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The special counsel Robert Mueller is asking witnesses in the Russia investigation whether President Donald Trump had prior knowledge about Russia’s plans to hack the Democratic National Committee, whether he was involved in coordinating the release of stolen emails, and why he endorsed Russia-friendly policy positions during the campaign, NBC News reported on Wednesday.
Mueller’s team has also asked about longtime Republican operative and Trump confidant Roger Stone’s communications with Julian Assange, the founder of the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks.
Mueller is tasked with overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor. Russia’s hack of the DNC and WikiLeaks’ involvement in disseminating the stolen emails make up a significant thread in the investigation.
In particular, NBC News reported, prosecutors are zeroing in on Trump’s public appeal for Russia to recover then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails during a July 2016 press conference.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at the time.
Investigators are also reportedly delving into Trump’s decades-long relationship with Stone, as well as Stone’s contacts with Assange and WikiLeaks.
Stone told the House Intelligence Committee last September that he had never “said or written that I had any direct communication with Julian Assange and have always clarified in numerous interviews and speeches that my communication with WikiLeaks was through the aforementioned journalist.”
Stone was referring to radio host Randy Credico, who Stone said acted as an intermediary between himself and Assange.
Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was in touch with WikiLeaks several times between September 2016 and July 2017, The Atlantic reported last year.
WikiLeaks first contacted Trump Jr. via a private, direct message on Twitter on September 20, 2016 to tell him about a PAC-run anti-Trump website, called putintrump.org, and asked him if he had “any comments” on who was behind it.
WikiLeaks also told Trump Jr. that it had “guessed the password” to the anti-Trump website, and told him it was “putintrump.”
Trump Jr. replied, “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”
On the day he received that message, Trump Jr. emailed high-ranking campaign officials, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Jared Kushner, informing them that WikiLeaks had contacted him.
Kushner also forwarded Trump Jr.’s email to Hope Hicks, who was a spokesperson for the Trump campaign. She is now the director of communications at the White House, though she has said she would resign in the coming weeks.
Trump Jr.’s communications with WikiLeaks didn’t emerge until last year, but Stone has long drawn scrutiny, particularly after he sent out a series of tweets in 2016 that raised questions about whether he knew in advance that WikiLeaks was planning on publishing Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s hacked emails.
“Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done,” Stone tweeted on October 1, 2016.
“I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp,” he tweeted two days later.
While WikiLeaks describes itself as a non-partisan transparency organization, it has been criticized for its apparently pro-Russia stance, particularly during the 2016 US election.
In addition to WikiLeaks and Assange, Stone was also in touch with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker said to be a front for Russian military intelligence.
Meanwhile, following its initial message to Trump Jr. on September 20, WikiLeaks touched base with him again on October 3 and told him it would be “great” if the campaign pushed a story about Hillary Clinton published by “True Pundit,” a conservative-leaning outlet that’s been known to spread junk news. According to the story, Clinton said she wanted to “just drone” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Trump Jr. replied that he had already shared the story earlier that day, adding, “It’s amazing what she can get away with.”
He also asked WikiLeaks about an upcoming document dump that Stone had tweeted about a day earlier.
Donald Trump Jr. (L) and Donald Trump (R). Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images
WikiLeaks did not respond to Trump Jr.’s question, and it ultimately published the first batch of hacked emails belonging to Podesta on Friday, October 7.
At a campaign rally three days later, Trump said he loved WikiLeaks. “It’s amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet,” he told the crowd.
He also tweeted about WikiLeaks on October 11, writing, “I hope people are looking at the disgraceful behavior of Hillary Clinton as exposed by WikiLeaks. She is unfit to run.”
WikiLeaks then reached out to Trump Jr. on October 12, telling him that it was “great” to see him and Trump “talking about our publications.” It also “strongly” suggested that Trump tweet out the link wlsearch.tk which he did, two days later claiming the site would help people search through the hacked documents. WikiLeaks also told Trump Jr. it had just released another batch of Podesta’s emails.
An hour later, Trump tweeted: “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”
“This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable,” Trump said the same day, at a campaign rally in Florida. “It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it.”
That day, Stone admitted to having “back-channel communications” with Assange because they had a “good mutual friend.”
“That friend travels back and forth from the United States to London and we talk,” Stone told CBS’ Miami affiliate. “I had dinner with him last Monday.”
Trump again praised WikiLeaks on October 13, saying at a rally in Ohio that the content the group was pushing was “amazing.”
The Atlantic reported Tuesday that Stone was also in direct contact with the group that day, less than a month before the election.
“Since I was all over national TV, cable and print defending wikileaks and assange against the claim that you are Russian agents and debunking the false charges of sexual assault as trumped up bs you may want to reexamine the strategy of attacking me,” Stone reportedly wrote.
“We appreciate that,” WikiLeaks replied. “However, the false claims of association are being used by the democrats to undermine the impact of our publications. Don’t go there if you don’t want us to correct you.”
