A lawyer for WikiLeaks who helped provide Donald Trump Jr. with the password to an anti-Trump website during the election has said the information was obtained legally and Trump’s son was an “innocent victim” of a political smear campaign. Lawyer info.
Jason Fishbein, a Miami attorney who has done legal work for Julian Assange, told the Washington Examiner that he was a member of a private online chat group in which a journalist posted an early-access password to a website called PutinTrump.org in September 2016. The PutinTrump website, which was funded by Democratic donor Rob Glaser, sought to expose Donald Trump’s “ties to Russia.”
The password was posted in a Slack chat group run by Charles Johnson, a right-wing political activist who worked closely with members of the Trump transition team. The chat group included independent researchers, activists, and reporters with the Daily Caller.
Fishbein told the Examiner that he sent the password to another contact at WikiLeaks, who then passed the information along to Don Jr. in a Twitter direct message. Don Jr. later told senior Trump campaign staff that he “tried the password and it works,” according to the special counsel report.
Several news outlets have questioned whether Don Jr. violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by using a password obtained through illegal means. But Fishbein said the access code was legally available and had been sent out to reporters in a press release from to let them preview the website before its official launch.
“They’re trying to use this super innocent thing as another one of those ‘Trump-Russia-WikiLeaks’ connections,” Fishbein told the Washington Examiner. “The password did not provide access for anything administrative. It was only to read the contents of the website.”
He said he did not witness other contacts between Don Jr. and WikiLeaks, and as far as he knows, there was no coordination between the two.
“I think Don Jr. is an innocent victim in this,” he said. “I think the Trumps are innocent victims.”
Fishbein also claimed he saw no indication that WikiLeaks was working with Russia; however, he acknowledged that his contacts in the transparency group were limited and he never spoke directly with Assange.
“At one point when the media was discussing that Russia was behind the hacks, I askedm 'Was there any way this was Russia?' The response I got [from WikiLeaks employees] was, ‘No, working with Russia would be a death sentence for our organization. We’re a transparency organization,’” he said.
Fishbein, a 39-year-old professional poker player and lawyer from Miami, was interviewed twice by Robert Mueller’s investigators last fall and is described in the special counsel report as an “attorney who performed worked for Julian Assange.” He first came across the radar of the Special Counsel’s Office after Roger Stone referred to Fishbein in an email to Steve Bannon as “Assange’s attorney” and a “big Democrat.”
Fishbein denied he is a Democrat — and denied ever meeting or speaking to Stone — but said he worked as an attorney for WikiLeaks from the summer of 2016 through the election. He said he conducted legal research on international law and investigated disinformation campaigns against Assange, including false allegations of pedophilia.
There were a number of other details of Fishbein’s life that piqued the interest of federal investigators, outside of his work with WikiLeaks: he lived in the same gated community as Paul Manafort; he traveled often to South America with a friend who has a Russian name; he was invited to Mar-a-Lago and met President Trump in January 2018; and he was a former colleague of Aaron Nevins, a Florida-based GOP operative who was the first person to receive documents from the DNC hack from Guccifer 2.0.
Fishbein said he previously worked for boutique Florida private spy firm CTC International Group and briefly as a reporter for the pro-Trump National Enquirer. He said aspects of his biography that appear to tie him to the Trump campaign or Russia are merely coincidental. For example, he said he never met Manafort, despite living a block away from the former Trump campaign manager and convicted tax cheat. He said his trips to South America are to buy discounted asthma medication, and his Russian-sounding friend is a Ukrainian-born poker player with no political connections.
Fishbein described Mueller’s investigators as very professional and said they “allowed Assange to assert his attorney-client privilege right and redact information” from subpoenaed documents.
“I thought they were very professional and courteous. Even friendly,” said Fishbein.
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He said investigators asked him whether he had any foreknowledge of the John Podesta email leaks; he claims he did not. He said they also quizzed him about Charles Johnson and about any Ukrainian or Russian individuals whom Fishbein knew.
“Both WikiLeaks and DOJ acted ethically and impressively, and they both are performing valuable services we should not take for granted,” said Fishbein.