Trump's Involvement

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Trump's reign has been described as part of Russia's plan to stir up chaos, and while this was likely an FSB goal, the Kremlin really did not need to do more than aid their mark's rise to power and let him be himself. Contrary to "outsider" myths, he has long had presidential aspirations: he flirted with a run in 1988 and 2000, and ran in 2012. — Sarah Kendzior
Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory. If you say something again and again, people will believe you. — unnamed former lawyer for Donald Trump

— Before 2016 —

November 6, 2012: Trump Calls for Uprising against Obama; Russian Propagandist Responds

Real estate tycoon and putative presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to President Barack Obama's election victory by tweeting: "We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!" Apparently Trump is calling for some kind of uprising or insurrection that will prevent Obama from taking office again. Russian white supremacist, Internet producer and former Duma member Konstantin Rykov sees the tweet and responds via Twitter: "I'm ready. What should I do?" (The Tweet is in Russian.) Trump responds with a photo of him giving the camera, and presumably Rykov, a thumbs-up signal. Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul later describes Rykov as "one of the leading pro-Kremlin bloggers in Russia," and apparently has close connections to Putin. Another source later describes Rykov as a "chief voice and troll for the Kremlin on Twitter." Four years later, Rykov will write about the plan that will be hatched and apparently carried out to work with Trump to secure the presidency for him. (Washington Monthly, Donald Trump)

— 2016 —

photo of Alfa Bank

July-September 2016: Secretive Communications between Trump Computer, Russian Bank Documented

After the cybersecurity community learns that Russian hackers have breached the servers of the Democratic National Committee, a group of American computer scientists decided to find out if the hackers were attacking other entities related to the presidential campaign, including Donald Trump's personal and business servers.

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One of the experts later says, "We wanted to help defend both campaigns, because we wanted to preserve the integrity of the election." Another one of those scientists, who uses the pseudonym "Tea Leaves" for use in the October article by Slate, finds Russian malware targeting a Trump server. He soon determines that the malware is coming from the Alfa Bank in Moscow, which is irregularly but persistently pinging a server registered to the Trump Organization in New York. The expert begins sharing his findings with six of his colleagues. (Slate journalist Franklin Foer will interview two of "Tea Leaves"'s colleagues for his article, who will share extensive documentation and records with Foer. Numerous other academics and experts will vouch for "Tea Leaves"'s integrity and expertise. Indiana University computer scientist L. Jean Camp will say: "This is someone I know well and is very well-known in the networking community. When they say something about DNS, you believe them. This person has technical authority and access to data."

Not an Attack, but a Conversation

The researchers quickly determine that the Trump server is not under a malware attack, nor is it being pinged by bots. Instead, the server lookups seem to document human conversation that begin during office hours in New York and continue into office hours in Moscow. Foer will write, "It dawned on the researchers that this wasn't an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank." Cybersecurity expert Christopher Davis later says that the researchers were initially stymied because of the unusual configuration of the Trump server: "I've never seen a server set up like that. It looked weird, and it didn't pass the sniff test." The Trump server was set up to run consumer marketing campaigns, and was often used to send mass emails on behalf of Trump properties and products. But now the server is being used for something entirely different. It is not running anywhere near its capacity, making it difficult to justify the expense and interaction it takes to maintain it. Davis later says, "I get more mail in a day than the server handled." Moreover, the researchers determine that the Trump server is only configured to accept communications from a very small and specific set of IP addresses: Alfa Bank and a firm called Spectrum Health. That firm will deny any contact with Alfa Bank or Trump's business holdings, and will deny any communications between their computer network and the Trump server. Spectrum will say that the few traces it found came from spam marketing emails from a digital marketing firm, Cendyn, advertising Trump hotels. The Spectrum traffic only accounts for 13% of the server traffic; the rest is between the Trump server and Alfa Bank. Camp will conclude: "It's pretty clear that it's not an open mail server. These organizations are communicating in a way designed to block other people out." In October, DNS expert Paul Vixie will examine the records and conclude: "The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project." As the election campaign moves forward, and Trump issues increasingly heated denials about having any connections to Russia (even as he invites Russian hackers to breach Clinton's servers), the researchers become increasingly convinced that Trump is lying. The data tells a dramatically different story, though it does not provide conclusive evidence of ties between Trump and Russia. What it does show is a rise and fall in the frequency of communications between the bank and the Trump server during the election season: "At election-related moments, the traffic peaked," Camp will say. Traffic rises considerably during the time of both parties' conventions.

Shutdown

The researchers cautiously go public in September, posting about their findings, and linking to their data, in a Reddit thread. Asked by New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau about the connections between the Trump server and the Alfa Bank servers on September 21, the bank denies any connections. Just before Lichtblau can pose his questions to the Trump campaign, the Trump domain name in question stops working. Foer will write: "The computer scientists believe there was one logical conclusion to be drawn: The Trump Organization shut down the server after Alfa was told that the Times might expose the connection." One expert will tell Foer that the domain was hastily and "very sloppily removed." One of the researchers will tell Foer that it seems like "the knee was hit in Moscow, the leg kicked in New York." By September 27, the Trump Organization is using a new host name, which enables communication to the same server via a different rout. The first attempt of the new host name, which is always a product of human input, is the Alfa Bank. Vixie and others will conclude that Trump officials are attempting to create a new channel of communications between Alfa and the Trump Organization. However, after Times reporters begin asking questions, the traffic between the servers stops entirely. Alfa Bank will deny any connections or communications between Trump and its officials, and will say it has hired cybersecurity firm Mandiant to investigate the communications. Mandiant's theory, Alfa will say, is that the connections between its servers and the Trump server are innocent spam contacts. Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks will go further, denying that the Trump server has not been used since 2010 in spite of the proof that it was used as late as September 2016, and refusing to answer questions about the 2016 contacts.