Two days later, on October 15, Stone reportedly wrote back: “Ha! The more you ‘correct’ me the more people think you’re lying. Your operation leaks like a sieve. You need to figure out who your friends are.”
President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak to a “USA Thank You” tour event, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Cincinnati. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
On November 9, 2016 the day after Trump won the election WikiLeaks replied, “Happy? We are now more free to communicate.”
The group later sent another message, saying, “FYI, while we continue to be unhappy about false ‘back channel’ claims, today CNN deliberately broke our off the record comments.”
CNN said the comments in question were not off-the-record because it made no such prior agreement with WikiLeaks before the conversation.
Stone said in a statement to NBC News that he had “no advance knowledge of the content or source of information published by WikiLeaks” and added that he had not been interviewed by Mueller’s team.
“I never discussed WikiLeaks, Assange or the Hillary disclosures with candidate Trump, before during or after the election,” he told the outlet. “I have no idea what he knew about them, from who or when. I have never met Assange.”
Stone’s relationship with Trump has also been of particular interest to investigators.
One witness interviewed by Mueller’s team told NBC News that investigators asked about what Stone’s interactions with Trump were like once he ended his tenure as a Trump campaign adviser in August 2015.
“How often did they talk? Who really fired him? Was he really fired?” the witness said, describing the questions they were asked.
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Timeline emerges as Mueller probes Trump, WikiLeaks, Roger …
On March 17, 2017, WikiLeaks tweeted that it had never communicated with Roger Stone, a longtime confidante and informal adviser to President Donald Trump. In his interview with the House Intelligence Committee last September, Stone, who testified under oath, told lawmakers that he had communicated with WikiLeaks via an intermediary, whom he identified only as a journalist. He declined to reveal that persons identity to the committee, he told reporters later.
Private Twitter messages obtained by The Atlantic show that Stone and WikiLeaks, a radical-transparency group, communicated directly on October 13, 2016and that WikiLeaks sought to keep its channel to Stone open after Trump won the election. The existence of the secret correspondence marks yet another strange twist in the White Houses rapidly swelling Russia scandal. Stone and Trump have been friends for decades, which raises key questions about what the president knew about Stones interactions with Wikileaks during the campaign. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The depth of Stones relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange has been closely scrutinized by congressional investigators examining whether Trump associates coordinated with Russiaor anyone serving as a cut-out for Moscowto damage Hillary Clintons candidacy. Stone confirmed the authenticity of the messages, but called them ridiculously out of context and a paste up. He said that he provided the complete exchange to the House Intelligence Committee, but did not immediately respond to a request to provide his own record of the conversation to The Atlantic.
A screenshot of the exchange, which has not been previously reported, was provided to the House Intelligence Committee last year by a third-party source. The private messages confirm that Stone considered himself a friend of WikiLeaks, which was branded a non-state hostile intelligence service by CIA Director Mike Pompeo last April. Stone insisted that the messages vindicated his account. They prove conclusively that I had no advance knowledge of content or source of WikiLeaks publications, he said. I merely had confirmed Assanges public claim that he had information on Hillary Clinton and he would publish it. He also narrowed the scope of his earlier denials, saying that hed only denied having communicated directly with Assange, not with Wikileaks. Wikileaks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
I have never said or written that I had any direct communication with Julian Assange and have always clarified in numerous interviews and speeches that my communication with WikiLeaks was through the aforementioned journalist, Stone told the committee in his prepared statement in September. The full hearing was held behind closed doors and the transcript has not been made public. At least one lawmaker had already obtained a screenshot of the exchange before Stone testified, according to two sources familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
The correspondence raises questions about whether Stonewho served as Trumps lobbyist in Washington in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and had been encouraging him to run for president for over a decadehas kept secret any interactions that may be of interest to congressional investigators examining Russias election interference.
Stone also exchanged private Twitter messages in August and September of 2016 with a user known as Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer claimed in a posting on their WordPress site to have penetrated Hillary Clintons and other Democrats mail servers, but the self-described hacker was later characterized by U.S. officials as a front for Russian military intelligence. Stone only published that exchange after it was revealed by The Smoking Gun, a website that publishes mugshots and other public documents.
On the afternoon of October 13, 2016, Stone sent WikiLeaks a private Twitter message. Since I was all over national TV, cable and print defending wikileaks and assange against the claim that you are Russian agents and debunking the false charges of sexual assault as trumped up bs you may want to rexamine the strategy of attacking me- cordially R.
WikiLeakswhose Twitter account is run by a rotating staff, according to Assangereplied an hour later: We appreciate that. However, the false claims of association are being used by the democrats to undermine the impact of our publications. Dont go there if you dont want us to correct you.
Ha! Stone responded on October 15. The more you correct me the more people think youre lying. Your operation leaks like a sieve. You need to figure out who your friends are. Assanges internet connection was cut off days later by the Ecuadorian embassywhich granted him diplomatic asylum in London in 2012following WikiLeaks release of emails that had been stolen by Russian hackers from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podestas inbox. The morning after Donald Trump won the election, however, WikiLeaks sent Stone another message. Happy? We are now more free to communicate.
