If true, the assertion from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta would amount to an extraordinary link between Russia and an American presidential campaign. Podesta said the alleged ties could be driven either by Trump’s policy positions, which at times echo the Kremlin, or the Republican’s “deep engagement and ties with Russian interests in his business affairs.”
To Podesta, the central figure in the swirling controversy is longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who has said he has been in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Podesta also raised as evidence an August tweet in which Stone said Podesta’s “time in the barrel” was coming. The tweet was sent shortly after WikiLeaks published scores of hacked emails from other Democratic officials.
“I think it’s a reasonable assumption, or at least a reasonable conclusion, that Mr. Stone and the Trump campaign had advance warning about what Assange was going to do,” Podesta told reporters aboard the Clinton campaign plane. Podesta acknowledged the evidence was “circumstantial.”
Stone, in an email to The Associated Press late Tuesday, said Podesta’s accusations were “categorically false” and “without foundation.”
Podesta said the FBI contacted him over the weekend and confirmed it was investigating the hacking of his account as part of the ongoing probe in other Democratic Party hackings by groups with Russian ties. Last week, intelligence officials said they believed the individuals responsible are working for Russian intelligence and coordinating with Assange on the political hacking.
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak dismissed the accusations as untrue.
“We are watching very carefully the election campaign in this country,” Kislyak said Tuesday at a discussion of bilateral affairs at Johns Hopkins University’s campus in Washington. “We don’t interfere (in) the internal affairs of the United States, neither by my statements nor by electronic or other means.”