Doubts and Confirmations

Foer will have other experts explore the connections in a follow-up article. It is possible, cybersecurity expert Rob Graham will say, that the server was under the control of Cendyn, the spam marketing vendor, and the September shutdowns may have been coincidental. It is possible that the extensive communications between the Trump server and Alfa Bank are entirely spam marketing transmissions, and the bank servers' security protocols rejecting the spam, though no trace of spam emails are available. Camp will tell Foer, "It's highly implausible that spam would continue for so many months, that it would never be reported to spam blocker, or that nobody else in the world would see the spam during that time frame." A more likely explanation is that the Trump server is inundating the Alfa servers with marketing materials, though that cannot be proven given the data collected, and the vanishingly small likelihood that the Trump Organization would use an entire computer server to send generic marketing materials to a single target. Other experts cast doubt on the finding that the server traffic spikes during critical events during the election. And it is possible the DNS logs as provided to Foer are not complete. Foer will write: "As I noted in my piece, there's no foolproof way to verify that these logs are complete and unedited. I believe in their authenticity, because of the credibility of the academics and programmers who vouched for them by name – specifically, Paul Vixie and Jean Camp. They took a meaningful risk in attaching their names to the data. Jean Camp has posted the full set of logs. Now that they are easily available, others can form their own opinion as to their validity and what they demonstrate about the servers." Foer will conclude that while nothing can be conclusively proven, it seems likely that there was an unusual and secretive series of communications between the Alfa Bank and the Trump server. What those communications were, and their impact on the election, remains undisclosed. Eight of the nine experts Foer will first speak with still stand by their analysis; the ninth was not available for comment. (Slate, Slate, photo of AlfaBank front in Moscow via Moscow Times)

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April 27, 2016: Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions meet with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a reception at a Washington hotel. Trump will repeatedly deny that any such meeting ever took place.


July 11-17, 2016: Trump Campaign Removes Anti-Russian Language from GOP Platform, Lies About It

Trump campaign staffers, and likely Trump himself, successfully transform a section of the GOP presidential platform from opposing Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea to a more neutral stance. This will be confirmed in November 2017 by testimony to Congress from then-campaign aide Carter Page.

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During a platform committee meeting, committee member Diana Denman proposes an amendment to call for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, including "providing lethal defensive weapons" to the Ukrainian military. Instead, Trump staffers work with pro-Trump delegates to table the amendment and quickly write their own amendment removing the promise of "lethal defensive weapons." Denman will say: "Two men sitting over to the side of the room – I had no idea who they were but later found out they were Trump representatives – jumped up and tore over to get behind the three cochairmen." One of the two Trump staffers is later identified by Denman and other Republican delegates as J.D. Gordon, a Trump campaign official and former Pentagon spokesman. Denman will say that Gordon leaves the room to make a call, and Denman, confused and angry over her proposal being invalidated, asks Gordon who he is calling. According to Denman, Gordon says: "I'm calling New York. I work for Mr. Trump, and I have to clear it," referring to the amendment. Party rules forbid campaign representatives to publicly debate the merits of an amendment at a subcommittee platform meeting, so Gordon and the other staffer ask her to change it. The story cannot initially be proven, because somehow the records of that particular meeting will be destroyed. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort later claims on NBC that the change in language "absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign," a claim that the Daily Beast characterizes as a lie. Maine delegate Eric Brakey, a Trump supporter present at the meeting, later says: "Some staff from the Trump campaign came in and … came back with some language that softened the platform. They didn't intervene in the platform in most cases. But in that case they had some wisdom to say that maybe we don't want to be calling … for very, very clear aggressive acts of war against Russia." Another delegate present at the meeting, Rachel Hoff, says: "They substantively changed it. It absolutely was my understanding that it was Trump staff." The platform language now calls for the US government to "provide appropriate assistance" to the Ukrainian military rather than provide it with "lethal defense weapons." Gordon later says that "Ms. Denman's memory of events is inaccurate," though he refuses to deny that he had privately approached her about the amendment. It is also likely that Frank Mermoud, a former State Department official now heavily involved in business ventures in Ukraine, influences the language change. Mermoud is at the convention to help coordinate for the Washington diplomatic corps. A senior official at Cub Energy, a Black Sea oil and gas company, and a board member of the US Ukraine Business Council, Mermoud has long-standing ties with Manafort. Several sources at the convention later say they observed another Manafort colleague, Philip Griffin, working with the foreign dignitaries program. Griffin worked with Manafort in Kiev. One source will say, "After years of working in the Ukraine for Paul and others, it was surprising to run into Phil working at the convention." Many Republicans are dismayed at the language change. Senator Rob Portman calls it "deeply troubling." Veteran lobbyist and party operative Charles Black – a business partner of Manafort's – says the "new position in the platform doesn't have much support from Republicans." A committee member later says: "The language of the original amendment didn't seem strong. Denman sent out an email before the meeting saying she was going to propose the amendment at the meeting, and no one replied – or, at least 'replied all' – saying they objected to it. I wrote back quickly saying I fully supported it, actually." The amendment is only "controversial if you hold Donald Trump's express views on Russia, but it wasn't controversial with regard to GOP orthodoxy on the issue. So this change on Ukraine definitely came from Trump staffers – not from RNC staffers."

Trump, Manafort Will Lie About Involvement

Trump himself will lie about the changes, telling an ABC News reporter: "I was not involved in that. Honestly, I was not involved. I'd have to take a look at it." Days later, Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin states on Twitter: "Manafort lied on [Meet the Press]. He said no one from the campaign worked on the Ukraine part of the platform. Flat out lie."

Dossier: Platform Change in Return for Email Release

A dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent shows that Trump himself "agreed to sideline" the issue of Russia's 2014 attack on Ukraine after Russia promised to release emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee that it felt would harm the Clinton campaign. US intelligence officials will receive the dossier before the election, but the media will not report on it until January 2017. The dossier presents evidence that Trump agrees to refrain from speaking out against Russia's military intervention into Ukraine, if Russia will use WikiLeaks to disseminate the hacked emails. Trump has broken and will continue to break with decades of tradition throughout the campaign, speaking out on behalf of Russia and pushing the need to move the US closer to that country in a number of areas.

Gordon Will Admit to Lying about His, Trump's Involvement

In March 2017, Gordon will admit he has previously lied about his involvement in changing the platform. He will admit that he pushed to change the Ukraine amendment to bring the platform more in line with Trump's views. Gordon will say he and other Trump staffers "advocated for the GOP platform to include language against arming Ukrainians against pro-Russian rebels" because "this was in line with Trump's views, expressed at a March national security meeting at the unfinished Trump hotel" in Washington, DC. CNN's Jim Acosta will report, "Gordon says Trump said at the meeting … that he didn't want to go to 'World War Three' over Ukraine." Acosta will add via his Twitter account that Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) presided over the meeting. Gordon will add that "this was the language Donald Trump himself wanted and advocated for back in March [2016]," directly contradicting what he has told reporters earlier. He will also admit that he lied when he said neither Trump nor Manafort were involved in the decision. Gordon will then deny that his story in March was any different from what he told reporters earlier, and will blame GOP platform delegates for not understanding the process. (Washington Post, Business Insider, Business Insider, PolitiFact, Daily Beast, Talking Points Memo, Guardian, CNN, Medium)

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July 23, 2016: Trump Publicizes WikiLeaks Release of Hacked DNC Emails, Accuses Elections of Being "Rigged"

In a Twitter post, Donald Trump says that emails from the DNC leaked by WikiLeaks shows the DNC attempted to "destroy" the Bernie Sanders primary campaign, and proclaims the election to be rigged, presumably by the Clinton campaign.