It is unclear whether Stone and WikiLeaks kept in touch, using Twitter or another platform, after the election. WikiLeaks continued to insist through at least last March that neither the organization nor Assange had ever communicated with Stone directly. Stone later identified radio host Randy Credico as the intermediary, but Credico denied that in an interview with The Daily Beast earlier this month. There was no backchannel to Roger Stone, and I think that his testimony was a lot of bravado, Credico said. Rogers a showman.
The substance of the messages does seem to corroborate, however, Stone and WikiLeaks denials prior to October 13 that they had coordinated in any significant way. WikiLeaks indicated that Stones claims of associationeven if through a backchannel, as Stone allegedwere false. But the screenshots do not show whether Stone and WikiLeaks communicated prior to October 13 or after November 9, 2016.
Democrats have asked GOP members to subpoena Twitter for the private messages of Trump associates currently under investigation in the Russia probe, according to one of the sources familiar with the internal proceedings. But the majority has so far refused. It is important to verify that information by subpoenaing the records directly from third partiesa step the Majority has consistently refused to take, said Adam Schiff, a California Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican who is leading the committees investigation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. As The Atlantics Julia Ioffe first disclosed last fall, WikiLeaks also exchanged private Twitter messages with Donald Trump Jr., who provided the correspondence to congressional investigators. WikiLeaks continued to message Trump Jr. through July 2017, actively soliciting his cooperation on ventures ranging from obtaining the presidents tax returns to appointing Assange Australias U.S. ambassador.
On July 22, 2016, just before the Democratic National Convention kicked off, WikiLeaks published thousands of emails that had been stolen from Democratic National Committee servers by hackers the U.S. intelligence community has since linked back to Russia. Stone told the Southwest Broward Republican Organization on August 8 that he had communicated with Assange and believed that the next tranche of his documentswhich Assange had hinted at in an earlier interview with CNN pertained to the Clinton Foundation. Stone soon walked that back, claiming instead that he communicated with Assange via an intermediary who he identified last November as Randy Credico. He declined to identify the intermediary in his interview with the House Intelligence Committee, but later changed his mind and claimed it had been Credico.
On October 4, 2016, Assange held a press conference to mark WikiLeakss 10th anniversary. The event had been hyped by supporters of then-candidate Trump, including Stone, as an October surprise that would completely derail Clintons presidential campaign just over a month before the election. On October 2, Stone told the far-right talk-radio host Alex Jones that he had been assured that the mother lode was coming. The next day, he tweeted that he had total confidence that @wikileaks and his hero Julian Assange would come through.
At his press conference, however, Assange gave no hints of what was to come, leaving his fans, and many of Trumps, disappointed. Still, Stone was not deterred. Libs thinking Assange will stand down are wishful thinking. Payload coming #Lockthemup, he tweeted on October 5, 2016.
The payload actually came two days later: WikiLeaks began publishing the contents of Podestas inbox, which had been infiltrated by Russian hackers seven months earlier. Stone told The Daily Caller on October 12 that Assange had delayed the email dump on purpose: I was led to believe that there would be a major release on a previous Wednesday, he said. He denied, however, that he had been given advance knowledge of the details and maintained that he was only in touch with Assange through an intermediary.
On the morning of October 13, WikiLeaks issued a clarification: WikiLeaks has never communicated with Roger Stone as we have previously, repeatedly stated. It was later that day when Stone confronted WikiLeaks in a private message, and accused the organization of attacking him. WikiLeaks did not seem fazed by the confrontation, and re-opened its line of communication with Stone on November 9. Fourteen months later, Stone visited the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange has been holed up for more than five years.
I didnt go and see Assange, Stone told The Daily Beast last month. I dropped off a card to be a smart ass.
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Roger Stone’s Secret Messages with WikiLeaks
Julian knows best. Except when he clearly doesn’t.
Image: Carl Court/Getty Images
No one can know the future, but man did Julian Assange really not have a clue.
The founder and publisher of Wikileaks is a controversial figure, and a series of leaked private chats published by The Intercept demonstrate that his lightning-rod persona is not just for the public’s benefit. Those chats also reveal several truths about the man, including the nugget that he thought we’d be better off if the Republicans won the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Which, well, yeah. About that.
That questionable assumption comes out of a private Twitter group that included Assange and some of his top online supporters. According to The Intercept, the chat logs run from May 2015 to November 2017, and were sent to the publication by the same person who created the group.
The Intercept got its hands on more than 11,000 messages, and chose to publish 16 pages of them online. A look through them gives us no top-secret bombshells, but does remind the reader that Assange is far from the master strategist.
“We believe it would be much better for GOP to win,” the Wikileaks Twitter account which The Intercept says is “widely understood” to be run by Assange wrote.
“Dems+Media+liberals woudl then form a block to reign in their worst qualities. With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities., dems+media+neoliberals will be mute.”
