On Monday, Jerome Corsi, a birther conspiracy theorist and occasional conservative pundit, announced that he had refused a plea deal from special counsel Robert Mueller. “They can put me in prison the rest of my life. I am not going to sign a lie,” he said to CNN, explaining he’d been offered a deal on a single count of perjury.
And now it appears that Corsi shares a joint defense agreement with the president, a relatively common agreement in criminal cases that would allow Corsi to share information about the case with Donald Trump.
Over the past two decades, Corsi has been deeply enmeshed in the conspiratorial wing of the far-right — from John Kerry’s military service to President Barack Obama’s birth certificate to QAnon, the conspiracy theory that says Mueller and Trump are secretly working together to expose pedophiles nationwide.
But now, his all-too-real associations with right-leaning figures, most notably former Trump advisor Roger Stone and even Trump himself, could land the conspiracy-weaving author in federal prison.
Mueller has been asking Corsi about WikiLeaks, John Podesta’s emails, and Roger Stone
What, exactly, does Mueller want from a fringe conspiracy theorist? It turns out quite a bit.
Corsi, it seems, might have had inside information on the hacking and leak of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails. And Corsi may have shared that information longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.
In August 2016 it seems that Corsi was aware that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails. That was more than a month before the news became public, when WikiLeaks began posting those emails in early October. And Corsi now says he talked about the topic to Stone, who Mueller’s investigation has intensely focused on for months.
As a result, Corsi has come under Mueller’s scrutiny, as the special counsel tries to track precisely how the stolen emails made their way to WikiLeaks, and whether any Trump associates like Stone were involved in or informed about the operation.
Corsi has known Stone for several years, and in 2016, the two were both commentators at Infowars. They were in frequent contact during that time — about WikiLeaks and Podesta, specifically.
Corsi claimed to have inside information on WikiLeaks’s plans
The full extent of what happened back in summer 2016 between Corsi and Stone isn’t yet clear. But various tidbits have leaked out suggesting Mueller believes the pair had some inside information about the Podesta emails and WikiLeaks.
Corsi has claimed that his foreknowledge that Podesta’s emails would be the next leaked by WikiLeaks was an “educated guess,” telling One America News Network, “In August, I knew that the emails remaining — that Julian Assange had — were Podesta’s emails. I basically figured it out, which is what I do.”
Yet he has not really given a clear explanation of how he could have guessed this. And a draft document written by Mueller’s team for a potential plea deal with Corsi — leaked by Corsi himself on Tuesday — cites apparent evidence suggesting Corsi did have inside knowledge.
- On July 25, 2016, Stone emailed Corsi, telling him to “get to” Assange in the “Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending” WikiLeaks “emails.”
- Corsi forwarded this email to an “overseas individual.” Reportedly, this is Ted Malloch, a UK-based Trump supporter and author.
- On July 31, 2016, Stone wrote to Corsi that Malloch “should see” Assange.
- On August 2, 2016, Corsi emailed Stone claiming knowledge of Assange’s plans. “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back [from a trip in Europe]. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging..” Corsi continued: “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, setting stage for [Clinton] Foundation debacle.”
Stone has denied having any inside information on WikiLeaks’s plans. But on August 21, 2016, he sent a curious tweet. “Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
Since then, Stone has insisted that there was an innocent explanation. He’s said that the tweet referred to opposition research that Corsi was doing for him, into the Podesta brothers’ business dealings. He testified as much to the House Intelligence Committee last year, saying the tweet was partly “based on a comprehensive, early August opposition research briefing provided to me by investigative journalist, Dr. Jerome Corsi.”
But now, Corsi writes in a forthcoming book (called Silent No More: How I Became a Political Prisoner of Mueller’s ‘Witch Hunt,’ and obtained by the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross) that this was “not true,” and merely a “cover story” that he and Stone created together. He said that Stone called him asking for his help in creating an excuse for the suspicious tweet. So, he writes, “I suggested Stone could use me as an excuse.” (Stone denied this to the Daily Caller.)
Corsi also makes another eyebrow-raising claim in his new book, per Ross — that Stone wanted him to get a message to Assange about how WikiLeaks should time its release of the Podesta emails. He claims Stone knew a damaging story about Trump would soon be published — the Access Hollywood tape story, in which Trump bragged about groping women. So, Corsi says, Stone wanted Assange to delay the release until after this story was out to distract from it. (Stone denies this too.)
