Julian Assange. Taylor Hill/Getty Images
If you play with anarchic amoral cyber-attacking fire, don’t be surprised when you end up getting burnt. Or hacked, as the case may be.
This is a lesson Donald Trump and his team may be about to learn the hard way (along with the pitfalls of lying about facts that can be easily confirmed by photographic evidence). WikiLeaks, the website of “truth crusaders” who publish the hacked documents the establishment doesn’t want you to see, has been a great friend of the Trump revolution. The site raged against Hillary Clinton throughout the primaries and presidential race, spewing forth e-mails raided from the Democratic National Committee and her campaign chair John Podesta that were engineered to make her look as bad as possible. WikiLeaks may claim to be a neutral platform committed only to the truth, but the fact that there was no counter-balancing release of data from Trump’s team was telling. Then when the reports began to flood in that the hacked documents WikiLeaks had so helpfully published without question had come from Russia, the site’s founder Julian Assange stood with Trump to boldly denounce the work of seventeen US intelligence agencies.
But taking help from a nebulous group of criminal hackers led by a deluded egomaniac facing rape charges has its price. Because truth crusaders have their own set of priorities. The truth, for example.
During the primaries, every candidate released their tax returns, as has been the tradition for decades. Every candidate except Trump, that is, who protested that his tax returns were under audit from the IRS and therefore could not be released yet. This matters, because Trump is already the most financially conflicted and compromised president the US has ever had. His business empire is a murky web of domestic and international interests that span practically every area his presidency will touch – from labour regulations to trade deals to tax rules. How many more unethical – and potentially criminal – surprises are hiding in his tax returns? Does Trump own shares in the companies whose stocks he regularly sends soaring or tumbling with his incendiary tweets? We have no idea. How much debt does he owe, and to which lenders? That unanswered question will haunt every deal he makes with the international banking world. And did any of the money he has routinely promised to donate actually make it to charitable causes? According to the dedicated work of Washington Post report David Fahrenthold, almost certainly not, but a quick look at his taxes would prove it once and for all.
Trump has been asked about his tax returns at virtually every interaction he has had with the press for the past year. On the campaign trail he repeatedly promised to release them as soon as the audit was over, but after the election, the narrative began to change. “The only ones that care about my tax returns are the reporters” Trump whined, at the first press conference he had held since July. (This is, by the way, another “alternative fact” that negates reality – in a recent poll 74 percent of Americans said they wanted the tax returns to be released.) Then on Sunday, Queen of Spin Kellyanne Conway dispelled any hope that Americans might get the chance to scrutinise the financial interests of their newest president. “The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” she said. “We litigated this all through the election.”
WikiLeaks was not impressed.
Trump Counselor Kellyanne Conway stated today that Trump will not release his tax returns. Send them to: https://t.co/cLRcuIiQXz so we can.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 22, 2017
Trump’s breach of promise over the release of his tax returns is even more gratuitous than Clinton concealing her Goldman Sachs transcripts.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 22, 2017
Now it’s game on for hackers across the world to hunt down Trump’s elusive tax returns. Admittedly Russia, which played such an outsized role in the election, may wish to sit this one out, but that thing about cyber-attacks is that they can come from anywhere. As well as state-sponsored actors in places like China (which is still fuming about Trump’s rejection of the One China policy when it comes to Taiwan), there are millions of tech aficionados across the world plugged into networks that instruct and encourage individuals to stick it to the system, wherever that system may be. And now WikiLeaks, the High Church of Internet Anarchy, has called on its foot soldiers to take down Donald Trump. They will listen.
And who knows what else they might find? WikiLeaks’ band of cyber-criminals don’t take orders or play fair. Evidence supporting the numerous sexual assault allegations against the new president? Out-takes from The Apprentice that show him using language congressional Republicans will be unable to stomach? Or videos of acts even more unsavoury than those described in the alleged Russia dossier?
Trump is about to find out how it really feels to have the force of the darkest corners of the internet raging against him. Good luck to him.