The GOP, in the form of Donald Trump, did of course end up winning the election. And the Democrats, contrary to Assange’s stated expectations, haven’t really managed to reign in his worst qualities. Which, if he had been paying any attention to the Democrats during the Bush years, could not have come as much of a surprise.
Image: Win McNamee /Getty Images
It seems that Assange was specifically concerned about what he assumed to be Clinton’s “greater freedom to start wars than the GOP,” writing that she “has the will to do so.” While far be it from us to call Clinton a dove, thinking the Republican party isn’t all about starting wars of choice is pretty goddamn rich.
And Trump, while thankfully not kicking off a brand new war since taking office (though he does clearly enjoy bombing Middle Eastern countries), sure does like to threaten the start of global annihilation.
Of course, the questionable comments from Assange are not limited to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In the leaked discussion he manages to throw around some transphobia, a dash of suggested antisemitism, and for good measure, musings about whether or not Clinton might have a stroke.
The excerpts of conversation are not exactly a fun read, to be clear. But they do help elucidate one key fact: Assange doesn’t exactly know what he’s talking about a fact we will now be reminded of every time the obviously restrained by Democrats Trump threatens to start World War III.
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Leaked Wikileaks chats reveal pro-GOP stance
LONDON The passengers stepping off the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt, Germany, last month head straight for the passport-scanning machines that allow European residents to enter Britain quickly and without any human interaction.
A lone figure in a black hoodie and jeans breaks off from the pack.
Too many biometric details, says Andy Mller-Maguhn, eyeing the cameras on the timesaving devices.
He has come here, as he does most months, to meet with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the worlds most controversial purveyor of government secrets. For most of the past six years, Assange has been confined to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, fearful that if he leaves he will be extradited to the United States for prosecution under the Espionage Act. Ecuador recently granted Assange citizenship, but British officials said he is still subject to arrest if he leaves the embassy.
[Ecuador grants citizenship to Julian Assange in bid to end London Embassy standoff]
Mller-Maguhn is one of Assanges few connections to the outside world. He typically brings Assange books, clothes or movies. Once in 2016, he delivered a thumb drive that he says contained personal messages for the WikiLeaks founder, who for security reasons has stopped using email.
These visits have caught the attention of U.S. and European spy chiefs, who have struggled to understand how Assanges organization operates and how exactly WikiLeaks came to possess a trove of hacked Democratic Party emails that the group released at key moments in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spoke at Ecuadors embassy in London on May 19, 2017, after Swedish prosecutors said they were dropping the probe into a rape allegation against him. (Reuters)
The three major U.S. intelligence agencies the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency assessed with high confidence that Russia relayed to WikiLeaks material it had hacked from the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. And last year, then-FBI Director James B. Comey said that the bureau believes the transfer was made using a cut-out, or a human intermediary or a series of intermediaries.
Exactly how the Russians delivered the email trove to WikiLeaks is the subject of an ongoing examination by U.S. and European intelligence officials. As part of their effort to understand the groups operations, these officials have taken an intense interest in Mller-Maguhn, who visits Assange monthly, U.S. officials said.
Mller-Maguhn insists that he was never in possession of the material before it was put online and that he did not transport it.
That would be insane, he says.
U.S. officials who once dismissed WikiLeaks as a little more than an irritating propaganda machine and Assange as an antiestablishment carnival barker now take a far darker view of the group.
Its time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate hostile intelligence service, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in the spring after the group released documents describing CIA hacking tools. In December, he doubled down on that assessment, describing WikiLeaks as a national security threat and suggesting that Assange cannot protect those who pass him state secrets.
He ought to be a bit less confident about that, Pompeo said.
[Timeline: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks]
In an interview at the Ecuadoran Embassy last month, Assange insisted that Mller-Maguhn never possessed the hacked DNC emails and blasted Pompeos statements as very strange and bombastic.
Mller-Maguhn is more cautious. How many of you wouldnt be scared s—less by the head of the CIA declaring you the next target? he asks.
The 46-year-old hacker moves through Heathrow Airport like a man who knows that powerful governments are tracking his every move. A Washington Post reporter travels with him as he goes through passport control.
He switches off his cellphone, fearful that British immigration officials have technology that can steal his data. Mller-Maguhn could enter the United Kingdom with his German identification card but prefers to use his passport. The ID card has my address on it, he says.
A heavy-set immigration officer looks over Mller-Maguhns passport and stares for several seconds at a computer screen.
Why are you in the U.K? he asks.
Im visiting people, Mller-Maguhn replies.
The officer pecks at his computer. Necks crane to catch a glimpse of the man clad in all black who is holding up the normally brisk line of passengers headed to early morning business meetings.
After a few minutes, the officer waves through Mller-Maguhn, who is walking toward the exit when the officer remembers one last question.
Sir, sir, where are you traveling from again? he shouts.
Frankfurt, Mller-Maguhn replies.
