Alexander Nix, who heads a controversial data-analytics firm that worked for President Donald Trump's campaign, wrote in an email last year that he reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about Hillary Clinton's missing 33,000 emails.
Nix, who heads Cambridge Analytica, told a third party that he reached out to Assange about his firm somehow helping the WikiLeaks editor release Clinton's missing emails, according to two sources familiar with a congressional investigation into interactions between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Those sources also relayed that, according to Nix's email, Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn't want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own.
If the claims Nix made in that email are true, this would be the closest known connection between Trump's campaign and Assange.Cambridge Analytica did not provide comment for this story by press time.
After publication, Assange provided this statement to The Daily Beast: "We can confirm an approach by Cambridge Analytica and can confirm that it was rejected by WikiLeaks."
Nobody has published the 33,000 emails that were deleted from the personal email server Hillary Clinton used while she was secretary of State.
"It's not at all clear that anybody hacked Clinton's emails or has them," said one of the sources familiar with the investigation.
Those 33,000 messages were a central focus of Trump and his allies during the campaign. At least one Republican operative tried to recruit hackers to obtain those emails, according to The Wall Street Journal. And at a press conference on July 27, 2016, while the Democratic National Convention was underway, Trump—then the Republican nominee—said he hoped the Kremlin would recover those emails."Russia, if you're listening, I hope you'll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," he said.
And on the campaign trail, Trump praised WikiLeaks and tweeted about its findings. Politifact calculated that he mentioned the site about 137 times during the campaign.
"If the claims are true, this would be the closest known connection between Trump's campaign and Wikileaks."
"I love WikiLeaks!" he proclaimed at a rally on Oct. 10, shortly after the site began publishing emails hacked from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
By April, Trump's CIA director was calling WikiLeaks a tool of Kremlin spies and the equivalent of a "hostile intelligence service."
Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump, was in touch with Assange through an intermediary. The House Intelligence Committee is pushing Stone to share the identity of that intermediary with them. So far, he has not complied.
Robert and Rebekah Mercer, a billionaire father-daughter duo that spent big to boost Trump's presidential candidacy, are major investors in Cambridge Analytica. Robert Mercer co-manages a hedge fund that drew scrutiny from congressional investigators in 2014 for using questionable banking tactics to allegedly dodge paying upward of $7 billion in taxes. Steve Bannon, formerly a senior White House aide, was on the company's board before he joined the White House. He has worked with the Mercers on multiple conservative projects, and Bloomberg News reported he previously had holdings in Cambridge Analytica valued at between $1 million and $5 million.
The Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica millions for its work. A former Trump campaign staffer previously told The Daily Beast that the firm did very little actual work for the campaign.
A Republican digital strategist who worked with Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 campaign told The Daily Beast that Nix should not be viewed as a reliable narrator.
"Alexander Nix is not credible at all," the strategist said. "He is a consummate salesman, and there are numerous instances already out in the public record where he made claims that were not just factually wrong—they were total fabrications."
The source added that this doesn't mean Nix didn't reach out to Assange.
"I wouldn't put it past him, if you consider every other thing that he's done, every other way that he's conducted business," the strategist added. "I absolutely can see him reaching out and making an inquiry, hoping to find another way that Cambridge could become the heroes."
Update 11 a.m.: This report has been updated to include Assange's comments.
Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, October 25, 2017
October 26, 201