From Conspiracist to Conspirator: The Collapse of Jerome Corsi’s ‘Deep State’ Narrative (Part 1)
By Will Banyan, Copyright © 24 January 2019
“They wanted me to testify that … I was the conduit to WikiLeaks and Assange for Roger Stone, who in turn had a conduit to the campaign…And it just isn’t so.”
Jerome Corsi, quoted in Daily Caller, November 23, 2018
In my review in August last year of Jerome Corsi’s book, Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump (2018), I had observed how Corsi had deliberately concealed his relationship with political fixer and Trump associate Roger Stone. Despite occupying a prominent place in Stone’s own account of the 2016 election and providing an endorsement for “Jerry” Corsi’s new book, Corsi made no mention of either his relationship with Stone or the growing suspicion about Stone’s role as a conduit linking the Trump campaign, Wikileaks and the Russian GRU hackers. I noted that:
Stone and “Jerry” [Corsi] clearly had a close working relationship during the campaign, that will one day be fully revealed; but with Stone now a person-of-interest in Mueller’s investigation, Corsi has elected to hide it.
Of course, Corsi’s omission of the allegations around Stone was no accident. Much of it was driven by Corsi’s propaganda strategy of not engaging with any of the Trump-Russia collusion allegations. In fact, Corsi had explicitly advised defenders of Trump they “will not advance the cause by refuting Democratic Party and mainstream media claims that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia…” (Killing the Deep State, p.163). Corsi had followed his own advice devoting most of Killing the Deep State to smearing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI Director James Comey, rehashing allegations against Obama and the Clintons, and promoting claims that Antifa was in fact a tool of the “globalist”-controlled Democrats. Few, if any, of the Russian collusion claims were subject to any serious scrutiny.
Person of Interest
In the six months or so since my review, however, it has also become clear Corsi hid his relationship with Stone not only as a propaganda tactic, but because he really did have something to hide. In October ABC News reported that “[s]elf-proclaimed conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi” had “emerged as a central figure of interest to [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller as he builds his case.” In September it was widely reported he had been subpoenaed by Mueller;[*] Corsi subsequently testified twice before a grand jury: on September 21 and November 9. ABC News (Nov. 12, 2018) he surrendered to the FBI two computers, emails and other communications and had endured some 40 hours of interviews “over the course of six meetings, which he says have included special counsel prosecutors and an FBI agent.
Later that month, amidst much self-generated drama, Corsi revealed that he was negotiating a plea deal with Mueller. “It’s true. Your story is accurate” Corsi told the Washington Post (Nov. 23, 2018), confirming its anonymously sourced report he had “resumed talks with Mueller’s team about a possible deal that could result in him agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for leniency…” But a few days later Corsi then told all and sundry that he was “not going to lie to avoid going to prison” and had rejected the deal; he then released a draft of the statement of offense from the Special Counsel to the Washington Post and other outlets.
Corsi has continued with his tale of persecution, filing a “criminal complaint” with the Department of Justice (DOJ), accusing Mueller of “working to overthrow the duly elected President of the United States” and attempting to “coerce Dr Corsi to commit a felony.” He followed this with a lawsuit, seeking $350 million in damages for a slew of crimes allegedly committed by the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO), DOJ, FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency. He has also released a book supposedly detailing his persecution by the Special Counsel’s conspiracy against Trump with the portentous title: Silent No More: How I Became A Political Prisoner of Mueller’s Witch Hunt. Corsi has recently amended his lawsuit, adding Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post to the list of those he was suing (apparently because questions asked by some Washington Post journalists led to the sudden termination of his $15,000 a month “severance” payments from Infowars) and increasing damages sought to a modest $1.35 billion. He has also been subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 6 with a demand to hand over a wide range of communications.
While the purpose of Corsi’s increasingly ridiculous public theatre appears aimed at both raising legal funds and possibly angling for a pardon, in the process he has undermined the “Deep State” conspiracy theory promoted in Killing the Deep State. The release of the draft Statement of Offense, coupled with Corsi’s (self-serving) interviews with various outlets, including the Daily Caller, has not only shed light on what he and Stone were really doing in 2016 to support Trump, but it has ironically served to validate Mueller’s investigation. This new evidence has exposed how Corsi and Stone collaborated to provide a conduit between Trump’s campaign, Wikileaks and the Russian GRU hackers, and to spread disinformation aimed at both concealing their activities and attacking Mueller’s investigation.