And with that he is gone. Behind him, the immigration officer is still typing. The travelers who briefly took notice of Mller-Maguhn are back staring at their phones or marching toward their destinations. Mller-Maguhn heads for the Heathrow Express into London.
Into the embassy
The roots of Mller-Maguhns relationship with Assange trace back to his teenage years in the 1980s when his walk to school in Hamburg took him past the offices of the Chaos Computer Club.
The group embodied postwar Germanys anti-fascist convictions and the hacker undergrounds libertarian ethos. Now the largest hacker club in Europe, it bills itself as a galactic community of life forms independent of age, sex, race or society orientation that strives across borders for freedom of information.
Mller-Maguhn soon became a friend, confidant and adviser to the groups founder, Wau Holland. They were like a strange couple, said Peter Glaser, a club member, journalist and friend of both men. Andy was very young and behaved like an adult, and Wau was older and behaved like a child.
Mller-Maguhn later parlayed his interest in computers and surveillance into a business that he co-founded in 2003 making encrypted phones. He had hoped to sell the phones to journalists and dissidents but quickly discovered that military and intelligence agencies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East were the only clients who understood the technology and were willing to pay for it.
This was during the time I was following the path of capitalism, he said with a smile during one of several lengthy interviews in Berlin.
Mller-Maguhn spent 10 years selling the phones before leaving the company. You can imagine, I know really strange people in really strange places, he adds. These days, Mller-Maguhn says, he runs a data center that hosts websites and manages email for businesses. He also works as a security consultant, helping companies and governments safeguard their secrets. One of his clients is in China, a state known for its suppression of the Internet and its surveillance of dissidents.
By Mller-Maguhns calculus, the nominally communist government is less prone to violence overseas and less of a threat than the United States is. They dont have the wish to apply their standards to the rest of the planet or have others dance to their music, he says. So theres a big difference.
In recent years, Mller-Maguhns consulting and advocacy work has carried him all over the world, including Moscow, where in 2016 and 2017 he attended a security conference organized by the Russian Defense Ministry.
On his way into London for his meeting with Assange, Mller-Maguhn casually mentions that he is just back from a three-day trip to Brazil.
It was business-related, he says, declining to elaborate.
Mller-Maguhn hops out of a cab in Knightsbridge, a posh section of London thats home to Harrods department store, the Ecuadoran Embassy and Assange. On this cold December day, the stores are decked out for the Christmas season. Mller-Maguhn raises a camera with a telephoto lens and aims it at a building down the street from the brick embassy where Assange has been holed up since 2012.
The shutter on his Nikon camera clicks as he snaps a few shots, hoping to spot surveillance equipment pointed at Assange and the embassy. Women in fur coats rush by him as Bentleys and Rolls-Royces roll past on the busy road. Mller-Maguhn moves down the sidewalk to get a better angle, takes some more pictures and then slings the Nikon over his shoulder.
Farther down the block and closer to the embassy, he points up toward an apartment building where he suspects that the Spaniards, angry about Assanges tweets in support of Catalan separatists, may have set up a surveillance team.
Then he bounds up the steps of the building that houses the Ecuadoran Embassy, takes one last glance over his shoulder and rings the bell of the front door, where a guard immediately recognizes him and welcomes him inside.
Mller-Maguhn met Assange through the Chaos Computer Club in 2007 when the WikiLeaks founder was seeking support for his then-fledgling organization.
In those early days, Assange described his creation as a group committed to the mission of publishing original source material so citizens of the world could see evidence of the truth about global corporations and their governments.
Just past the doors to the embassy, a guard asks Mller-Maguhn to turn over all electronic devices: cameras, mobile phones, as well as his watch and car keys.
The last time, they even looked into the fruit I was bringing, Mller-Maguhn says. These guys have their job. They have their instructions. So I am not complaining.
Since WikiLeaks early days, Assanges circle of contacts has contracted significantly. Some allies, such as Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who first invited Assange to the Chaos Computer Club and signed on as WikiLeaks spokesman, broke with WikiLeaks in 2010 after Assange released hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. military documents without redacting the names of local Afghans who had helped the military and could be targeted by the Taliban. Other backers were put off by Assanges legal troubles and allegations of sexual assault in Sweden or his Manichaean view of the world.
Still others alleged that the group allowed itself to be used as a tool by the Russians in their campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Look, he has messed up with so many people, I have no idea how many people he has left as friends, Mller-Maguhn says.
Assange continues to fear that he will be prosecuted by the United States and as a result is afraid to leave the embassy, saying that doing so would lead to his extradition. The Justice Department is considering a case against him, according to people familiar with the matter. Several months ago, Domscheit-Berg said, the FBI sought an interview with him in connection with a long-running grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks publication of State Department cables. Domscheit-Berg said in an interview that he rebuffed the request. No matter the differences that Julian and I had, Im not going to talk to anybody about what happened, he said.
