“You know, they like to say every time WikiLeaks comes out, they say this is a conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russia,” the then–presidential candidate Donald Trump told a crowd in Kinston, North Carolina, in October 2016. The idea was self-evidently ridiculous, the Republican said: “Give me a break.”
Barely two years later, the idea of WikiLeaks serving as a medium for Russia to boost the Trump campaign seems more and more plausible—even likely. For some time, there has been substantial evidence of Russia’s involvement in attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election and to hurt the Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, from an elaborate trolling and Astroturfing operation to simple theft of emails and hacking. Until recently, the connection between those Russian efforts and Trump allies has remained somewhat obscure and speculative. But recent developments have started to flesh out the picture. Russia used WikiLeaks as a conduit—witting or unwitting—and WikiLeaks, in turn, appears to have been in touch with Trump allies. The key remaining questions are what WikiLeaks knew and what Trump himself knew.
According to a draft document from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russian interference in the election, the conservative author Jerome Corsi tipped off Roger Stone, a Trump friend and former political adviser, that WikiLeaks would release a tranche of emails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The tip came in August, weeks before the October release. Corsi provided the document to NBC News and then several other news organizations. As per his practice, Mueller has not commented.