Wikileaks began as a broke whistleblowing outlet, but after their finances were cut off, their work changed—as I wrote in my deep dive on Edward Snowden:
Wikileaks threatened that they would release documents on powerful individuals in Russia, and according to their spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson “Russian readers will learn a lot about their country.” An official from the FSB (the successor to the KGB) responded “It’s essential to remember that given the will and the relevant orders, [WikiLeaks] can be made inaccessible forever.”
The documents never came out. Two years later, Julian Assange had his own show on Russia Today, the Kremlin’s West-facing propaganda outlet. Wikileaks even sent a delegation to meet Bashar al-Assad, a President only two major countries support (Russia and Iran). While stuck in in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange stated in a press release that he requested Russian security.
Fast-forward to last October—where Wikileaks slowly released hacked Hillary Clinton e-mails—and it became crystal clear that they now function as an arm of the Kremlin’s intelligence services. If they were truly interested in transparency, they would have dumped the entire cache at once, instead of the drip drip drip designed to control the media narrative in the wake of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape.
There were already plenty of connections between the Trump camp and Wikileaks prior to today’s new report: from Trump’s incessant tweeting of their revelations the month before the election, to longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone tweeting out hints that he had been in communication with them.
Now, The Daily Beast is reporting that:
Alexander Nix, who heads a controversial data-analytics firm that worked for President Donald Trump's campaign, wrote in an email last year that he reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about Hillary Clinton's missing 33,000 emails.
Nix, who heads Cambridge Analytica, told a third party that he reached out to Assange about his firm somehow helping the WikiLeaks editor release Clinton's missing emails, according to two sources familiar with a congressional investigation into interactions between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Those sources also relayed that, according to Nix's email, Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn't want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own.
This provides further evidence to the suspicion that the Trump camp wanted to work with the Russians to obtain Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that a Republican operative was searching for Hillary Clinton's 33,000 deleted e-mails. Five weeks after Trump famously asked the Russians to find Hillary's deleted messages, Peter Smith reached out to hacker groups affiliated with the Kremlin, and said he was working on behalf of Michael Flynn, Trump's national security adviser. It has not been proven that Smith was actually working for Flynn, but he told everyone that he consulted on his search that he was. Unfortunately, Smith passed away earlier this year, so we may never know the truth of his activities last year.
Adding to this confusion, Trump didn't start saying “33,000” e-mails until the exact day of the infamous meeting between Don Jr. and the Kremlin-connected lawyer—forty minutes after the meeting began if we're going by when Rob Goldstone, the publicist who set up the meeting, checked in on Facebook. Three weeks before this gathering, Trump tweeted that Hillary deleted “30,000” e-mails.
The day of the meeting that Don Jr. confirmed took place, Trump changed that number to 33,000.
Despite using the figure for an entire year-plus, Trump has not used 30,000 as the number of deleted Hillary e-mails since the meeting with the Kremlin-connected lawyer—a meeting which has drawn the attention of special counsel Robert Mueller. This could very easily be nothing—since the man’s brain is mostly mush—but the timing of the figure change is inescapable. The Russian lawyer wanted to talk about the Magnitsky Act, which placed damaging sanctions on Kremlin-connected oligarchs. It’s safe to assume that in order for them to convince the Trump camp to lift these sanctions, they would need to provide something valuable in return, and Trump is on record saying he wanted Hillary’s deleted e-mails. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to imagine this lawyer floating the idea of obtaining 33,000 e-mails, and Trump was then briefed on this offer by either his son, son-in-law, or campaign manager who attended the meeting—which explains the shift in his verbiage.
Between the WSJ report, Trump’s change in behavior, and now The Daily Beast obtaining proof that Trump’s analytics firm reached out to Julian Assange, we have a lot of compelling circumstantial evidence tying the Trump camp to the Russians in their search for Hillary Clinton’s deleted e-mails. Wikileaks even confirmed The Daily Beast’s reporting, saying that “we can confirm an approach by Cambridge Analytica and can confirm that it was rejected by WikiLeaks.” Between this new report and Don Jr.’s response of “I love it!” to a theoretical offer from “the Crown prosecutor of Russia” to provide damaging information on Hillary, the intent of the Trump camp to collude has practically been proven, even though the act of collusion is far from being certain—for now.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.