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Trump writes: "Leaked e-mails of DNC show plans to destroy Bernie Sanders. Mock his heritage and much more. On-line from Wikileakes [sic], really vicious. RIGGED" Trump offers no evidence for his claim that the Clinton campaign engaged in any illegal activities regarding the primary or general campaigns. In another tweet, Trump writes, "The Wikileaks e-mail release today was so bad to Sanders that it will make it impossible for him to support her, unless he is a fraud!" (Donald Trump, Donald Trump)

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July 25, 2017: Trump Tries to Foment Division between Sanders, Clinton Supporters

Three days after WikiLeaks released a large batch of emails from the DNC, Trump insults both the Democratic primary loser, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and apparently tries to whip up anger against his presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, among Sanders supporters.

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At a speech in Roanoke, Virginia, he says: "With Bernie, when you look at what happened, the thing that surprises me most is how he folded. He folded! I thought he was really hanging out, tough, tough, tough, tough, then they find these horrible emails talking about his religion, and is he Jewish, and is he an atheist, and what, that’s not going to play well … man, that's rough. And that's not as bad as some of the other ones …" Trump is referring to DNC emails that purport to document a DNC aide suggesting that a campaign surrogate suggest to specific audiences that Sanders is supposedly an atheist, a suggestion that was not acted upon. (Lawfare)

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photo of Trump during press conference

July 27, 2016: Trump Invites Russia to Hack Clinton's Emails

At a press conference in Doral, Florida, Donald Trump invited Russia to commit espionage against the United States in order to damage his opponent's candidacy. Talking about deleted emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private account, Trump says: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you'll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you'll probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens. That will be next. … They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted … I hope they do … because you'd see some beauties there."

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The Los Angeles Times notes that Trump's invitation gives "the impression that Trump is actively encouraging another country to commit a crime against the U.S. to directly affect the presidential election. If the emails are hacked and Trump wins, it also could make him appear beholden to foreign interests." Trump has come under ever-intensifying scrutiny for his ties to Russia, his admiration for Russian despot Vladimir Putin, and his statements indicating that if he becomes president, he might pull out of US commitments to defend its NATO allies against Russian military aggression. Olga Oliker of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says: "This undoubtedly sends a message to Russia that Trump is, at best, a fan, and at worst, manipulable and a bit of a loose cannon. Russia will look at this, whether it's political theater or not, as [confirmation] that Trump would be better for them than Clinton, who would take a measured approach and discourage things that run counter to U.S. interests." Former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey of the Brookings Institute says that while Trump's call for Russia to hack US computers probably doesn't meet the legal standard for criminal incitement, "[s]omeone who is asking to be elected to the presidency should be more respectful of this nation's institutions."

Again Denies Knowing Putin

During the conference, Trump again denies knowing Putin: "I never met Putin. I don't know who Putin is. He said one nice thing to me. He said I'm a genius."

Mocks Idea that Russians Hacked Democrats

At a campaign rally in Scranton, Trump openly mocks the idea that Russians have hacked the DNC or the Clinton campaign, and says he wishes he had the ability to conduct such hacks: "And then I see her campaign manager, and he's on television. And he said that Russia hacked them. No, no, he said Russia hacked them … How does he know, he didn't really know. And then he said, uh, uh, Trump, Trump. And I'm sitting there watching him saying, what did I do? Trump! I wish I had that power! Man, that would be power! … And he said Russia with e-mails – probably was China or somebody else. Might be a 400-pound person sitting in bed. OK? Might be. Some of the greatest hackers of all time."

Post-Conference Spin: Denials that Trump Said What He Said

Trump allies, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, says that Trump was merely joking. But, the Times notes, "Trump, given the chance to clarify while he was still in front of reporters, did not back down when asked whether it concerned him that another government may have Clinton's emails." Instead, Trump says: "No, it gives me no pause. … That gives me a big problem. After she gets a subpoena! She gets subpoenaed, and she gets rid of 33,000 e-mails? That gives me a problem. If Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I've got to be honest with you, I'd love to see them." And after the press conference, Trump posts on Twitter: "If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!" Trump has used emails from the Democratic National Committee made publicly available by Wikileaks after being hacked by Russia to attack Clinton, saying that the DNC took Clinton's side during the primary, a claim designed to drive a wedge between Democrats who support Clinton and those who supported her primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders. Trump has also repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that Clinton "rigged" the primary campaign to ensure Sanders's loss. Trump's running mate, Governor Mike Pence, tries to backpedal after Trump's statements, saying: "If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences. That said, the Democrats [are] singularly focusing on who might be behind it and not addressing the basic fact that they've been exposed as a party who not only rigs the government, but rigs elections while literally accepting cash for federal appointments is outrageous. The American people now have absolute and further proof of the corruption that exists around Hillary Clinton. It should disqualify her from office, if the media did their job." Pence's assertions that the Democrats "rigged" the primary election and take money in return for federal appointments are also completely unfounded in fact. Trump campaign staffers attack press reports after the conference, saying that Trump's words were mischaracterized and that Trump merely wants Russia to give any information its officials may have to the FBI. Trump spokesman Jason Miller tweets: "To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails today."

Clinton Campaign: Trump's Comments a "National Security Issue"

Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, calls Trump's statements "staggeringly poor judgment even for him" and "breathtakingly irresponsible." Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook says Trump's invitation for Russia to commit espionage against Clinton is "a national security issue now." Clinton foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan adds: "She does not view this as a political issue; she views this as a national security issue. She believes that it is obviously something new to see them interfering in an American election, but this is part of a pattern of Russia interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries." Former NATO commander Admiral James Stavridis, a Clinton supporter, calls Trump's statements "shocking and dangerous. … In addition to the obvious domestic political implications of essentially inviting interference in our election, they will further undermine European confidence in the reliability of the US as an ally – particularly in the face of Russian adventurism."

Racial Slurs and Support for Torture

During the conference, Trump also suggested that the Geneva Convention treaties prohibiting torture are obsolete. He barked at NBC reporter Katy Tur to "be quiet" after Tur asked him if he was actually inviting Russia to hack US government computers, and accused Tur of supporting Clinton. He blamed Democrats for the Russian hacks, saying that Democratic leadership has caused foreign leaders to lose respect for the US government. Obama is "the most ignorant president in our history," he says, and adds that Putin has used racial slurs such as "n*gger" to characterize Obama. Trump also used a racial taunt against Obama; after Obama used the word "jibe" to contrast his views with Trump's, Trump says: "His views of the world, as he says, 'don't jive'." He also accuses Clinton running mate Tim Kaine of doing "a terrible job" as governor of New Jersey. Kaine was governor of Virginia. Trump supporter Chris Christie is governor of New Jersey. (Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Guardian, Lawfare, Jason Miller, photo of Donald Trump during the Doral rally via President Donald Trump Live Speech & News 2017)

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July 28, 2016: Trump Says His Invitation to Russia Was Merely "Sarcastic"

Donald Trump says he didn't mean it when he invited Russia to use espionage to find his opponent Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails. Instead, he says, he was just being sarcastic.

