An associate of political operative Roger Stone, a long-time ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, said on Monday he will reject what he claims is a plea deal offered to him by the special counsel probing Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Jerome Corsi, a right-wing commentator known for promoting political conspiracy theories, said the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller wanted him to plead guilty to one felony count of knowingly providing false information in return for leniency at sentencing.
At issue in the plea talks were two separate email exchanges from 2016 in which Stone and another associate encouraged him to make contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to Corsi, who said he has never met or communicated with Assange.
Corsi said he had forgotten about the emails when he initially spoke with Mueller's team and asserted there was never any intention to contact Assange. He said Mueller later allowed him to amend his testimony to reflect the content of the emails.
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"Now they want to charge me for something that they allowed me to amend. That's not fair," said Corsi, who told media last week that he was in plea talks with Mueller. "I didn't go in to deceive them."
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel, declined to comment. David Gray, Corsi's attorney, could not be reached for comment.
Stone told Reuters on Monday that he believed the email from him was a message in which he urged Corsi to look into three issues on a visit to the United Kingdom, one of which was that Corsi should visit Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Mueller's team of prosecutors have questioned several associates of Stone as part of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether Trump's election campaign team colluded with Moscow.
Mueller's team is examining whether Stone had advance access to emails hacked from the Democratic Party and the account of John Podesta, campaign chairman of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and obtained and later published by Wikileaks.
Stone has denied having advance access to the emails, which U.S. officials say were hacked by Russian intelligence and released by Wikileaks weeks before the 2016 election.
Corsi, who provided research to Stone during the campaign, said in a livestream posted to YouTube earlier this month that he expected to be criminally charged by Mueller.