The Smoking Guns
Although avoiding the core allegations of Trump-Russia collusion for the most part in Killing the Deep State, Corsi did allow himself some space to repeatedly mock specific claims that Donald Trump and the Russians colluded to hack the DNC and John Podesta emails and pass them to Wikileaks. In chapter two, for example, Corsi took issue with the “lack of verifiable proof” behind the “developing ‘Russia collusion’ meme”, in which “Trump’s devious plan was to induce Russia to release to DC Leaks and Wikileaks the purloined Democratic documents and other confidential Clinton documents stolen by Guccifer 2.0 and/or Russian intelligence agencies…” (p.21).
Elsewhere Corsi noted with barely disguised contempt that Hillary Clinton had “acted as if Trump’s collusion with Russia and Wikileaks was a proven fact.” This was nonsense:
[W]hile Wikileaks did obtain emails from the DNC and Podesta, it has never been proven—in either case—that the Russians themselves hacked the DNC, nor has it been proven that Wikileaks was working with the Russians (Killing the Deep State, p.42).
He referred dismissively to the “Clinton narrative” where Trump had “colluded with Russia to steal the DNC and Podesta emails [and] purloin them to Wikileaks” (p.90). And took issue with the “disinformation” about the alleged collusion, including the claim “Trump stole emails from the DNC and John Podesta that, once purloined, were delivered to Julian Assange at Wikileaks for public dissemination” (p.149).
Corsi’s fixation on the alleged role of Wikileaks in the Russia-Trump collusion narrative, seemingly to the exclusion of the other components, appears to be no coincidence. Since October last year information has emerged, much of it released by Corsi himself, strongly suggesting that he and Stone did play a role providing a link between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks. This included foreknowledge of and a potential role in coordinating Wikileaks’ release of the hacked emails of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.
The first hints that there was evidence of their complicity was in an NBC report (Oct. 25, 2018) citing a “source familiar with the investigation”, which revealed:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has obtained communications suggesting that a right-wing conspiracy theorist might have had advance knowledge that the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman had been stolen and handed to WikiLeaks… [emphasis added]
This appeared to be corroborated in further reporting by ABC News (Oct. 31, 2018), based on “two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.” These sources claimed that:
The special counsel has evidence that suggests Corsi may have had advance knowledge that the email account of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, had been hacked and that WikiLeaks had obtained a trove of damning emails from it… [emphasis added]
While some might have been tempted to dismiss these reports as “Fake News”, Corsi helpfully confirmed them in a subsequent “exclusive” interview with Chuck Ross, a reporter for the Daily Caller (Nov. 13, 2018):
“I was telling people as early as August, I thought Assange had Podesta emails, and I thought he was going to drop them in October,” Corsi said.
Corsi proved accurate. Wikileaks began releasing Podesta’s emails on a daily basis on Oct. 7, 2016 [emphasis added].
More precise evidence was detailed in the draft Statement of Offense—helpfully provided by Corsi[†] to the Washington Post (Nov. 27, 2018) and the Daily Caller (Nov. 27, 2018)—that detailed the Special Counsel’s contention that he had lied during a voluntary interview with the SCO on September 6, 2018. The Statement noted that:
CORSI said that in the summer of 2016 an associate (“Person 1”) who CORSI understood to be in regular contact with senior members of the Trump Campaign, including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump, asked CORSI to get in touch with Organization 1 about materials it possessed relevant to the presidential campaign that had not already been released.
