CNN is reporting that the Trump campaign—including candidate Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and others—were offered access to Wikileaks documents, including special access to a Wikileaks website, a month before Wikileaks began publishing documents stolen from John Podesta’s account to the public.
The email came less than three weeks before WikiLeaks itself messaged Trump Jr. and began an exchange of direct messages on Twitter. Trump Jr. told investigators he had no recollection of the September email.
The email, which apparently slipped the memory of history’s most forgetful campaign team, included a decryption key and address for documents stolen by Russian hackers and later distributed through Wikileaks. It’s not clear if the email, which came addressed from “Mike Erickson” is from the same person who later began conversing with Donald Trump Jr. through private messages on Twitter.
Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, told CNN that his client said he had no recollection of the email and took no action on it. The White House did not respond to requests for comment, and efforts to reach WikiLeaks for comment were unsuccessful.
The email has been turned over to congressional investigators. It’s not clear if it was also among documents provided to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The September 4 date on the email puts it over a month before Trump shouted “I love Wikileaks” in the midst of one of his rallies while reading clips from stolen emails in an effort to demean Hillary Clinton.
That means that, while Wikileaks was still offering a decryption key and private access to the Trump campaign, most, if not all, of the documents at the site were already available to the public at the time the email was sent.
The full email — which was first described to CNN as being sent on Sept. 4, 10 days earlier — indicates that the writer may have simply been flagging information that was already widely available.
Wikileaks previously used information stored in an encrypted file as a threat, promising that it contained damaging information and that keys would be released if any action was taken against founder Julian Assange. But in this case, the site appears to have offered the Trump campaign exclusive access to information before it was made public.
In Wednesday’s hearing, Trump Jr. downplayed his message exchanges with WikiLeaks over Twitter. He claimed that talking to WikiLeaks was equivalent to speaking with news organizations like CNN or NBC, according to multiple sources familiar with the testimony.
It would be just the same—if those news organizations were offering stolen information, providing private keys to websites, and conspiring to put out information in a way deliberately meant to deceive the public.
“If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality. This is the real kicker. That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing about Clinton will have a much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.”
Earlier, Republican operative Aaron Nevins was given access to a large cache of DNC documents stolen by Russian military operatives working under the pseudonym “Guccifer 2.0.” Nevins worked through the documents, published some, and helped the Russians identify documents of high value—such as Democratic plans for getting out the vote on a district by district basis.
More impressed after studying the voter-turnout models, Mr. Nevins told the hacker, “Basically if this was a war, this is the map to where all the troops are deployed.”
At another point, he told the hacker, “This is probably worth millions of dollars.”
Nevins also contacted the Trump campaign through mutual friend Roger Stone. Stone claims he passed none of the material along. These documents were also made available through Wikileaks.