The Trump campaign contacted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016 regarding thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails kept on a private server while she was secretary of state, according to four sources familiar with the outreach, CNN reports.
Alexander Nix, the head of a data analytics company working with the Trump campaign sent an email to several people including top Donald Trump donor Rebekah Mercer, relaying that he had emailed Assange seeking access to emails from Clinton’s private server to turn them into a searchable database for the campaign and a pro-Trump political action committee, the report says.
The company, Cambridge Analytica, was hired in the summer of 2016 as part of the Trump campaign’s three-pronged data operation, which was led by Brad Parscale and overseen by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Wikileaks released hacked emails in July from the Democratic National Committee and in October from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. US intelligence has said the Podesta emails were stolen by Russia and handed over to WikiLeaks through an intermediary. It is not clear whether the Trump campaign reached out to Assange before the emails were delivered by the hackers.
The Daily Beast first reported news of the email outreach. It occurred as Trump increasingly criticized Clinton for deleting thousands of emails from her private server. There is no evidence that Clinton deleted the emails or that Wikileaks ever had possession of them.
At the time, Trump openly called Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, urging the foreign adversary to conduct cyber espionage against a former secretary of state.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said during a news conference in an apparent reference to Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The attempt at collaboration raises fresh questions about the willingness of people associated with the Trump campaign to work with Wikileaks for political gain.
News of the email exchange comes amid federal investigations into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director, was interviewed Tuesday by the House intelligence committee as part of that inquiry.