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Roger Stone speaks to reporters at the Capitol right after appearing before the House Intelligence Committee. Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Political operative Roger Stone, an informal adviser to the Trump campaign, told two of his associates in 2016 that he'd been in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, per the Washington Post. An anonymous Stone associate cited in the report — the other is Sam Nunberg — claimed that Stone discussed hacked emails from the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in Assange's possession in the spring of 2016.

Why it matters: If the claims about Stone are true, he would have known about the hacked DNC and Podesta emails — which the U.S. intelligence community determined came via a Russian hack — months before their eventual release by WikiLeaks later in the summer and fall of 2016.

  • Nunberg said Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team asked him to describe a conversation he had with Stone in 2016, in which Stone claimed he met with Assange.
  • Stone's response, provided to WashPost: "I wish him no ill will, but Sam can manically and persistently call you ... I said, 'I think I will go to London for the weekend and meet with Julian Assange.' It was a joke, a throwaway line to get him off the phone. The idea that I would meet with Assange undetected is ridiculous on its face."
  • More Stone: "The allegation that I met with Assange, or asked for a meeting or communicated with Assange is provably false."
  • Stone says he never left the country in 2016.

Go deeper

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.