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"Of course I'm being sarcastic," he tells a Fox News interviewer. While Trump is denying that he meant what he said, his campaign spokesperson Stephen Miller issues a statement blasting "Hillary Clinton's enablement of foreign espionage with her illegal email scheme" – accusing Clinton herself of colluding with unnamed foreign powers. Miller offers no facts to bolster his charge. Trump's running mate Mike Pence echoes Trump's claims of not meaning what he said, saying on Laura Ingraham's radio show that the media has "taken a sarcastic comment, suggested that he was encouraging that activity all the while ignoring the extraordinary revelations in these emails of collusion of horrible statements regarding race, ethnicity and religion." Pence does not cite any examples of Clinton's "horrible statements." Former CIA director Leon Panneta disagrees, telling the Democratic National Convention, "Donald Trump is asking one of our adversaries to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts against the United States to affect our election." Retired Admiral John Hutson says at the same event: "This morning, this very morning, [Trump] invited Russia to hack us. That's not law and order, that's criminal intent." (CNN)

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September 8-9, 2016: Trump Interviewed on Russian Propaganda Outlet

Donald Trump is interviewed on RT, the Russian propaganda television news outlet, by interviewer Larry King, who now works exclusively for RT.

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Trump complains about the American media's "tremendous dishonesty," and laments, "I mean, they'll take a statement that you make, which is perfect, and they'll cut it up and chop it up and shorten it or lengthen it, or do something with it, then all of a sudden, it doesn't look like as good as it did when you actually said it." Trump berates his opponent Hillary Clinton and US president Barack Obama for Obama's choice to pull US troops out of Iraq in 2013; when King corrects Trump, saying that the withdrawal timetable was set by President Bush in 2007, Trump responds, "Well, you know what, Larry, I'll tell you what, let's look to the future." Trump refuses to criticize Bush, saying, "It's a war we shouldn't have been in, number one, and it's a war that when we got out, we got out the wrong way. That's Obama." He then insulted Clinton, saying, "The bottom line is, Larry, she doesn't have what it takes." He derides King's question about whether Russia is trying to influence the election, saying: "It's probably unlikely. Maybe the Democrats are putting that out, who knows? … I just want to make sure that the election is 100 percent fair." When King asks about his immigration policy, Trump apparently drops off the line. The next day, Trump campaign officials claim that King "tricked" Trump into doing an interview that would be broadcast on Russian television. A Trump official tells a reporter that Trump agreed to do a phone interview for King's podcast, and had no idea the interview would appear on Russian television. "[W]hat Larry King does with the interview content is up to him, we have nothing to do with it,"; the official says. Trump spokesperson Jason Miller tells CNN, "Mr. Trump was never told it would be shared anywhere else." Trump campaign manager KellyAnne Conway echoes Miller on a CNN interview, saying: "A former CNN superstar, Larry King, has a podcast, and Mr. Trump went on his podcast. Nobody said it would be on Russian TV." King calls CNN to confirm that RT is the primary outlet for his show Politicking, and says he finds it hard to believe that Trump's campaign wasn't aware that his show airs on RT. He also says that Trump's team apologized to him after the interview abruptly ended. (RT, Talking Points Memo, Mediaite)

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September 26, 2016: Trump Says DNC, DCCC Hacks Perhaps Carried Out by "Someone Sitting on Their Bed That Weighs 400 Pounds"

During the Hofstra University presidential debate, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump address the subject of cyberwarfare. Trump denies any Russian involvement in the election hacks.

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Clinton begins by saying that Russia is the most recent and worrisome of the cyber saboteurs attacking US targets, in an obvious reference to the DNC and DCCC leaks. She says: "There's no doubt now that Russia has used cyberattacks against all kinds of organizations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this. I know Donald [is] praiseworthy [sic] of Vladimir Putin. But Putin is playing a very tough, long game here. And one of the things he's done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to personal files, the Democratic National Committee. … And we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private sector information or our public sector information, and we're going to have to make it clear that we don't want to use the kinds of tools that we have. We don't want to engage in a different kind of warfare. But we will defend the citizens of this country, and the Russians need to understand that. I think they've been treating it as almost a probing, how far would we go? How much would we do? And that's why I was so, I was so shocked when Donald publicly invited Putin to hack into Americans. That is, that is just unacceptable. It's one of the reasons why 50 national security officials who served in Republican information, administration have said that Donald is unfit to be the commander in chief. It's comments like that that really worry people who understand the threats that we face." Clinton is referring to Trump's statement during a July 2016 press conference where he declared his hope that Russia would find the "30,000 missing emails" Clinton is supposedly hiding from government investigators. Trump responds in part by saying: "Look at the mess that we're in. Look at the mess that we're in. As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said, we should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we're not. I don't know if we know it was Russia who broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. It could also be China, it could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds. You don't know who broke into DNC, but what did we learn? We learn [sic] that Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of by your people. By Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Look what happened to her. But Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of. Now, whether that was Russia, whether that was China, whether it was another country, we don't know, because the truth is, under President Obama we've lost control of things that we used to have control over. We came in with an Internet, we came up with the Internet. … I have a son. He's 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it's unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it's hardly do-able. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing, but that's true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester and certainly cyber is one of them." (Washington Post, Politifact, Vox)

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October 8. 2016: Trump Cites WikiLeaks in Attack on Election Integrity

During the second presidential debate, Trump cites the WikiLeaks documents hacked by Russian intelligence agents in an attack on Clinton and the integrity of the Democratic primary: "And all you have to do is take a look at WikiLeaks and just see what they say about Bernie Sanders and see what Deborah Wasserman Schultz had in mind, because Bernie Sanders, between super-delegates and Deborah Wasserman Schultz, he never had a chance." (Lawfare)


October 10, 2016: Trump Cites WikiLeaks to Defend Trade Statements, Attack Clinton

In a speech in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, Trump takes several shots at Clinton, attacks derived from the WikiLeaks material. He also uses WikiLeaks material to defend himself from "false stories" he says permeate the media.

