Dispatch March 2, 2018

The Trump-WikiLeaks Timeline

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is eyeing charges against the Russians who hacked John Podesta and the DNC. The big question is, did President Donald Trump know WikiLeaks would be releasing the emails? 

By now, we know the answer: of course Trump knew. Why?

TimingWikiLeaks dropped the Podesta emails at a moment that was extremely helpful to the Trump campaign, but not helpful for an ostensibly independent nonprofit. 

    • Friday, October 7, 2016, 4:03 PM: Washington Post releases the Access Hollywood video, a major hit to the Trump campaign.
    • Friday, October 7, 2016, 4:32 PM: Exactly 29 minutes later, WikiLeaks released their major bounty, Podesta’s emails, which were hacked six months earlier.

This was WikiLeaks’ big release; they wanted people to visit their website. Yet, not only did they drop the emails on Friday afternoon, they did so less than a half hour after the biggest bombshell of the campaign. This suggests that the release was not to garner attention for their new product, but to change the conversation from the Access Hollywood video.

Why would WikiLeaks step on their own release? Because, as our intelligence community tells us, Russia was in effect running a campaign to help Trump and WikiLeaks was being used as a Russian front. Additionally, leaked chat transcripts show that WikiLeaks was actively trying to boost Trump’s campaign and tank Hillary Clinton’s.

Campaign knowledgeThe Schiff memo indicates that that the Trump campaign knew Russians hacked emails from the Clinton campaign, and that they were going to “anonymously release” the emails.

  • According to George Papadopoulos’s plea agreement, the Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud told Papadopoulos in April—one month after Russia hacked Podesta, and three months before WikiLeaks posted anything from the DNC—that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
  • When Papadopoulos told his superiors on the campaign about his Russian contacts, they gave him a pat on the back and told him to keep it up.
  • Schiff’s memo suggests the Trump campaign didn’t just know Russia had dirt—they knew that Russia planned to anonymously release the information to help them.

BackchannelsThe Trump campaign had a backchannel to WikiLeaks and advance knowledge about the Podesta hacking.

  • August 21, 2016: Roger Stone tweeted, “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary.” Podesta didn’t know that he was hacked until October 7th.
  • Stone boasted about communicating with WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, then walked the claims back—only to have The Atlantic publish a partial transcript of his chats with WikiLeaks.
  • The head of Cambridge Analytica reached out to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange during the campaign with an offer to help collate the hacked emails.
  • Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks exchanged direct messages on Twitter throughout the last month of the campaign and well into Trump’s transition and presidency.

Strategy shiftTrump made WikiLeaks a major part of his campaign in the final weeks.

  • Trump went out of his way to call attention to WikiLeaks. He mentioned the website 164 times—an average of more than five times per day—in the final month of the campaign, including during all three presidential debates.
  • Trump tweeted links to WikiLeaks at least seven times in that same time period.
    • At least one of those tweets came just 15 minutes after WikiLeaks messaged Trump Jr. suggesting Trump promote the latest batch of hacked emails – which he promptly did.
  • As former FBI agent Clint Watts explained to the Senate Intelligence Committee: “Part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the Commander-in-Chief [Trump] has used Russian active measures at times, against his opponents.”

The Trump campaign knew that Russian intelligence hacked their political opponent, knew at least something about how they were going to disseminate the stolen content, and made the stolen materials a central part of the campaign strategy. This is what collusion looks like, and why Mueller is homing in on the hacks.