WikiLeaks is always just chaos
As WikiLeaks has contracted and Assange has retreated from public view, it has become harder for Western intelligence agencies to get a sense of how the group operates. An internal CIA report from November said the U.S. intelligence community has gained few good insights into WikiLeaks inner workings. The agency predicted that Assanges negative views of Washington would lead the group to continue to disproportionately target the United States.
Former WikiLeaks supporters say the group is governed by Assanges whims. The way to think of it is always just chaos, said one former WikiLeaks activist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a frank opinion and avoid retribution from Assange. There arent any systems. There arent any procedures no formal roles, no working hours. Its all just Julian and whatever he feels like.
During the 2016 campaign, Assange put out word that he wanted material on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He was kind of asking everybody, Can we get something for the election? Mller-Maguhn recalls.
Assange signs off on all WikiLeaks publications but does not review everything that comes to the group. For security reasons, he does not want that, Mller-Maguhn says. Mller-Maguhn, though, is vague about WikiLeaks internal workings.
A former WikiLeaks associate said that Mller-Maguhn and a colleague oversaw submissions through WikiLeaks anonymous submission server in 2016 although Mller-Maguhn denies such involvement.
Asked to explain the submission review process, he replies, I dont want to.
The only reliable way to contact Assange, he says, is through Direct Message on Twitter. He seems to live on Twitter, adds Mller-Maguhn, who doesnt hide his disdain for the platform. On Twitter you follow people, and thats what German history forbids you to do, he says.
The size of WikiLeaks staff and its finances are also murky. Neither Mller-Maguhn nor Assange will say how many people work for the group or where they are located. It seems to be a rather small team, Mller-Maguhn says.
WikiLeaks has amassed a stash of bitcoin, a digital currency that enables anonymous, bank-free transactions. As of this week, the stockpile is worth about $18million, although in late December, with the currencys spike in value, the group was sitting on $25million, according to public online ledgers that record such transactions. Over the past several years, the Wau Holland Foundation, which was started in 2003 after the founder of the Chaos Computer Club died, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for Assanges group.
Mller-Maguhn sits on the board of the foundation, which seeks to promote freedom of information and civil courage in various forms. He says the foundation has provided support for some of WikiLeaks releases, such as last years Vault7 disclosure of CIA hacking tools.
He describes the Vault 7 releases as a public service, adding that the CIA was messing up other peoples computers and making it look like someone else had done it.
To Assange, any suggestion that Mller-Maguhn may have served as an intermediary to deliver the DNC emails is a lame attempt by U.S. intelligence agencies to hurt the Wau Holland Foundation, which is a key conduit for tax-free donations in Europe.
The threat is all the more significant because the only other source of tax-exempt donations, the U.S.-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, has cut ties to WikiLeaks.
Mller-Maguhn says he cannot say with certainty what was on the USB drive that he delivered to Assange. How can I prove what was on there? he says. I cannot. But he adds that it would be risky and impractical to deliver sensitive files by hand, rather than through encrypted channels.
A classical walk-in? You saw too many movies from the 1970s, he says.
These days, Mller-Maguhn describes his visits to the embassy as motivated by an increasingly rare commodity in Assanges world: friendship. Assanges visitors include celebrities, such as actress Pamela Anderson, and politicians, such as Nigel Farage, a vocal advocate for Britains exit from the European Union, and Dana Rohrabacher, a GOP congressman from California.
When he talks to visitors, Assange turns on a white noise generator in the embassy conference room to counter listening devices. Above the door, he points out a surveillance camera and indicates that sensitive messages should be communicated only via handwritten notes, shielding the text from the camera with a hand or notepad cover.
On July 3, 2016, Mller-Maguhn visited Assange at the embassy to celebrate Assanges 45th birthday. Inside the brick building, Ecuadoran children, dressed in traditional garb, serenaded Assange with little guitars and pipe flutes.
As the children sang, Mller-Maguhns mind flashed forward.
I had this s—ty impression of me standing there watching 50-year-olds making music for us, and Julian would still be there, he said.
After about two hours inside the embassy last month, Mller-Maguhn emerges from the building, carrying his black leather satchel, stuffed with documents, and his Nikon camera. He quickly makes his way through the Christmas crowds and back to Heathrow Airport for an evening flight home to Germany.
He tries to minimize his time in Britain. I dont like to stay overnight in a country that is hostile toward me, he says.
Jaffe reported from Washington. Greg Miller, Rachel Weiner and Julie Tate in Washington, Karla Adam in London and Stefan Pauly in Berlin contributed to this report.
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A German hacker offers a rare look inside the secretive world …
Chelsea Manning, the transgender Maryland woman convicted of sharing thousands of military documents with Wikileaks, has filed her candidacy to challenge Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin in this years election.
Manning declared her intentions Jan. 5 with the Federal Election Commission, which posted the document on its website Thursday. She is running as a Democrat.
Manning, a 30-year-old Oklahoma native, had previously lived in Montgomery County before enlisting in the Army and eventually facing a court-martial for leaking classified and sensitive information. She moved back to Maryland last year after President Obama commuted her 35-year sentence in the final days of his administration.