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Among his comments: "Where is the media rushing to correct these false stories? Because in the Wikileaks, it was all about open borders, free trade for everybody." About Clinton he says: "Hillary had no defense for her secret speeches to Wall Street and international banks that she hid from the public and which were exposed by Wikileaks. And by the way, just as I'm walking on the stage, Mayor Giuliani said you're not going to believe this, look at this, we have all of these new charges. You see it just came down today. Wikileaks, some new stuff, some brutal stuff. I mean, I'd read it to you, but to hell with it, just trust me. It's real bad stuff. … In the secret speeches released by WikiLeaks, this is yesterday and the day before, Hillary – not as good as today, buy the way – Hillary Clinton – but I say that because the press will try not to pick them up because they try and protect her." (Lawfare)

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October 11, 2016: Trump Uses Russian Propaganda to Smear Clinton

Donald Trump uses a fake Russian propaganda story to incite a crowd at a rally in Pennsylvania, telling them that "proof" has just emerged of Hillary Clinton's culpability in the deaths of four Americans during the terrorist raid on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2011.

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Trump waves a piece of paper and says, "This just came out a little while ago. I have to tell you this." He then reads from the paper, purportedly an email sent by Clinton's close confidante Sidney Blumenthal. The email reads in part: "The attack was almost certainly preventable. … Clinton was in charge of the State Department … if the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate." After sharing that with the crowd, Trump then adds: "In other words he [Blumenthal] is admitting that they could have done something about Benghazi. This just came out, a little while ago." The crowd screams and boos. In reality, the words were written by Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald and were quoted by Blumenthal. The story was falsified and promulgaged on Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik, which quickly takes the article down – but only after Trump uses it in his rally. Eichenwald asks, "Who in the Trump campaign was feeding him falsehoods straight from the Kremlin?" The email was one of many hacked by Russian operatives and released via WikiLeaks. (NPR)

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October 11, 2016: Trump Cites WikiLeaks in Wide-Ranging Attacks on Clinton

Trump cites WikiLeaks repeatedly during a speech in Panama City, Florida to attack Clinton and accuse the media of colluding with her.

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He says in part: "WikiLeaks also shows something I've been warning everybody – everybody – about for a long time. The media is simply an extension of Hillary Clinton's campaign. … The WikiLeaks e-mails show that Hillary's staff even has given up secret notes on when she needs to smile. It's all a phony deal with her … WikiLeaks has given us a window into the secret corridors of government power where we see a former secretary of state announcing her desire to end forever the American independence that our Founders gave to us and wanted us to have. &hellip. These WikiLeaks e-mails confirm what those of us here today have known all along. Hillary Clinton is the vessel, a corrupt global establishment that's raiding our country and surrendering the sovereignty of our nation … The WikiLeaks speeches even showed Clinton praising the president of China for promising to assert his authority." Virtually nothing of what Trump alleges can be corroborated. (Lawfare)

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October 13, 2016: Trump Again Uses WikiLeaks to Attack Clinton, Media

In what has become familiar territory for Donald Trump, he uses various citations from WikiLeaks's email dumps to attack his opponent and the US media. Virtually nothing he says is factual.

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He says in part: "The WikiLeaks came out today, they show she's got no core. … It just came out – the sad part is we don't talk about WikiLeaks, because it's incredible, but WikiLeaks just with a lot of new ones, and it would be wonderful if these very dishonest people back there would talk about it, it would be wonderful. It would be wonderful. … The Wikileaks emails show that the Clintons and the corporate media are one and the same, they collaborate and they conspire together." In Cincinnati, he continues his groundless attacks. "The Hillary Clinton documents released by WikiLeaks just a little while ago. Make it more clear than ever just how much is at stake on November 8th. The corruption of the Clintons knows no limits and we've known that for a long time. Today WikiLeaks released new e- mails from early 2015 from Clinton campaign staffers discussing how friendly Hillary was with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, I'm shocked to hear that. … And the mainstream media, which they control and use quite viciously. They want to distract us from WikiLeaks – it's been amazing what's coming out on WikiLeaks. … This – even though, she admitted in private according to WikiLeaks, just the other day. That she knows terrorists are trying to infiltrate the refugee program which they absolutely are. … The WikiLeaks documents show how the media conspires and collaborates with Clinton campaign, including giving the questions and answers to Hillary Clinton before a debate." In Palm Beach, Florida, he says: "It's not coincidence that these attacks come at the exact same moment, and all together at the same time as WikiLeaks releases documents exposing the massive international corruption of the Clinton machine, including 2,000 more e-mails just this morning." (Lawfare)

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October 14, 2016: More False Attacks from Trump using WikiLeaks

As has become his wont, Trump lambasts Clinton using WikiLeaks-sourced material, this time during a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina. None of his allegations are true.

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"WikiLeaks showed the Clintons ripped off the people of Haiti as they were suffering and dying after the earthquake. … It also comes at a time as WikiLeaks unveils horrible, horrible things about Hillary Clinton. … WikiLeaks documents, Hillary Clinton speaking in secret – oh man, you saw those too, a secret Brazilian bank. Hillary Clinton said my dream is a hemisphere common market with open trade and open borders. There go the rest of your jobs. … The Hillary Clinton documents released by WikiLeaks make more clear than ever just how much is at stake on November the 8th. WikiLeaks released new Clinton campaign e-mails revealing how friendly Hillary was with the attorney general, Loretta Lynch." (Lawfare)

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October 16, 2016: Trump Tweets Conspiracy Article Accusing Obama of Blocking Clinton "Prosecution"

Trump posts on Twitter a false allegation that says President Obama assisted Clinton in avoiding criminal charges for what he calls her "email scheme." He writes: "We've all wondered how Hillary avoided prosecution for her email scheme. WikiLeaks may have found the answer. Obama!"

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His "proof" is a National Review article that uses material dropped by WikiLeaks to paint a truly astounding, and virtually fact-free, conspiracy theory involving Obama, Clinton, and Clinton's aide Cheryl Mills. The emails cited, from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's hacked account, are known to have been edited and falsified. The author, Andrew McCarthy, is a noted conspiracy promoter and torture defender; among other things, he has advocated the torture of terrorism suspects and accused Obama of secretly working with "radical Islamist terrorist" groups. He has written copious numbers of articles and posts arguing that Russia never hacked Democratic emails or interfered with the election. In this article, McCarthy adds the Justice Department and Attorney General Loretta Lynch into his conspiracy mix. (Lawfare, National Review, Donald Trump, National Review)

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October 17, 2016: Trump Accuses Clinton of Mishandling Classified Information, Based on WikiLeaks

In a garbled post on Twitter, Trump uses WikiLeaks to allege that Clinton was somehow protected from prosecution for "crimes" she supposedly committed. He writes: "WikiLeaks proves even the Clinton campaign knew Crooked mishandled classified info, but no one gets charged? RIGGED!"