The Statement detailed how Corsi had claimed to have declined a request from “Person 1”, which was Roger Stone, to make contact with “Organization 1”, that is Wikileaks. In addition, Corsi denied providing Stone with “any information regarding [Wikileaks], including what materials [Wikileaks] possessed or what [Wikileaks] might do with those materials.” Corsi’s statements were easily refuted by a series of emails reproduced in the Statement. In the first email sent on July 25, 2016, “Person 1” (Roger Stone) instructed Corsi to make contact with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Corsi forwarded this email to an “overseas individual”, confirmed by Corsi and Stone to be Ted Malloch:
There was a follow-up email from Stone on July 31, 2016, again instructing Corsi to encourage the “overseas individual” (presumably Malloch) to see Assange:
The next communication on August 2, 2016 was from Corsi back to Stone; at that point Corsi was in Italy on holiday with his wife. Corsi’s email, though, revealed that Wikileaks was planning further releases of emails that would be “very damaging” to Hillary Clinton. His email indicated that John Podesta, the Chairman of the Clinton Campaign.
All this evidence was offered in the Statement of Offense to detail how Corsi had lied during the FBI interview. The Statement also noted how Corsi and Stone sought to conceal this activity. First Corsi, deleted the emails from his computer:
Between approximately January 13, 2017 and March 1, 2017, CORSI deleted from his computer all email correspondence that predated October 11, 2016, including Person 1’s email instructing CORSI to “get to [the founder of Organization 1]” and CORSI’s subsequent forwarding of that email to the overseas individual (Statement of Offense, p.4).
Second, when the House Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence subpoenaed Randy Credico, at that point regarded as Stone’s main “intermediary with Wikileaks, Stone asked Corsi to write publicly about Credico:
CORSI responded: “Are you sure you want to make something out of this now? Why not wait to see what [Person 2] does? You may be defending yourself too much – raising new questions that will fuel new inquiries. This may be a time to say less, not more.” Person 1 responded by telling CORSI that the other individual “will take the 5th—but let’s hold a day” (Statement of Offense, p.4).
Parts of this account had been confirmed Corsi in media interviews and his latest tome, Silent No More, parts of which were excerpted by the Daily Caller. In Silent No More, for example, Corsi wrote:
“…I recalled telling Stone earlier in August that Assange had Podesta emails that he planned to drop as the ‘October Surprise,’ calculated by Assange to deliver a knock-out blow to Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations…”(quoted in Daily Caller, Nov. 28, 2018).
He also claimed that when Stone found out the Hollywood Access tape was about to be released, he asked Corsi to contact Assange to delay the release of the Podesta emails:
“…Stone had told me in advance about the Billy Bush video and asked me to get word to Assange to hold the release of the first batch of the Podesta emails until after the Washington Post had published the damaging Billy Bush ‘hot mic’ recording,” Corsi wrote.
“That is exactly what happened,” he continued (quoted in Daily Caller, Nov. 27, 2018).
Proofs of a Conspiracy
Despite the attempts by Corsi and Stone to present (albeit conflicting) less-incriminating interpretations of what this evidence means, many other observers have concluded that this email exchange, which Corsi had tried (and ultimately failed) to conceal by deleting the emails from his computer hard-drive, reveals coordination between the Trump Campaign and Wikileaks over the release of the emails hacked by Russian intelligence. For example, according to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti:
All of these emails, together, show (1) specific knowledge of the nature of the stolen emails that Assange released *before* he released them publicly; (2) the ability to communicate with Assange regarding their release; (3) suggestions of how to use the emails to help Trump.
You also can’t “aid and abet” a crime you don’t know about. So these emails get Mueller part of what he needs to prove that Stone and Corsi joined a conspiracy that involved hacking U.S. servers and distributing emails stolen as part of the hacking operation.
It’s worth noting a conspiracy involving Russian hackers stealing emails and distributing them with the help of Trump associates to influence the election sounds a lot like the term “collusion” that many in the media and the public talk about [emphasis added]
Martin Longman, writing in the Washington Monthly (Nov. 28, 2018), argued the information released by Corsi had brought us “closer to seeing proof” that Trump was “involved in the crime of the century.” Corsi’s actions, he contended, “line up very well with some of the significant events and disclosures of the Russia affair” and provide “strong evidence…the Trump campaign knew of Russian responsibility for the hacks at the same time they were denying it and spinning alternative explanations…” Furthermore:
It shows that Stone and Corsi were working the WikiLeaks angle at the same time that Manafort was getting his instructions from Moscow. It shows that they communicated with Assange and had foreknowledge that he had information on John Podesta and also that he would be leaking in the early October time period. Corsi’s attempts to cover his tracks coincide with major events, like Stone being accused of being in communication with Assange, the release of the Steele Dossier, the beginning of the Michael Flynn/Kislyak affair, and the exposure of Jeff Sessions which caused him to recuse himself from the investigation [emphasis added].
