Congressional investigators discovered emails sent to then-candidate Donald Trump, his oldest son, and others within the Trump Organization offering access to hacked WikiLeaks documents before they leaked online, CNN reports.
Investigators discovered a September 4 email sent to Trump and Donald Jr. personally, offering a decryption key and website address for the stolen documents.
That was on the same day that Trump Jr. tweeted about WikiLeaks and Hillary Clinton.
“WIKILEAKS: Hillary Clinton Sent THOUSANDS of Classified Cables Marked “(C)” for Confidential,” he tweeted, with a link to conservative blog Gateway Pundit.
WIKILEAKS: Hillary Clinton Sent THOUSANDS of Classified Cables Marked “(C)” for Confidential https://t.co/RzMaW1uN0x via gatewaypundit
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 4, 2016
The email was sent two months after it was revealed that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked. It was a month before WikiLeaks began to publish the contents of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails.
The email also arrived three weeks before WikiLeaks used their Twitter account to begin an ongoing conversation with Don Jr.
Earlier this week, Don Jr. denied remembering anything about the emails during an eight-hour closed interview with Congress.
Investigators are in the process of determining whether the person who sent the emails, who called themselves Mike Erickson, is legitimate and whether there were other attempts by Wikileaks to contact Trump’s son or inner circle.
Along with Hillary’s emails, the email offered the Trump team access to former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s hacked emails, which were published online 10 days later.
Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, told CNN that Don Jr. never responded to the email, though it’s unclear if he used the decryption key.
“We understand that the media reported 12 hours prior to this email that the DNC emails had been hacked or leaked,” Futerfas said. “We do not know who Mike Erickson is. We have no idea who he is. We never responded to the email.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also tweeted that it was “not clear what this has to do with @WikiLeaks.”
“Many enthusiastic readers emailed around archives of our publications during the election,” Assange wrote.
— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) December 8, 2017
But CNN explains the email has all the hallmarks of a Wikileaks data drop:
The use of a website and decryption key as a means to provide information aligns with past WikiLeaks practices. The idea is that WikiLeaks posts a data file on the Internet, but it is encrypted and impossible to open without the key.
In 2010, for instance, Assange posted a “poison pill” on the Internet in the form of a 1.4-gigabyte file that contained damaging information, possibly about the US government. The file was encrypted, but Assange said a few trusted associates had the key to unlock it in the event that he was imprisoned or WikiLeaks was destroyed.
Last month, Trump Jr. released messages he exchanged on Twitter with WikiLeaks starting in September 2016, including about an anti-Trump PAC’s password and a request from Trump Jr. and his father to push out links about the WikiLeaks’ Podesta email release.
According to CNN, Don Jr. downplayed his interactions with WikiLeaks, comparing them to news organizations, and claiming it was the same as speaking with CNN or NBC.