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He links to a Bloomberg News article that reports on a WikiLeaks-based allegation that her campaign spokesperson advised her to issue a "blanket denial that she ever sent classified information through her private e-mail system because anything less emphatic could open her to charges that she broke the law," according to the article. The emails cited, from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's hacked account, are known to have been edited and falsified. Investigations have concluded that Clinton did not knowingly send or store any classified information on her email server. (Lawfare, Donald Trump, Bloomberg News)

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October 18, 2016: Trump Uses WikiLeaks to Falsely Accuse Clinton Campaign of Taking Illegal Foreign Contributions

In Colorado Springs, Trump falsely accuses the Clinton campaign of accepting illegal contributions from foreign lobbyists, using WikiLeaks as his source.

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He tells the audience: "Another series of leaked e-mails show top officials in the Clinton campaign scheming to take massive sums of money from registered foreign lobbyists. And then you wonder why we do so badly. But you don't hear the media talking about that at all, do you? You don't see it at all. As WikiLeaks proved, the media, is merely, and it truly is, it's just an extension of the Clinton campaign." The same day, he sends a tweet linking to a right-wing conspiracy blog that has published a WikiLeaks-sourced allegation that Clinton's campaign chair, Robby Mook, urged her to take illegal donations from foreign lobbyists. (Lawfare, Donald Trump, Wayne Dupree)

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October 20, 2017: Trump Uses WikiLeaks to Falsely Accuse Clinton of Voter Fraud

During a rally in Delaware, Ohio, Trump launches yet another WikiLeaks-based attack on Clinton.

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He says in part: "Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn't it? … The question of voter fraud came up during the debate. We want fairness in the election. This is having nothing to do with me. But having to do with the future of our country. We have to have fairness. John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, was quoted in WikiLeaks as saying, illegal immigrants could vote as long as they have their drivers license." The allegation about allowing illegal immigrants to vote is a lie. (Lawfare)

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October 21, 2016: Trump Falsely Accuses Clinton of Taking Illegal Contribution from Morocco

Using WikiLeaks and a article by the right-wing news blog Daily Caller, Trump falsely accuses the Clinton campaign of trying to procure $12 million in illegal campaign contributions from the King of Morocco.

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During a rally in Newtown, Pennsylvania, he tells the audience, "Now from Wikileaks, we just learned that she tried to get $12 million from the King of Morocco." That same day, he issues a tweet linking to the article saying: "Huma calls it a 'MESS,' the rest of us call it CORRUPT! WikiLeaks catches Crooked in the act – again." He uses the hashtag "DrainTheSwamp." "Huma" is Clinton aide Huma Abedin; the "mess" is from an email that WikiLeaks published that alleges Abedin called the Morocco situation a "mess" of Clinton's making. The article alleges that Clinton arranged for a $12 million donation to charity in return for the Clinton Global Initiative hosting its next event in Morocco. Abedin is apparently referencing the organization's preference to host the event somewhere else. Trump's implication is entirely at odds with the claims made by the article. Additionally, the emails cited, from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's hacked account, are known to have been edited and falsified. (Lawfare, Donald Trump, Daily Caller)

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October 21, 2016: Trump Uses WikiLeaks to Claim Clinton Campaign Has Close Relationship with Reporters

In a tweet, Trump cites WikiLeaks and the right-wing news site Washington Times to allege that the Clinton campaign has a "very friendly" relationship with elements of the US media.

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Using the hashtags "DrainTheSwamp" and "CrookedHillary," Trump posts: "WikiLeaks reveals Clinton camp's work with 'VERY friendly and malleable reporters'" Trump is quoting the article headline. The WikiLeaks information comes from the hacked emails of campaign chair John Podesta, which are known to have been edited and falsified. According to the article, an email shows that Clinton campaign aides worked with "very friendly" and "malleable" reporters to minimize the media outcry about her private email server. (Lawfare, Donald Trump, Washington Times)

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October 26, 2016: Trump Denies Connections with Kremlin, WikiLeaks

At a rally in Kinston, North Carolina, Trump denies having any connections to Vladimir Putin, Russia, or WikiLeaks: "First of all, I don't know Putin, have no business whatsoever with Russia, have nothing to do with Russia. And, you know, they like to say every time WikiLeaks comes out [with leaked information from Democratic computers], they say this is a conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russia. Give me a break." (Lawfare)


Trump supporter gives Nazi salute at rally

October 26, 2016: Trump Accuses Clinton of Paying Protesters to Incite Violence at Trump Rallies

During a speech in Kinston, North Carolina, Trump makes a truly impropable claim about Hillary Clinton via WikiLeaks. He tells the audience: "What about the Hillary Clinton fiasco? Did you ever see anything – what about all the WikiLeaks? … Folks, did you see where, through WikiLeaks, we found out that Clinton was paying people $1,500 plus an iPhone to go out and be violent at our rallies? Okay?" The allegation is, of course, a lie. (Lawfare, photo of Trump rally via Before It's News)


November 12, 2016 and After: Russian White Supremacist Propagandist Writes about Plan to Make Trump President and Reshape Global Alliances

After responding to Donald Trump's call for an uprising against President Obama, Kremlin propagandist and Putin ally Konstantin Rykov posts a response to Trump reading, "I'm ready. What should I do?" He receives a photo of a grinning Trump flashing the thumbs-up sign in return. Four years later, in a set of posts on Facebook written four days after Trump's 2016 presidential victory, Rykov will explain the plan he concocts to recruit Trump as an ally, get him elected US president, and reshape the face of global alliances.

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Rykov will write: "For four years and two days … it was necessary to get to everyone in the brain and grab all possible means of mass perception of reality. Ensure the victory of Donald in the election of the US President. Then create a political alliance between the United States, France, Russia (and a number of other states) and establish a new world order. Our idea was insane, but realizable. In order to understand everything for the beginning, it was necessary to 'digitize' all possible types of modern man. Donald decided to invite for this task – the special scientific department of the 'Cambridge University.' British scientists from Cambridge Analytica suggested making 5,000 existing human psychotypes – the 'ideal image' of a possible Trump supporter. Then … put this image back on all psychotypes and thus pick up a universal key to anyone and everyone. Then it was only necessary to upload this data to information flows and social networks. And we began to look for those who would have coped with this task better than others. At the very beginning of the brave and romantic [story] was not very much. A pair of hacker groups, civil journalists from WikiLeaks and political strategist Mikhail Kovalev. The next step was to develop a system for transferring tasks and information, so that no intelligence and NSA could burn it." In November 2017, journalist Martin Longman will write: "Keep in mind that this was all written just four days after Trump was elected. It was before people started asking questions about Cambridge Analytica or targeted social media ads. Mr. Rykov might have been boasting as he spiked the football in the end zone, perhaps even elevating or exaggerating his role. What he didn't think at that point, however, is that he had any reason to hide what he'd done."

