended that his comments were exaggerations based on public information, as well as tips from New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico.

Stone has also told The Postthat Corsi had a relationship with Trump and spoke directly with the Republican candidate during the campaign.

Stone said the two men became friendly after Corsi published a book in 2011 advancing the false theory that Obama was not qualified to hold office because he was not born in the United States. Trump became a leading proponent of that falsehood.

rosalind.helderman@washpost.com

josh.dawsey@washpost.com

manuel.roig-franzia@washpost.com

Michelle Lee contributed to this report.

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