She is at least the fourth candidate lined up to unseat Cardin, according to state election records, but by far the most well known. Previously known as Bradley Manning, she has been held up as a heroic whistle-blower and denounced as a traitor for revealing information about military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and about detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Cardin, who served 20-year tenures in the Maryland House of Delegates and the U.S. House of Representatives before succeeding retiring U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes in 2007, is not considered particularly vulnerable to challenge.
He had an approval rating of 50% as recently as October, according to Morning Consult. That was around the middle of the pack for all senators and 2 percentage points higher than that of Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who won the race to replace former Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2016.
Cardins campaign had about $2 million on hand as of Sept. 30, according to federal campaign finance records.
Representatives for Cardin did not immediately return calls for comment Saturday.
Conservative news outlet Red Maryland first reported Mannings candidacy.
Federal election documents list Mannings campaign committee address as an apartment tower in North Bethesda. They do not show any campaign finance reports for Mannings campaign.
Manning could not immediately be reached for comment.
The day after Manning filed her candidacy, the television network Showtime announced that later this year it would air a documentary called XY Chelsea that follows her release from prison. Among the documentarys executive producers is Laura Poitras, who produced Citizenfour, a documentary about another famous leaker, Edward Snowden.
Manning has not discussed her Senate campaign on Twitter, but has recently weighed in on political issues there. On Tuesday, which was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, she stirred controversy when she tweeted … the police, and then, police kill hundreds of people every year with absolute impunity.
When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided 7-Eleven stores around the country on Wednesday, she tweeted, so @icegov is literally the new gestapo.
She has written about transgender rights and bullying in columns published on the website Medium. Last year, she wrote a column for the Guardian opposing compromise in politics.
We need to stop asking them to give us our rights, she wrote. We need to actually take the reins of government and fix our institutions.
When another Twitter user criticized Mannings diatribe on police last week and said have fun never voting again, she responded that she was registered to vote despite her criminal record: state of maryland doesnt disenfranchise.
Marylands primary election will be held June 26. The general election is Nov. 6.
Dance writes for the Baltimore Sun.
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Chelsea Manning, convicted of giving military documents to …
WikiLeaks posted the full text of Michael Wolffs explosive new book about President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for serious case of amnesia after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I dont want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE on Sunday.
The websites official account tweeted a link to a Google Drive containing the full text of the book.
New Trump book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. Full PDF: the tweet read.
New Trump book “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff. Full PDF: https://t.co/sf7vj4IYAx
The book has dominated headlines over the past week, with the White House saying it is full of lies.
“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” claims that former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon thought the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump files paperwork to transfer businesses MORE and a Russian lawyer was treasonous.
Trump blasted Bannons remarks, saying the former aide had lost his mind.
Bannon called Trump Jr. a patriot and a good man in a statement Sunday, adding that he regretted not responding to his comments reported inthe book earlier. He did not deny the quotes.
The book has also raised concerns about Trumps mental fitness. The president fired back at those questions in aseries of tweets on Saturday, calling himself a very stable genius.
WikiLeaks hasa long history with Trump. Trump Jr. corresponded with the site during the presidential campaign, and White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerKushner: Trump team working on Mideast peace plan unconventional, but perfectly qualified US attorney fired by Trump: Mueller team likely looking at everyone Additional Trump transition official identified who knew about Flynn’s Russia contact: report MORE also received emails about Russia and WikiLeaks before the election.
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WikiLeaks shares full text of Wolff’s Trump book | TheHill
Provided by The Hill WikiLeaks posted the full text of Michael Wolff’s explosive new book about President Trump on Sunday.
The website’s official account tweeted a link to a Google Drive containing the full text of the book.
“New Trump book ‘Fire and Fury’ by Michael Wolff. Full PDF:” the tweet read.
The book has dominated headlines over the past week, with the White House saying it is full of lies.
“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” claims that former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon thought the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer was “treasonous.”
Trump blasted Bannon’s remarks, saying the former aide had “lost his mind.”
Bannon called Trump Jr. a “patriot” and a “good man” in a statement Sunday, adding that he regretted not responding to his comments reported inthe book earlier. He did not deny the quotes.
The book has also raised concerns about Trump’s mental fitness. The president fired back at those questions in aseries of tweets on Saturday, calling himself a “very stable genius.”
WikiLeaks hasa long history with Trump. Trump Jr. corresponded with the site during the presidential campaign, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner also received emails about Russia and WikiLeaks before the election.
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WikiLeaks shares full text of Wolff’s Trump book
A British tribunal has recognised Julian Assanges WikiLeaks as a media organisation, a point of contention with the United States, which is seeking to prosecute him and disputes his journalistic credentials.
The issue of whether Assange is a journalist and publisher would almost certainly be one of the main battlegrounds in the event of the US seeking his extradition from the UK.
The definition of WikiLeaks by the information tribunal, which is roughly equivalent to a court, could help Assanges defence against extradition on press freedom grounds.
