US investigators in the Russian probe led by Robert Mueller have been asking witnesses if US President Donald Trump knew that emails were stolen from Democrat entities by Russians and were going to be leaked by WikiLeaks prior to their publication.
Mueller's team is particularly interested in Trump's call in July 2016 for Russia to find the 30,000 emails missing from opponent Hillary Clinton's private email server, a topic that had dominated much of the election cycle, according to a report by NBC News.
“Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said a few days after WikiLeaks began dribbling out emails stolen in the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer later said the president was joking.
Investigators have also asked whether the then-candidate knew that Clinton campaign manager John Podesta was in the sights of Russian hackers and WikiLeaks. Podesta was hacked and his emails published by the whistleblower site a few weeks after the DNC emails began to appear online.
The probe has also included questions as to whether close Trump friend, Roger Stone, coordinated with WikiLeaks to release the emails and do damage to the Clinton campaign. A few weeks before the Clinton campaign manager's emails were leaked, Stone tweeted that "it would soon be Podesta's time in the barrel.”
Podesta welcomed the investigation. "In 2016, the hack of my emails was often treated as a politically interesting event," NBC News cited him as saying. "For the record, it was a crime. Glad Mueller is trying to get to the bottom of everyone involved in that crime."
Recently, emails have surfaced showing that Assange and Stone did have a relationship but both deny they conspired to help Trump by pushing the DNC emails. “They prove conclusively that I had no advance knowledge of content or source of WikiLeaks publications,” the Atlantic cited Stone as saying. “I merely had confirmed Assange's public claim that he had information on Hillary Clinton and he would publish it.”
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