US President Donald Trump’s former White House adviser and campaign CEO Steve Bannon said in court on Friday that he and the Trump campaign saw former associate Roger Stone as a potential intermediary with WikiLeaks.
"I think it was generally believed that the access point or potential access point to WikiLeaks was Roger Stone. I was led to believe he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange,” Bannon testified at Stone's criminal trial.
Bannon added that the Trump campaign had no official access to WikiLeaks or to Julian Assange, and that Stone "never directly" told him he could obtain information from WikiLeaks, but implied it.
The former White House chief strategist also testified that Stone would "not frequently" mention his relationship with Assange, but he would mention it "a lot" in the media.
“Roger is an agent provocateur. He's an expert in opposition research, he's an expert in the tougher side of politics and when you're this far behind you're going to have to use every tool in the tool box... opposition research, dirty tricks, the type of things that campaigns use when they have to make up some ground,” Bannon noted .
Roger Stone Trial Kicks Off in Washington
His testimony comes after the trial of Stone began in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.
He was arrested on 25 January on federal charges put forward by then-US special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation wrapped up in March to conclude that there was no collusion between Trump and Russia during the 2016 US presidential election campaign.
The charges against Stone included seven criminal counts of witness tampering, lying to Congress, and the obstruction of justice.
The indictment, in particular, claimed that Stone made "false statements" about his interactions with WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, charges that were rejected by Stone as politically motivated.
US intelligence officials suggested at the time that data obtained from Wikileaks was stolen during alleged Russian cyber-attacks on Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers, which Moscow has repeatedly denied.
“I am not accused of Russian collusion, I am not accused of collaboration with WikiLeaks, I am not accused of conspiracy,” Stone in February, adding that “there is no evidence or accusation that I knew in advance about the source or the content of the WikiLeaks material.”
Trump Slams Stone Case as ‘Witch Hunt’
President Trump, for his part, described Stone’s arrest as a politically-motivated “witch hunt,” adding that most of the charges against Stone have nothing to do with him personally.
“Roger Stone didn't work on the  campaign, except way, way at the beginning long before we're talking about. Roger is somebody that I've always liked… Roger's a character, but Roger was not — I don't know if you know this or not — Roger wasn't on my campaign, except way at the beginning,” Trump told CBS in February.
Roger Stone is an American political consultant, author, lobbyist and strategist who has worked on the campaigns of a number of Republican politicians, including US Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well as Republican House Member Jack Kemp, former Senate Republican Majority Leader Bob Dole and, most recently, Trump.