07.16.2018 0

Mueller indicts Russia for hacking the DNC and Podesta but when did Wikileaks actually get the emails?

By Robert Romano

Special Counsel Robert Mueller on July 13 indicted several Russians said to be GRU intelligence operatives who Mueller alleges hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and gave the emails to Wikileaks to be published.

But just as important as what the indictment alleges is what it does not.

No collusion

The biggest takeaway is that nowhere in the indictment does Mueller name the Trump campaign or any Trump campaign officials as having been involved with the hack or the email’s publication on Wikileaks.

The indictment does not name then-campaign manager Paul Manafort or campaign advisor Carter Page, differing from British spy Christopher Steele’s claims via his infamous dossier that the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia on the hack and publication of emails.

Specifically, Steele alleged his source had said “there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia. Steele elaborated, stating in July 2016, “This was managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared… Inter alia, Source E, acknowledged that the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages, emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was ‘plausible deniability’ and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of TRUMP and senior members of his campaign team.”

In fact, the Mueller team has already ruled out Manafort having had anything to do with collusion with Russia on anything, let alone the Wikileaks publication. In a July 6 court filing, the special counsel stated of the Manafort trial, “The government does not intend to present at trial evidence or argument concerning collusion with the Russian government…” To wit, none of the charges against Manafort have anything to do with hacking the DNC or publishing the emails on Wikileaks — or even Russia or the Trump campaign for that matter — despite Steele’s claims to the contrary.

As for Carter Page, he has not been charged with anything. Perhaps because he didn’t do anything, despite Steele claiming he did.

Meaning, if the purpose of the special counsel’s investigation is to corroborate the Steele dossier, so far it has failed to do so.

When did Wikileaks get the DNC emails it published? What about the Podesta emails?

According to the Mueller indictment, “Between on or about May 25, 2016 and June 1, 2016, the Conspirators hacked the DNC Microsoft Exchange Server and stole thousands of emails from the work accounts of DNC employees.”

The indictment also alleges that Wikileaks, cited as “Organization 1” in the document, reached out to the hackers, posing as Guccifer 2.0, to get those emails: “On or about June 22, 2016, Organization 1 sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 to ‘[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.’” Also, the indictment alleges that Guccifer 2.0 did not send the documents until July 14, 2016.

A technical note here, the words “stolen from the DNC” in square brackets appear to have been inserted by the special counsel. That may or may not end up being important later on as we learn more information.

Because there appear to be a few potential issues that immediately emerge with the timeline presented by Mueller here.

On June 15, 2016, seven days prior to Wikileaks allegedly contacting Guccifer 2.0, the WordPress blog by Guccifer 2.0 appeared, taking credit for the DNC hack, and saying everything had already been given to Wikileaks. Guccifer 2.0 claimed, “The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to Wikileaks. They will publish them soon.”

That had come just one day after, the Washington Post had published its story on the DNC hack by Russia, on June 14, 2016.

Which came two days after Wikileaks founder Julian Assange appeared to claim to already have the emails. On June 12, 2016, Assange told ITV in an interview that “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton, which is great, Wikileaks has a very big year ahead… We have emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication, that is correct.”

If Wikileaks only reached out to Guccifer 2.0 on June 22, 2016, supposedly to get the DNC emails, and Guccifer 2.0 did not send those emails to Wikileaks until July 14, 2016, then:

  1. Why was it that on June 12, 2016, Assange was already claiming to have the emails?
  2. Why had Guccifer 2.0 claimed to have already given the documents to Wikileaks on June 15, 2016?

This calls into question what emails Wikileaks had managed to get through its own means, and what materials that had been procured by the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent to Wikileaks. They may not have been the same, something Wikileaks has contended all along.

On the other hand, Assange could have actually been referring to the Podesta emails. Per the new indictment: “On or about March 21, 2016, LUKASHEV, YERMAKOV, and their co-conspirators stole the contents of [John Podesta’s] email account, which consisted of over 50,000 emails.”

So, it’s possible that by June, Assange already had the Podesta emails, and it was the DNC emails that were later given to him. But for his part, Assange has denied any connection with Russia.

In an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio program on Dec. 15, 2016, Wikileaks’ Assange called the accusations that Russia was behind its disclosures a “deliberate attempt to conflate” its own releases and the presence of Russian hacking the DNC, stating emphatically, “Our source is not the Russian government.”

Hannity specifically asked Assange about Guccifer 2.0 and DCleaks.com, and Assange said, “who’s behind these [sites], we don’t know.” Hannity explicitly asked if Assange knew them, and Assange said, “No,” indicating they were in fact not the source for Wikileaks’ DNC and Podesta releases.

Now, it appears that since that time, Mueller and the Justice Department have come into other information but the questions about the timing of when Wikileaks got the emails appears to be of critical importance, particularly if Assange on June 12, 2016 — prior to the Washington Post breaking news about the hack — was saying he already had the emails before Mueller says he ever received them.

Papadopoulos couldn’t have known about the DNC emails, but what about the Podesta emails?

Then there’s then-Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators and who had been charged by Mueller.

According to Mueller’s indictment, Papadopoulos had been told on April 26, 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including “thousands of emails”.

But according to the new indictment of the Russian intelligence officials, the DNC emails were not exfiltrated from the DNC servers until at least May 25, 2016, a month later.

Still, again, this could have been referring to the Podesta emails, which per Mueller were obtained via spearphishing in March.

Or, the potential emails could have been from the Hillary Clinton private email server that had stored classified information. We simply don’t know, because Papadopoulos never received any of the emails, per Mueller.

Ball in Wikileaks’ court

Throughout this whole ordeal the past two years, this author has had an open mind about the origins of the DNC and Podesta hacks. I have been skeptical of many of the allegations presented heretofore. But now Mueller is contending to have connected all the dots on the DNC and Podesta email hacks by Russia and their publication by Wikileaks.

The organization that might be in a position to either prove or disprove Mueller’s allegations specific to Russia giving the emails to Wikileaks is none other than Wikileaks.

There is more at stake than simply Wikileaks’ reputation. With U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting in Helsinki, Finland, tensions between the world’s foremost nuclear powers have been escalating the past number of years — a trend that accelerated in 2016.

If Wikileaks truly received the emails from somebody other than Russian agents, now would be a good time to release that information.

Or denials notwithstanding, it could have been Russia all along. Whether Wikileaks knew it at the time might be a separate matter. For everyone’s sake, it might be better to put this all behind us. The world needs the truth of what really happened.

For now, Mueller is not alleging that the Trump campaign conspired to get the emails from Russia and put them on Wikileaks as Steele had alleged, and per his recent filing in the Manafort case, that case may never be forthcoming. Stay tuned.

Robert Romano is Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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