Who is Konstantin Rykov?

Rykov is called "Putin's mouthpiece" by some Western journalists. He will create a Russian-language, pro-Trump website, and will feature Trump and his campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" on his Twitter homepage. Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Russia under President Obama, will say: "Rykov is considered to be one of the leading pro-Kremlin bloggers in Russia. As you can see from his Twitter feed, he is very active. And he loves Trump." Another source, who will remain anonymous, will call Rykov a "chief voice and troll for the Kremlin on Twitter." Rykov describes himself on Wikipedia as "one of the first professional Russian Internet producers" who began working in 2002 as the "head of the Internet department of the First Channel of the state television." He was a member of Russia's parliament, the Duma, as part of Putin's United Russia party. Rykov is also a blatant white supremacist who promotes far-right, white nationalist parties such as France's National Front and its leaders, Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine Le Pen. Rykov supports international political figures who "tend to express views that are more friendly to the Kremlin," are "supportive of engagement" with Russia, and who either support or do not complain about Putin's aggressive foreign policy and repressive tactics towards Russian citizens.

Dovetailing with Trump

Putin has his own ties to far-right, neo-Nazi political parties, and Rykov echoes those ties. So does Donald Trump. Marine Le Pen will appear at Trump Tower in January 2017 to raise money for her own political ambitions with fascist figure George "Guido" Lombardi. Putin and Rykov approve of Britain's Nigel Farage, the head of the far-right, white supremacist UKIP; Farage will dine with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon at the White House in February 2017, before moving on to meet with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London. Hungary's Viktor Orban, a far-right autocrat and white supremacist, will receive visits from Trump campaign officials Carter Page and J.D. Gordon. The neo-Nazi Austrian Freedom Party will claim to meet with Trump campaign advisor and (briefly) White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn during the same ceremony where they will sign a "working agreement" with Putin's United Russia. Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache will offer to act as "a neutral and reliable intermediary and partner" between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin. Longman will observe: "The far right in Europe is uncontroversially working hand in glove with Russian intelligence, so it's highly relevant that the far right in Europe has increasingly close ties to the far right in the United States. A prime example of this is Frank Gaffney who served as the chief foreign policy adviser to Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and then went on to enthusiastically stump for Trump." Rykov will be a key player in the Kremlin's attempts to promote Trump in specific, and white nationalists in general, so, Longman will write, his claim that he partnered with Trump in 2012 to win the election with Russian backing in 2016 is quite believable. "When Rykov made these statements, we didn't know how Cambridge Analytica had been utilized or how they targeted users on Facebook in key districts in swing states in order to maximize Trump's support. In retrospect, what Rykov was saying now makes a lot of sense and fits in with what we know." In the summer of 2016, Cambridge Analytica will offer to work with WikiLeaks to find and release illegally hacked emails from Hillary Clinton. Rykov writes that he will obtain the assistance, not only of Cambridge Analytica, but of "[a] pair of hacker groups," presumably the governmental hacking groups FANCY BEAR and COZY BEAR, "civil journalists from WikiLeaks and political strategist Mikhail Kovalev," a little-known figure. Longman will conclude: "What it looks like to me is that on November 12th, 2016, Konstantin Rykov posted pretty close to a full confession in Facebook. We've spent over a year since then trying to piece together what happened, but there's a strong sense in which he already told us. Could he possibly have made such boasts without having any knowledge of what would soon be divulged or discovered about Russian hacking and collusion between Wikileaks and Cambridge Analytica or the work that was done by Cambridge Analytica and how it was utilized on social media? Of course not. His boasts were rooted in facts and inside knowledge. Trump is no different from far right European stooges like Viktor Orban and Nigel Farage. They're all in league together and we now have a nice roadmap for laying out the entire conspiracy." (Washington Monthly, Washington Examiner)

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December 12, 2016: Trump: Too Hard to Catch Hackers, Subject Never Broached During Election

On a post on his personal Twitter account again attempting to deny the proven allegations of Russian interference in the election, Donald Trump says it is almost impossible to determine who may have hacked Democratic computers, and asks an astounding question: "Unless you catch 'hackers' in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?" (Donald Trump, Lawfare)


December 14, 2016: White House Says Trump Likely Knew about Russian Hacking

Press secretary Josh Earnest says during a press conference that it is highly probable Donald Trump knew about the Russian efforts to manipulate the US presidential election well before Election Day.

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Trump has denied any knowledge of the efforts, and has defended Russia against assertions that it engaged in the campaign to manipulate and hack the election. "There's ample evidence that was known long before the election and in most cases long before October about the Trump campaign and Russia – everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent," Earnest says. "It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent's campaign. … That's why he was encouraging them to keep doing it." Earnest is referring to Trump's invitation to Russia to find Clinton's emails, issued in late July. Trump added that Russia would "probably be rewarded mightily by our press." The New York Times recently reported that every major American news outlet repeatedly published and broadcast stories based on Russian-hacked information disseminated by Wikileaks, "becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence." Earnest also reminds reporters that Trump has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin's leadership, and hired Paul Manafort as his campaign chairman, who, Earnest says, had "extensive, lucrative, personal financial ties to the Kremlin." It was clear that what Earnest calls "the hack-and-leak strategy that had been operationalized" was not equally applied, but was focused entirely on Clinton and her campaign. "There's one side that was bearing the brunt of that strategy and another side that was clearly benefiting from it. Now, I know there's a lot of reporting that there may be some disagreement in the intelligence community about whether or not that was the intent – that's a question that they should ask and a question that they may attempt to answer – but there certainly was no doubt about the effect." For his part, Trump told Fox News Sunday that the Democrats were orchestrating a campaign of lies against Russia "because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country." He says there is no way to tell who conducted the hacking campaign." On Monday, he argued in a couple of tweets that claims of Russian interference would have been dismissed as a "conspiracy theory" had his campaign blamed that nation for his loss. The day after that interview, Trump posted on Twitter: "Unless you catch 'hackers' in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?" Trump's tweet ignored the fact that many media outlets reported on the Russian hacking campaign well before the election. Trump, of course, read extensively from the emails leaked by Wikileaks during his campaign rallies, and challenged the media to report "fairly" on the emails. Earnest says President Obama has gone "to great lengths to protect the intelligence community from even the appearance of being used as a political weapon," apparently drawing a distinction between Obama and his successor. Senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway lambasts Earnest for his assertions, telling a Fox News audience: "That is just remarkable. That is breathtaking. I guess he's auditioning to be a political pundit after his job is over soon. That is incredibly disappointing to hear from the podium of the White House press secretary. Because he basically – he essentially stated that the president-elect had knowledge of this, maybe even fanned the flames. It's incredibly irresponsible and I wonder if his boss, President Obama agrees." Conway accuses Earnest of "trying to relitigate a political campaign" while Obama and Trump are working together to create a peaceful transition of power. (Politico, Donald Trump, Politico, New York Post)

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December 19, 2016: Austrian White Nationalist Party Signs Cooperation Agreement with Moscow, Aligns with Trump

Austria's white nationalist Freedom Party (FPO) touts its alignment to Donald Trump after signing a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin's party.

