According to government sources, both presidential candidates were warned by the FBI that Russia could potentially try to infiltrate or spy on their presidential campaigns. FBI briefings to presidential candidates are said to be fairly common, often focused on educating candidates about the dangers of foreign espionage. The FBI urged both candidates to report any suspicious activity within their campaigns. It is unclear whether either party ever made a report to the FBI.
As the campaigns progressed, each candidate had more access to classified information, potentially making them targets for foreign spying. Security briefings from the FBI to assist candidates in staving off foreign espionage is a necessary part of any campaign cycle, especially when one candidate is a former civilian, and the other was already under investigation for mishandling classified information. It is reported that President Trump received his intel briefing on August 17th, 2016. It is unclear whether he made any reports to the FBI.
Paul Manafort, who now stands accused of lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government, was released from the campaign just two days later, with Trump issuing a statement on August 19th about Manafort departing the campaign. August 17th also saw Steve Bannon added to the campaign and Kellyanne Conway promoted to campaign manager.
According to NBC, seven officials from the Trump campaign had contact either with Russians or people linked to Russia. For example, then Senator Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General Sessions, had a meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. NBC concedes that as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the then senator had many meetings with foreign officials.
Likewise, Donald Trump Jr. is accused of having communicated with Russian entities. The Atlantic reported that Trump Jr. exchanged messages via Twitter with Wikileaks. According to NBC, Wikileaks is accused of serving as a Russian agent to interfere with the election.
On September 20th, Wikileaks reached out to Trump Jr. for a comment saying, “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?”
According to reporting by the Atlantic Trump Jr. responded, “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”
Wikileak’s alleged election interference came as a dump of leaked emails from Clinton and her campaign team. The searchable database published by Wikileaks, includes emails from Clinton’s private email server that she used instead of a .gov email while serving as Secretary of State from January 21, 2009 – February 1, 2013, before being replaced by John Kerry. The use of the private server and subsequent disappearance of the emails led to the FBI investigation that plagued her campaign. The database also includes documents legally obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Perhaps more damaging to the Clinton campaign, Wikileaks also published leaked emails from John Podesta, former Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton and then chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. The 20,000 pages of Podesta’s emails, originally released October 7th 2016, revealed corruption, off color jokes, and intimate details of the campaign that led to a public relations nightmare.
John Podesta’s brother, Tony, has recently stepped down from the Podesta Group, the lobbying giant which he founded, amid allegations that he was a part of the same illegal lobbying scheme as Paul Manafort.
Wikileaks denies that they obtained their information and leaked emails from Russian intelligence. Wikileaks has all but publicly claimed that their source was Seth Rich, the DNC staffer murdered in July, 2016. Although the police believe Rich was killed in a botched robbery and the FBI has declined to investigate, Wikileaks published a $20,000 reward for any information of the death of the young DNC staffer, less than a month after his murder, giving birth to an internet theory that haunted the Clinton campaign. Wikileaks has also organized all of the information they possess about Rich.
In her recent book, former DNC chair Donna Brazile raised questions about Rich’s murder, reinvigorating conspiracy theories. In November, Trump Jr. tweeted screenshots of his entire conversation with Wikileaks, in which they asked him to ask his father to tweet one of their links, which links to a page related to the DNC emails and Seth Rich.
Wikileaks, now faces questions regarding their journalistic integrity and relationship with Russia, damaging their formerly respected reputation.
White House Responds
As news of the FBI warning fans the flames of the Russia/Trump collusion theory, the White House released a statement:
That the Republican and Democrat nominee for president received a standardized briefing on counterintelligence is hardly a news story. That NBC News hears about the contents of this classified conversation due to an inappropriate leak is a news story.
President Trump has repeatedly denied that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the presidency. Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently overseeing an investigation into the matter, which has seen the indictment of four people, including former national security advisor Michael Flynn, former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, as well as Paul Manafort and his close associate Rick Gates.
The Mueller investigation has led to a media frenzy, as news outlets grasp at straws to understand what is going on behind closed doors, leading to many false reports, including that Deutsche Bank had been subpoenaed for the President’s financial records. A media frenzy unfurled over the weekend as reports that President Trump was planning on firing Mueller surfaced, leading celebrities to take to Twitter to call for a #resistance. The President stated Sunday that he would not be firing Mueller.
This weekend also saw Mueller allegedly obtain emails between the Trump transition team. The President’s lawyer claims that the emails were obtained “improperly.” On Sunday President Trump said in regards to the emails:
Not looking good. It’s not looking good. It’s quite sad to see that. My people are very upset about it. I can’t imagine there’s anything on ’em, frankly, because as we said, there’s no collusion. There’s no collusion whatsoever. A lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad.
The White House holds that the President is not under investigation and that no collusion occurred.
As the Mueller investigation hopefully provides some much needed truth to the American people one question the media is neglecting to ask is whether or not the American people are sick of hearing this narrative.