Just one day after WikiLeaks publicly revealed thousands of Central Intelligence Agency documents, a top Donald Trump associate met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Assange remains holed up to evade extradition on sexual assault allegations. But the Trump ally, British nationalist politician Nigel Farage, refused to confirm that he met with Assange during his previously secret visit to the embassy.
London's Independent newspaper, however, did confirm that Farage met with Assange inside the embassy, where he stayed for about 40 minutes, citing sources inside Farage's ultra-right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
What Farage and Assange discussed during the meeting remains a mystery. But late on Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it was opening a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks' release of the purported CIA documents, which appear to reveal details of top secret cyber-spying and computer hacking tools and methods employed by the intelligence agency.
Trump, while a candidate for president, often praised WikiLeaks for releasing private, stolen emails from inside the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, at one point declaring approvingly, "Boy, that Wikileaks has done a job on her, hasn't it?" and "I love WikiLeaks!"
In fact, Trump brought up WikiLeaks 164 times in public speeches and interviews during the final month of the presidential election campaign alone, according to a count by the political site ThinkProgress.org. However, despite his high level of enthusiasm for the WikiLeaks Clinton attacks, Trump also claimed that WikiLeaks had "absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election."
Trump also strongly discounted the opinion of multiple U.S. intelligence agencies that Wikileaks source for many if not all of the hacked documents was, in fact, Russian government covert operatives.
But not only did Trump associate Farage pay an unexplained visit to Assange on Thursday, close Trump friend and longtime advisor Roger Stone was revealed to have been in direct contact with a hacker calling himself "Guccifer 2.0" during the presidential campaign — and even knew the contents of some documents stolen by "Guccifer 2.0" before they were released to the public.
U.S. intelligence agencies say that "Guccifer 2.0" was simply a front for Russian intelligence operatives, and "Guccifer 2.0" himself claimed to have passed a cache of hacked documents to WikiLeaks.
"The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to WikiLeaks," Guccifer 2.0 told the Smoking Gun site.
Stone also declared in Twitter postings Saturday that he had a "back channel" to communicate directly with Assange — communication which he described as "perfectly legal."
Stone is currently the target of an FBI investigation for his alleged ties to Russia and how they might have been used to illegally tamper with the 2016 presidential election. According to the Smoking Gun, Stone exchanged direct private messages via Twitter with the Russian hackers during the campaign, and the FBI possesses copies of those communications.
According to the U.S. intelligence assessment, the Russian hacking campaign was designed not merely to disrupt the presidential election, but to tilt the election in Trump's favor.
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Trump himself, as of Thursday afternoon, had yet to comment or post on Twitter about the WikiLeaks release of the alleged CIA documents.
"Perhaps Trump is staying silent because he stands to benefit from WikiLeaks' latest revelations," wrote Max Boot, a senior national security expert with Foreign Policy magazine, on Thursday.
[Featured Images by Carl Court/Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images]