The US has been considering prosecution of Assange since 2010 when WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of confidential US defence and diplomatic documents. US attorney general Jeff Sessions said in April this year that the arrest of Assange is a priority for the US.
The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, after leaks of emails from the US Democratic party and from Hillary Clinton, described WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. He added Assange is not covered by the US constitution, which protects journalists.
But the UKs information tribunal, headed by judge Andrew Bartlett QC, in a summary and ruling published on Thursday on a freedom of information case, says explicitly: WikiLeaks is a media organisation which publishes and comments upon censored or restricted official materials involving war, surveillance or corruption, which are leaked to it in a variety of different circumstances.
The comment is made under a heading that says simply: Facts.
Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been granted diplomatic asylum.
The tribunals definition of WikiLeaks comes in the 21-page summary into a freedom of information case heard in London in November. An Italian journalist, Stefania Maurizi, is seeking the release of documents relating to Assange, mainly in regard to extradition, and had lodged an appeal with the tribunal.
While the tribunal dismissed her appeal, it acknowledged there issues weighing in favour of public disclosure in relation to Assange. But it added these were outweighed by a need for confidentiality on the matter of extradition.
The UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the US justice department have refused to confirm or deny whether they have discussed extradition of Assange.
Maurizi, likely to take her appeal to a higher tribunal, welcomed Bartletts acceptance of WikiLeaks as a media organisation but argued the tribunal should have gone a step further by pushing the CPS to confirm whether the US has lodged an extradition request.
If such a request were made, the UK would not be assisting the US to extradite a narco, a mafia boss, or a drug kingpin. It would being assisting the US to extradite a media publisher to prosecute him and his media organisation for their publications, she said.
The tribunal also looked at the destruction by the CPS of emails relating to Assange. It said the deletion took place when a CPS lawyer retired and it had been believed all significant case papers were collated separately from his email account.
The tribunal said: We conclude that there was nothing untoward in the deletion of the email account.
Maurizi had put in FOI requests for information relating to communications between the UK and Sweden, where prosecutors were investigating sexual assault allegations against Assange which have since been dropped. Supporters of Assange feared that if he want to Sweden, the US would seek to extradite him from there.
Maurizi also pressed for disclosure of any communications by the CPS and the US to extradite Assange directly from the UK.
Estelle Dehon, who specialises in freedom of information and who represented Maurizi at the tribunal, said that while disappointed with the overall ruling, she welcomed some of the findings.
Progress has been made because the tribunal accepted that the circumstances of the case raise issues of human rights and press freedom and also agreed that there is a significant public interest in disclosing the information, in particular to increase understanding of how the CPS handled the extradition process and its relationship with a foreign prosecuting authority, Dehon said.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are facing multiple investigations by U.S. authorities, including three congressional probes and a federal criminal inquiry, sources familiar with the investigations said.
The Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees and leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee are probing the websites role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, according to the sources, who all requested anonymity, and public documents.
WikiLeaks published emails hacked from the Democratic Party and the personal email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clintons 2016 presidential campaign chairman.
In a report issued in January, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Russian intelligence did the hacking, and the GRU, Russias military intelligence agency, sent hacked data to WikiLeaks via intermediaries.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating who gave WikiLeaks the hacked Democratic National Committee data that WikiLeaks published in July 2016, which included more than 44,000 emails and 17,000 attachments, the sources said. So far, its inquiries are still at an early stage, the sources said.
Senate Judiciary Committee leaders have asked Jared Kushner, Trumps son-in-law, for emails related to WikiLeaks.
The House Intelligence Committee has questioned Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump and a veteran political operative who promoted WikiLeaks disclosures of the emails on Twitter.
After initially refusing to identify an intermediary he dealt with who was in contact with Assange, Stone later told the committee it was Randy Credico, a left-wing comedian.
The committee sent Credico a letter asking him to appear voluntarily. When he declined to do so, the panel sent him a subpoena requiring him to give a deposition.
Credicos lawyer, Martin Stoller, said on Wednesday that Credico was considering whether to invoke his First and Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution to avoid answering questions.
It is unclear whether Credico could help investigators uncover where WikiLeaks got the hacked Democratic emails.
In emails to Reuters, Stone has dismissed the intelligence agencies conclusion about Russian hacking.
It is not known whether Robert Mueller, the Justice Department special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, is investigating WikiLeaks.
A U.S. lawyer for Assange, Barry Pollack, said Muellers team had not contacted him.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, are conducting a criminal investigation into how WikiLeaks obtained thousands of classified U.S. government documents, including CIA materials and most recently ultra-secret technical materials describing American spy agency hacking tools. Law enforcement sources and Pollack said the probe began several years ago.
Assange has lived in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for several years after taking refuge there when Swedish authorities sought his extradition in a sexual molestation case.
(This story has been refiled to fix spelling of WikiLeaks in headline)
Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Walcott and Jonathan Oatis
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WikiLeaks faces U.S. probes into its 2016 election role and …