The Trump campaign didn’t have to coordinate directly with the Russian government — because it had a middleman to do its dirty work.
Among the many intriguing revelations in the newly released, redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation are several key pieces of information confirming that Trump and his associates coordinated their campaign strategy around the release of materials stolen by the Russian government and published by WikiLeaks.
Far from exonerating Trump and his campaign members, the report is an indictment of their behaviour.
The report reveals that the Trump campaign was extremely interested in and “expected it would benefit” from Russia’s hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaign, as well as the subsequent release of hacked documents by WikiLeaks.
The unredacted material in the report does not include any evidence that Trump or his associates criminally conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election. It does, however, state that Trump campaign officials were happy to reap the benefits of Russia’s efforts to hack into and release Democratic emails.
“The campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” the report says.
Furthermore, according to the report, “The Trump Campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks’ release of hacked materials throughout the summer and fall of 2016.”
Multiple members of the campaign, including Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Donald Trump, and his son Don Jr., had contact with WikiLeaks and/or participated in the weaponization of hacked materials released by WikiLeaks, the report says.
Trump knew that more damaging material would soon be released
In one of the most intriguing sections of the document, the report states that Trump told another senior campaign official (Rick Gates) in the summer of 2016 that WikiLeaks would soon be releasing more damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Following a redacted portion of a sentence, the report says that after finishing a call with an unidentified person, “candidate Trump told [Rick] Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.”
This is the first public acknowledgement from investigators that Trump may have had advanced knowledge of upcoming leaks of hacked material. It appears to confirm testimony from Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who told Congress that Trump “knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time.”
The report further confirms that Trump’s campaign was quietly working behind the scenes to obtain more details about WikiLeaks’ future activities, as well as to find Clinton’s emails.
“Trump also expressed skepticism that Russia had hacked the emails at the same time as he and other Campaign advisors privately sought information [redacted] about any further planned WikiLeaks releases,” the report says.
Citing Gates, the report also concluded that Trump was “generally frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found” despite “repeatedly” telling Michael Flynn to find them and publicly calling for Russia to hack into the cache of emails.
Trump campaign planned its strategy ‘based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks’
Trump spoke to then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort about WikiLeaks, as well. According to the report, after WikiLeaks released the initial hacked DNC emails in July 2016, “Manafort also spoke with candidate Trump” — but the remainder of the sentence is redacted.
During that discussion, “Manafort recalled that Trump responded that Manafort should [redacted] keep Trump updated,” the report states, after noting: “Manafort also [redacted] wanted to be kept apprised of any developments with WikiLeaks and separately told Gates to keep in touch [redacted] about future WikiLeaks releases.”
In one of the most crucial passages in this part of the document, the report cites Gates and says that the Trump campaign “was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.”
In other words, Trump and his associates coordinated their campaign strategy around the release of materials that were hacked by the Russian government and later published by WikiLeaks.
Based on the report, it also appears that Donald Trump Jr. used information that WikiLeaks sent to him during a private direct-message conversation.
This is the first public acknowledgement from investigators that Trump may have had advanced knowledge of upcoming leaks of hacked material.
In one instance, Don Jr. shared a link that WikiLeaks recommended, and on another occasion, he took WikiLeaks’ advice to look into a possible anti-Trump campaign website (putintrump.org).
Taken together, these revelations show that the Trump campaign didn’t have to coordinate directly with the Russian government — because it had a middleman to do its dirty work.
Far from exonerating Trump and his campaign members, the report is an indictment of their behaviour. The campaign knew that Russia was interfering in the election, but rather than reporting the illegal interference, Trump and his associates strategized on how to capitalize off it.