Far-right blogger Charles Johnson may have played a role in WikiLeaks' eventual outreach to Donald Trump Jr.
Trump Jr.'s exchanges with WikiLeaks have earned him new scrutiny this week.
Johnson published a story about an anti-Trump website that WikiLeaks then sent to Trump Jr.
A far-right blogger who set up a meeting between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in August may have tipped Assange off to an anti-Trump website that WikiLeaks then sent to Donald Trump Jr. in September 2016.
Charles Johnson, who calls himself an independent journalist and runs a site called GotNews, published an articlearound 9:30 p.m. ET on September 20, 2016, claiming he had "obtained a memo from a George Soros-tied PR firm that is launching a website to spread conspiracy theories about Donald Trump’s connections to Russia." Soros is the investor and business magnate who has become a favorite bogeyman of the far right.
"The site, PutinTrump.org, is set to be launched tomorrow morning on Wednesday, September 21, by public relations firm Ripple Strategies," Johnson wrote.
Johnson updated his article again to include the password for PutinTrump.org, which was still locked at that point. He said he had obtained it from a "GotNews researcher."
"'Let's bomb Iraq' Progress For America PAC to launch 'http://PutinTrump.org ' at 9.30am.," WikiLeaks tweeted at 12:07 a.m. ET on September 21, 2016. "Oops pw is 'putintrump' http://putintrump.org/."
Johnson took credit.
"About 2 hours after our original article, Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks repeated our discoveries," he wrote. "Guess which big leaks organization reads GotNews & WeSearchron the downlow! Come on Julian, let’s work together. WikiLeaks & WeSearchr is a match made in heaven. We can take down Hillary together."
WikiLeaks sent the 'discoveries' to Donald Trump Jr.
Perhaps unbeknownst to Johnson at the time, WikiLeaks had also "repeated" his "discoveries" in a private message to Trump Jr. — about 10 minutes before tweeting it out publicly. Trump Jr. has come under renewed scrutiny this week amid revelations that he exchanged private messages with the anti-secrecy group during the campaign.
“A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,” WikiLeaks wrote just before midnight on September 20. “The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?”
Trump Jr. replied: “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around."
It is unclear whether Johnson's TrumpPutin.org story in September marked the beginning of his contact with Assange, who has been living in asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012.
The timing could be significant
On October 2, five days before WikiLeaks published the first set of emails stolen from the inbox of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, Stone tweeted: “Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.”
Two days later, he tweeted: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.”
Stone told the House Intelligence Committee in September that he knew of Assange's plans via a "journalist" who was in touch with Assange. To the committee's frustration, however, Stone would not reveal the journalist's identity.
"I have referred publicly to this journalist as an, 'intermediary,' 'go-between' and 'mutual friend,'" Stone testified. "All of these monikers are equally true."
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FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. (L) gives a thumbs up beside his father Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (R) after Trump's debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S. September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
Donald Trump, flanked by his son Donald Jr. (R), addresses the media in Chicago May 10, 2006. Trump was in Chicago to speak about his Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago that is being built on the old site of the Chicago Sun-Times building on the north side of the Chicago River. Trump also stated in the news conference that he has given the project oversight to the children.
FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. (C) hugs his father, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, as Donald Jr's wife Vanessa (L) walks past after Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File photo
Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump during 1988 U.S. Open - September 3, 1988 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Donald Trump Jr. (L) walks off stage with his father Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump after Trump's debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S. September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. during 'Veranda: New York's Best at Trump Park Avenue, The Ultimate Showcase Penthouse' Opening Night Reception at The Trump Park Avenue in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic)
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Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 12: Donald Trump (C) and his sons Eric F. Trump (L) and Donald Trump Jr. (R) attend the 'Celebrity Apprentice All Stars' Season 13 Press Conference at Jack Studios on October 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
Donald Trump (2nd L), entrepreneur and host of the television reality series 'The Apprentice', poses with his children, (L-R) son Donald Trump, Jr., and daughters Tiffany and Ivanka at the party following the live telecast of the finale of season five in Los Angeles June 5, 2006.
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (C) speaks with Donald Trump Jr. (L) and Ivanka Trump (R) during the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (R) waves to a fan as his son Donald Jr. looks on after Trump received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles January 16, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello (UNITED STATES)
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NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: Donald Trump Jr., Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump at the Trump Soho Launch on September 19, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/WireImage)
COO Trump International Hotels, Jim Petrus, Ivanka Trump Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump at Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Jr.and Eric Trump Launch the N on October 10, 2007 at Jean Georges, Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City. (Photo by Shawn Ehlers/WireImage)
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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) introduces his son Donald Trump Jr. (R) as he addressing the crowd during a campaign rally at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on April 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Trump is preparing for the Indiana Primary on May 3rd. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 09: Donald Trump, Jr. (R) greets his father Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. This is the second of three presidential debates scheduled prior to the November 8th election. (Photo by Rick Wilking-Pool/Getty Images)
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About a month before Stone's House interview, Johnson met with Assange and Rohrabacher in London. The meeting, Johnson told reporters at the time, stemmed from a "desire for ongoing communications" between the congressman and the WikiLeaks founder.
Stone didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Assange reiterated during the meeting that Russia did not give WikiLeaks the stolen Democratic National Committee emails that it dumped in July 2016. Rohrabacher says he has been trying to meet privately with President Donald Trump to relay Assange's message. He told Business Insider last month that chief of staff John Kelly was blocking him from meeting with Trump.
The Senate Intelligence Committee sent Johnson a letter on July 27 asking him to turn over documents containing
"any communications with Russian persons, or representatives of the Russian government, business, or media interests" that relate to Russia's election meddling and the 2016 presidential campaign more broadly.
Johnson told Yahoo that he had no plans to cooperate.
“They’re going to have to subpoena me and then they’ll be sorely disappointed,” he said.
Johnson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.