Conservative commentator Jerome Corsi is back in press coverage claiming he’s in imminent legal jeopardy from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
Corsi told various media outlets Monday that Mueller offered him a deal in which Corsi would have to plead guilty to one count of perjury — but that he intended to reject the deal. This comes two weeks after Corsi claimed he was about to be indicted for perjury.
As a well-known conspiracy theorist who helped popularize the “birther” theory that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and other false claims, Corsi is not a particularly trustworthy source.
But this isn’t complete fantasy. Corsi has clearly become entangled in the investigation — he’s been repeatedly questioned by Mueller’s investigators and before a grand jury in recent months — most notably about WikiLeaks and John Podesta’s emails.
The curious case of Jerome Corsi, WikiLeaks, and the Podesta emails
The special counsel reportedly has evidence showing that Corsi knew in August 2016 that WikiLeaks had obtained John Podesta’s stolen emails, well before the news became public that October. (It was well known that WikiLeaks had another batch of Clinton-related material coming, but there was no public indication it was Podesta’s hacked emails.)
Mueller has alleged that Podesta’s emails were hacked by Russian intelligence officers. He also seems to have been attempting to nail down how, exactly, those stolen emails made their way to WikiLeaks and whether any Americans were involved in it or even tipped off about it.
Keep in mind that we don’t have the full story yet. Most of what we do know appears to come from Corsi or from other witnesses Mueller has interviewed. The special counsel’s team hasn’t commented publicly, and it’s not clear what specific evidence they have pertaining to Corsi.
But there appear to be at least three related questions about Corsi.
1) What did Corsi know in advance about WikiLeaks and John Podesta’s emails? Corsi has said that he himself just figured out that WikiLeaks had gotten Podesta’s emails over a month before they were released, and that his information here didn’t come from any particular source. “I connect the dots,” he told One America News Network Monday.
He said that after a “forensic analysis” of hacked Democratic material that had already been leaked, he concluded — somehow, it’s not at all clear how — that the hackers also had Podesta’s emails.
If true, that was a spectacularly lucky guess. The much more common speculation at the time was that WikiLeaks had obtained Clinton’s own emails or Clinton Foundation documents.
Mueller’s team does not appear to think Corsi truly figured it out. “They couldn’t believe how I knew in August that Assange had Podesta’s emails,” Corsi told the Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand on Monday. They seem to think Corsi was in fact tipped off.
2) Is there a Roger Stone connection to the Podesta material or WikiLeaks? Corsi is an associate of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone — they were both commentators at the conspiracy theory site InfoWars. And the two men were in contact in August 2016 about Podesta specifically. Stone has said that he happened to enlist Corsi to do opposition research into Podesta’s business dealings that month.
Mueller’s investigation has intensely focused on Stone for months, extensively questioning more than 10 people — including Corsi — about him. The witnesses questioned about Stone have generally told reporters that they thought Mueller’s main interest was sussing out potential connections between Stone and WikiLeaks.
In 2016, Stone claimed both publicly and privately that he was in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (though sometimes he said those contacts were through an intermediary). He also ominously tweeted in August of that year, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary”. But he has denied he had any advance knowledge of what WikiLeaks would release, and said the tweet was instead about Corsi’s research on Podesta.
3) Did Corsi lie to Mueller’s investigators? Corsi has claimed that what he is actually on the hook for, though, is a perjury charge — for lying to investigators. However, he is saying that he didn’t lie to them, and that he just had a bad memory.
He told NBC News on Monday that he just “forgot” to tell Mueller certain things. “They want me to say I willfully lied. I did not intentionally lie to the special counsel,” he said. “I will not lie to save my life. I’d rather sit in prison and rot for as long as these thugs want me to.”
Former Trump advisers George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn both pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators in connection with the Russia investigation last year.
The most recent new charges Mueller brought were against Russian intelligence officers, related to the hacking and leaking of Democrats’ emails, back in July. The last major development in the probe was Paul Manafort agreeing to a plea deal in September. Since then, it’s been quiet.
Except, of course, for Corsi’s media appearances.