Jerome Corsi, conspiracy pundit
Before 2004, Corsi worked in financial services, including a failed investment venture in Poland he convinced 20 people to take part in back in 1995, ultimately costing them roughly $1.2 million and resulting in a court judgment against Corsi. But in 2004, Corsi co-authored the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” political group’s book Unfit for Command.
The book tried to cast doubt on Democratic nominee John Kerry’s Vietnam War service (whom Corsi referred to on an internet message board as “Commie Kerry”), arguing, for instance, that his supposed heroism in various incidents where he was wounded or awarded medals was exaggerated. The book’s lead author, John O’Neill, was a Swift Boat veteran, but Corsi was not. (He was “medically disqualified” for “hereditary eczema,” he later said.) His contribution to the book was to attack Kerry’s antiwar activism after he returned to the United States.
The Swift Boat claims garnered enormous attention and controversy, and many were rebutted as false — but the damage was done. In a New York Times review of the book in 2004, Susannah Meadows wrote, “If John Kerry loses the presidential election, ‘’Unfit for Command,’’ by John E. O’Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, will go down as a chief reason.”
But Corsi got some unwanted attention too, particularly when his history of bigoted posts on the conservative Free Republic message board became known. One of those postings read, “Anybody ask why HELLary couldn’t keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?” Another read, “Isn’t the Democratic Party the official SODOMIZER PROTECTION ASSOCIATION of AMERICA–oh, I forgot, it was just an accident that Clintoon’s [sic] first act in office was to promote ‘gays in the military.’ RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters–it all goes together.”
But the Swift Boat book earned him a columnist gig at the fringe conservative site WorldNetDaily, which he held for more than a decade, giving him wide access to the conspiratorial wing of the right. Founded in 1997 by Joseph Farah (who promised to give $15,000 to the hospital where President Obama was born if he released his long-form birth certificate and then reneged on his promise once Obama did in fact release his birth certificate) WorldNetDaily, or WND, is a thoroughfare to the conspiratorial wing of the right.
Since 2004, Corsi has pushed conspiracy theories about George W. Bush wanting to unite the US and Mexico under one government (an argument that 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul embraced wholeheartedly), about a group tied to al Qaeda financing John McCain’s presidential campaign, and about Hitler secretly having survived the fall of Nazi Germany.
And while he was a frequent guest on Fox News and conservative talk radio shows, other conservative pundits considered Corsi “from the fringe” and one of the most “annoying people on the right.” All the while, Corsi championed the cause of impeaching George W. Bush (whom he believed was “post-America and post-God”) and wrote in 2007 that he was not a Republican because the GOP had been overtaken by the “Rockefeller wing” and wasn’t doing enough to prevent a North American Union — again, a conspiracy theory. Not to mention Corsi’s endorsement of 9/11 conspiracy theories that argued the World Trade Center was brought down by explosives planted inside the building.
But he really hit pay dirt in fulfilling a market demand on the conspiratorial right for made-up nonsense about Obama. Corsi claimed at various points that Obama was secretly gay and secretly Muslim, but where he really got a response was in claiming Obama may not have truly been born in the United States — which he did as far back as August 2008.
He then became one of the leading “birther” conspiracy theorists — alongside Farah of WorldNetDaily, which funded billboards in several cities asking “Where’s the birth certificate?” back in 2009 — something that in 2011 earned him a personal phone call from Trump.
In early 2017, Corsi ended his long association with WorldNetDaily and moved over to work for the even fringier website Infowars, headed by Alex Jones. At some point in 2018 he left Infowars and has since streamed his own web show while joining other conspiracy theorists on YouTube to posit, for example, that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was perhaps murdered at a “pedophile ranch” by a 13-year-old boy.
This year, he promoted the QAnon pro-Trump conspiracy theory — even saying at a meeting of conspiracy theorists that he was told back in 2015 a “group of generals” had been planning a coup against Obama but instead decided to support Trump and that QAnon were military intelligence officials rooting out the “deep state.” (He’s since said he no longer believes in QAnon, tweeting on Sunday, “Qanon is NOt my God.”)
Corsi may soon face charges
What’s at the other end of this thicket of conflicting claims remains unclear. But what’s next for Corsi seems clearer. On Tuesday, he leaked the draft plea deal document Mueller’s team wrote for him, which says he’ll be charged for lying to investigators about his WikiLeaks-related contacts with Stone. Corsi has said he’ll reject the deal. So the likely next step is that he’ll be indicted.
Jerome Corsi’s post-2004 career has relied almost exclusively on the conspiratorial right offering him book deals and some measure of fame. But now, that same faction might prove to be his legal undoing.