Former US Government legal counsels Bob Bauer and Ryan Goodman, writing on the JustSecurity website (Nov. 29, 2018), argued that the draft Statement of Offense:
supplies additional reason to believe that Bob Mueller can charge Trump Campaign associates and the campaign itself for violations of federal campaign finance law either directly under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) or as part of a conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing the capacity of the Federal Election Commission to enforce the FECA.
In their opinion the draft Statement of Offense provided contained “direct and circumstantial evidence” of the following:
- Stone was acting in collaboration with or as an agent of the Trump Campaign in the pursuit of the Wikileaks documents
- Wikileaks founder Julian Assange provided information directly to Trump campaign agents or associates as part of his group’s effort, in collaboration with the Russian government, to help the Trump campaign
- Roger Stone had advanced knowledge about the specific content and timing of Wikileaks’ document releases, including Wikileaks’ possession of and plans to release Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails and documents purportedly related to Clinton’s health
- Trump Campaign agents or associates coordinated campaign-related public communications with what Assange secretly told them were Wikileaks’ planned activities
Of particular interest to a number of commentators were Corsi’s comments on August 2, that it: “Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus….” Two aspects of this snippet of advice and what seemed to be an insight to Wikileaks have been of interest.
First, by something of a coincidence on August 3, the day after receiving the email from Corsi, Stone spoke with Trump, an apparent fact he mentioned on an Infowars radio show on August 10, 2016 (CNN, Apr. 4, 2018). Stone has not denied that he talked to Trump on that date, only what he talked about:
In an interview, Stone insisted that the topic of hacked emails was never broached in the Aug. 3 phone call — or in any other communication with Trump.
“It just didn’t come up,” Stone said. “I am able to say we never discussed WikiLeaks. I’m not sure what I would have said to him anyway because it’s all speculation . . . I just didn’t know if it’s true or not.” (Washington Post, Nov. 28, 2018).
Nevertheless, a few days later on August 6, at a rally in New Hampshire, Trump attacked Hillary’s mental fitness, as CNN reported:
Donald Trump pumped up his attacks on Hillary Clinton’s character Saturday night by suggesting that the former secretary of state is not mentally fit to be president.
“She took a short-circuit in the brain. She’s got problems,” Trump said, seizing on Clinton’s explanation that she “short-circuited” a recent answer about her truthfulness in discussing her email server.
“Honestly, I don’t think she’s all there,” he added.
According to security analyst Marcy Wheeler, with these statements “Trump started an attack on Hillary that would evolve into claims she had a stroke” or what Bauer and Goodman describe as a sudden “pivot in the Trump campaign toward a focus on Clinton’s health…” (Another apparent coincidence was Steve Watson from Infowars releasing a video on August 4, 2016 that “accused Clinton of suffering strokes, tumors, and degenerative brain diseases.” Corsi and Stone were both contributors to Infowars around the same time.)
Second, as noted by Bauer and Goodman, “Wikileaks made good on its promise” and subsequently began to highlight information in its possession to highlight the new disinformation narrative. This initially drew on publicly available emails declassified by the US Department of State:
But in October, they were able to point other less public evidence, this time from the trove hacked from Podesta’s email account:
This information was picked up by other pro-Trump outlets, such as the American Mirror (Oct. 24, 2016) and Breitbart. The latter reported:
Hillary Clinton’s top campaign officials regularly discuss and assess the Democratic presidential candidate’s mental well-being, according to several conversations seen in Wikileaks’ release of campaign chairman John Podesta’s purported email accounts (Breitbart, Oct. 24, 2016; emphasis added).