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FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache and the party's recently defeated presidential candidate Norbert Hofer attend the signing ceremony in Moscow. The FPO has long taken a pro-Russian stance, and has consistently denied taking money from Russia. The party issues a statement offering to be a go-between for Russia and Trump. "It is particularly important to Strache that the US and Russia stand shoulder to shoulder," the statement says, and adds that improved US-Russian relations could help end the violence in Syria and result in a lifting of US sanctions on Russia. The statement also reveals that FPO officials met with members of the Trump transition team after the election, including Michael Flynn. (Reuters)

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December 31, 2016-January 4, 2017: Trump Promises to "Reveal" New Information on Russian Hacking, Fails to Deliver

Donald Trump tells a group of reporters outside his Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, that he knows "things that other people don't know" about the Russian hacking that influenced the election, and that he would reveal the information "on Tuesday or Wednesday," indicating January 3 or 4, 2017.

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Trump continues to deny that Russians hacked Democratic computer networks, and has consistently accepted the denials of Russian officials and WikiLeaks spokespeople over the contentions of the US intelligence community. To those agencies, he says: "I just want them to be sure because it's a pretty serious charge. If you look at the weapons of mass destruction [referring to the Bush adminstration's 2002-03 contentions that Iraq had such wespons], that was a disaster, and they were wrong. … So I want them to be sure. I think it's unfair if they don’t know." He then proclaims his own depth of knowledge about computer hacking, which he referred to in presidential debates as "the cyber." He says: "And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don't know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation." He refuses to divulge what he knows, saying, "You'll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday." Trump refuses to use email, and advises others not to use it when communicating sensitive information: "It's very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I'll tell you what, no computer is safe. … I don't care what they say, no computer is safe. I have a boy who's 10 years old; he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier." Previously, Trump's transition officials have advised reporters to "move on" from the hacking and espionage allegations. Trump has lambasted President Obama for carrying out punitive measures against Russia for the hacks, expelling 35 Russian diplomats and closing two estates the White House says were being used for intelligence-gathering. Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin declined to retaliate, and won praise from Trump in return. Trump has repeatedly denigrated media figures for speculating about Russia's involvement in the hacks. Tuesday night, he implies via Twitter that his "revelation" would be delayed because the intelligence briefing he is slated to receive on the Russian hacking has supposedly been pushed back: "The 'Intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!" NBC News confirms the briefing was always scheduled for Friday, January 6. On Wednesday, Trump lambasts the US intelligence community, saying that both WikiLeaks and Putin have denied any culpability in the hacks, and repeated WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's claim that "14-year-old kid could have hacked" into Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's emails. "Also [Assange] said Russians did not give him the info!" Trump tweets. A senior official calls Trump's verbal attacks "adversarial," telling NBC News, "He's calling out the men and women of the intelligence community the way he called out Lockheed and Boeing, but these are public servants." Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer calls Trump "really dumb" for attacking the intelligence community. He tells MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, "You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday to get back at you." Trump never publicly reveals what he knows "that other people don't know." Former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey, now with the Brookings Institution, says that it seems that not only does Trump disagree with the US governmental and private-industry cyberintelligence community, but he has no desire to learn the truth. "These aren't the statements of someone who’s interested in getting to the bottom of this," she says. "It's almost as if he's uninterested in the truth because he doesn't care if it happened or not. He doesn't see the value in understanding anything that's not politically useful to him." (New York Times, Donald Trump, NBC News, Wired)

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— 2017 —

January 5, 2017: Trump Denies Agreeing with Assange

On a post on his personal Twitter account, Donald Trump insults the media, and issues a muddled denial that he is in agreement with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Trump writes: "The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement [sic] with Julian Assange – wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people …" Trump has repeatedly stated his agreement with WikiLeaks and expressed his admiration for both the organization and for Assange. (Donald Trump, Lawfare)


March 10, 2017: FBI Continues to Investigate Connections between Trump Server, Russian Bank

The FBI is continuing its investigation into whether a computer server for the Trump Organization were connected to Russia's Alfa Bank, according to CNN. The news of the suspected server connection surfaced in December 2016 and quickly disappeared from headlines, but the FBI's counterintelligence team – the same one investigating Russia's sabotage of the 2016 election – is still probing the possible connections.

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The allegations resurfaced, ironically in a side mention in a Breitbart article that supposedly sparked Trump's specious allegation that then-President Obama wiretapped his phone. CNN reports there is no FISA warrant covering the server. Nor are there specific allegations of wrongdoing. In the summer of 2016, between May 4 and September 23, a computer server owned by the Alfa Bank made repeated contact with the Trump server, in all totaling some 80% of the lookups performed by that server during the given time period. It is not publicly known if, or how, the Trump server responded. Some experts now believe the server activity may indicate the intent to communicate by email during the time period that Russia was releasing hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign via WikiLeaks. Computer researcher Richard Clayton says: "It's not so much a smoking gun as a faint whiff of smoke a long way away. Maybe there's something else going on. It's hard to tell." The Trump server is owned by a company located in Lititz, Pennsylvania, but its IP is registered to the Trump Organization. The second largest number of lookups performed by Alfa was for Spectrum Health, a firm owned by Dick DeVos, the husband of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the uncle of Trump supporter Erik Prince, who founded the company formerly known as Blackwater. Alfa has maintained that the lookups were caused by spam marketing, and came from companies over which it has no control. No solid proof exists to give credence to that claim, and computer scientists who have examined the data say that the spam explanation holds little water. Other explanations advanced by another firm, Cendyn, are no more solid than Alfa's claims. Alfa says it has no connections whatsoever to Trump or his organization. Cybersecurity expert Robert Graham says he wants to know why Alfa Bank and Spectrum Health dominated the links to the Trump server. "It's indicative of communication between Trump, the health organization and the bank outside these servers. There is some sort of connection I can't explain, and only they are doing it. It could be completely innocent." (CNN)

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April 29, 2017: According to journalist/blogger Louise Mensch, Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn paid the Russians who hacked the DNC on behalf of both the Trump campaign and the FSB. In and of herself, Mensch is not a reliable source. Her work must be confirmed by other sources before being taken as factual.