We have written a lot about the Trump-Russia ordeal here at Paste—mainly myself and Roger Sollenberger. I can’t speak for Roger, but I took an interest in it largely for two reasons:
1. When I studied political science in college, I concentrated a lot of my classes on international relations, and I’m just a big ‘ol nerd for spy stuff. I’m familiar with the kind of thinking that goes on in this opaque world, and as a new full-time writer (I was in corporate America for nearly a decade before Paste rescued me), it was one of the few areas I felt comfortable speaking with some authority on.
2. As a self-described leftist, I don’t think my political allies take this story seriously enough.
I began writing about Trump-Russia in October 2016, shortly before the Access Hollywood tape came out. Trump had people like Michael Flynn (who got completely discombobulated when Michael Isikoff asked him who paid for his speech at RT’s birthday party—the Russian state-TV network) and Paul Manafort (dripping with Kremlin-connected receipts) at the highest levels of his campaign, and he was parroting Kremlin propaganda against Hillary Clinton, so it seemed obvious that there was some sort of connection to Putin’s government there. Not to mention, longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone—depicted in the title photo after his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee)—tweeted this out on October 2nd, 2016. “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
There’s a lot of obvious collusion just sitting out there in the public realm, and while its effects don’t rise to the legit McCarthyite hysterics that the extremely online #resistance brings it to, it’s a vastly important story. The raging baby tyrant that is the President of the United States has always had an inexplicably sunny disposition towards Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin—per his own words. The global oligarchy we all rage against every day? This is a big part of that story (and Russia isn’t the only country wrapped up in the special counsel investigation—the Feds are also probing the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia).
Now, Robert Mueller is taking a look at what Roger Stone portended in his October 2nd, 2016 tweet. Per The Washington Post:
Investigators have questioned witnesses about events surrounding Oct. 7, 2016, the day The Washington Post published a recording of Trump bragging about his ability to grab women by their genitals, the people said.
Less than an hour after The Post published its story about Trump’s crude comments during a taping of “Access Hollywood,” WikiLeaks delivered a competing blow to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by releasing a trove of emails hacked from the account of her campaign chairman John Podesta.
On Friday, Mueller’s team questioned Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, about claims Stone is said to have made privately about WikiLeaks before the group released emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives, according to people familiar with the session.
Wikileaks didn’t need orders to release their distraction after the Access Hollywood tape came out. It was obvious to the entire world how (seemingly) damaging it was to Trump’s campaign. We know independently of the Trump campaign, that Russia wanted him to win because they viewed him as friendlier to their interests than Hillary Clinton, so the timing of the release alone isn’t enough to indict the Trump campaign in the public eye of “collusion” in this instance.
However, when you combine the impeccable timing of the Podesta e-mail dump with the public statements mentioning Wikileaks made by close Trump advisors and Trump himself, well, the timing sure seems a little less coincidental. Not to mention that Trump Jr. later released e-mails showing minimal correspondence with Wikileaks last year—albeit correspondence that included him tweeting out a link they asked him to tweet.
Now, to my leftist allies, I know that Wikileaks is a touchy subject. They did come to life as an honest to goodness positive force for global transparency, but things changed. Wikileaks began as a broke whistleblowing outlet in 2006, but in 2010, governments fought back, and convinced Visa and MasterCard to halt payments to Wikileaks, quickly strangling the organization to near death. Later that year, in an interview with Russia’s top daily newspaper, Kommersant, Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson teased an upcoming document dump, saying that “Russian readers will learn a lot about their country. We want to tell people the truth about the actions of their governments.”
In response, an official at the FSB (the successor to the KGB), told LifeNews that “It’s essential to remember that given the will and the relevant orders, [WikiLeaks] can be made inaccessible forever.” The documents never came out. A year later, Wikileaks was in far better financial shape, and Julian Assange had his own show on Russia Today. Plus, while holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2015, Assange even stated in a press release that he requested Russian security while he was telling the whole world that his life was at risk.
Wikileaks is something of a laundromat for Kremlin propaganda. They disrupt western society by exposing the true corruption of our leaders, while framing Russian interests as beacons of stability in a cruel world. They also include outright forgeries to further sow discord, going as far as to include supposed e-mails confirming extraterrestrial life in the Podesta dump from October 2016.
There is so much smoke underlying this Trump-Russia mess that it seems mathematically impossible for there not to be a fire somewhere. Trump getting aid when he most needed it in the form of mundane, semi-gossipy hacked campaign chair e-mails that our irresponsible mainstream press pounced on like they were the Rosetta Stone is the most visible evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and now, the only people whose opinions on this topic truly matter are seriously digging into it.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.