The circle was closed when Corsi, who had told Stone this would be a theme of forthcoming Wikileaks releases, innocently referenced the Breitbart article in his own tweet:
Of Facts and Fictions
Perhaps the best way to sum up Corsi’s Killing the Deep State is that it presents a conspiracy theory about how the “Deep State” is promoting a conspiracy theory about Trump conspiring with the Russians, in order to eject Trump from the White House. Corsi’s entire conspiracy theory rests on this belief in the sanctity of Trump’s electoral victory and any allegations of “collusion” are therefore entirely unfounded and motivated by an undemocratic desire to overturn the results of 2016. That there is no “evidence” is treated as foregone conclusion, therefore any evidence that has been revealed in the series of indictments produced by the SCO and mainstream media reporting is to be ignored and dismissed as “fake news”.
The draft Statement of Offense against Corsi, however, disturbs this comfortable counter-narrative. It clarifies the suspicions about Roger Stone with his conflicting claims about contact with Wikileaks, Trump and the alleged Russian GRU hackers, Guccifer 2.0. It also inserts Corsi into the middle of a conspiracy he had spent an entire book disputing as a cunning “disinformation meme” produced by the Deep State (KDS, p.148). What emerges is that Corsi and Stone were arguably acting as cut-outs helping to link the Trump campaign with the Russian GRU hackers and Wikileaks. While no direct evidence has emerged that Corsi was engaging with Guccifer 2.0 (although some speculate he had), Stone was in contact with Guccifer 2.0 since identified by Mueller as a “persona” used by a group of 12 Russian military intelligence officers. Corsi’s role, based on the evidence to date, appears to have been as link in the chain between Wikileaks, Stone and ultimately Trump.
This chain in some ways this mirrored the use of cut-outs by Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign in 1968, when agents acting on his behalf convinced South Vietnam to sabotage the peace talks called by President Johnson. Nixon’s chain of cut-outs started with his instructions to his campaign manager, John Mitchell, who would relay them to Anna Chennault, who then met with the South Vietnamese Ambassador. As University of Virginia researcher Ken Hughes noted in his book on the affair:
…Nixon’s use of two cut-outs worked. The FBI captured some of Chennault’s communications to Ambassador Diem. But the bureau had nothing on Mitchell and Nixon (Hughes, Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, The Chennault Affair and the Origins of Watergate, University of Virginia Press, 2014, p.67).
No doubt Stone, a veteran dirty trickster of the Nixon era and other Republican campaigns, envisaged a similar chain of cut-outs would protect Trump and his campaign from being linked to Wikileaks. Unlike Nixon, who was separated from Diem only by his campaign manager and Chennault, there were at least three people separating Trump from Wikileaks—Stone, Corsi and Malloch—and Stone had officially left Trump’s campaign in August 2015, after being fired or having quit (Trump and Stone’s versions vary) seemingly providing another layer of deniability.[‡] Although Trump, like Nixon, may yet escape unscathed, the situation for Stone is less certain with so many of his associates, including Corsi, subject to Mueller’s scrutiny; Stone must be wondering what went wrong.
As for the hapless Dr. Corsi, the litany of woes grows longer: under increasing pressure from Special Counsel’s Office (he now claims his stepson has been subpoenaed and his Infowars severance payments were being investigated as “hush money”); publicly derided by Infowars for his “poor work performance”; accused by Roger Stone of telling “stunning lies” about him to Mueller, and having a “drunken meltdown” in a restaurant; and challenged on MSNBC by Stone ally Michael Caputo for telling a story that “doesn’t add up” and is “steering [Stone] toward a perjury charge.” Corsi must surely be harbouring regrets about making the transition from conspiracist to conspirator…
To be continued in Part 2
[*] In his November 12 Youtube broadcast, Corsi said the subpoena was delivered on August 28.
[†] Both publications identify Corsi by name as the source.
[‡] Although in his book, The Making of the President 2016, Stone admits that despite leaving Trump’s campaign he “hoped to help Donald Trump, my friend and client of over 40 years, from the outside, looking in” (p.28). They had “limited opportunities for communication”, but he continued to “provide counsel [to Trump] as a friend” (p.30).