If Hillary Clinton’s die-hard opponents were hoping for an October surprise, they’re going to have to wait.
A Tuesday morning press conference by WikiLeaks, which Clinton antagonists and conspiracy theorists had hoped would spell the beginning of the end of her presidential campaign, turned out to be a celebration-cum-infomercial for the website, which celebrates its 10th anniversary today and is promoting a new book.
Either WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, never really had the goods on Clinton, or Donald Trump and his supporters just got wickedly trolled.
For months, WikiLeaks has been hinting that it would release damaging documents about Clinton in the home stretch of the presidential campaign. The group had posted embarrassing emails stolen by hackers from the Democratic National Committee in July, leaving the world wondering, what else does Assange have in his hard drive?
Egged on by the apparently unfounded claims of Trump adviser Roger Stone that WikiLeaks had a campaign-ending document dump in store, anticipation reached a fever pitch. According to Google, the top trending question about Trump’s opponent on Monday was “What could WikiLeaks have on Clinton?”
Turns out, probably not much. There was no spectacular release of private emails. No bombshells about the Clinton Foundation or brain tumors. Instead, Assange and some of his WikiLeaks colleagues used the press conference to make a pitch for donations and to note the remarkable quantity of the site’s work—10 million documents published, containing more than 10 billion words, which the group claims is “more secret documents than the rest of the world’s media combined.”
With legions of Trump supporters and Clinton haters feeling deceived, Stone claimed that Assange had never promised a big reveal.
"Not at all what he said," Stone wrote in an email to The Daily Beast, adding that journalists had engaged in "wishful thinking."
Stone had already seemed to tamp down expectations ahead of the press conference, which was streamed live at 4 a.m. Eastern time.
“Assange correctly fears for his life because he has the deep secrets of the Deep State and he’s getting ready to spill the beans,” Stone said on The Alex Jones Show on Monday, explaining why Assange must have changed his earlier plans to hold the press conference from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he lives in a self-imposed exile. WikiLeaks held the event in Berlin instead, and Assange joined via video.
“Bill and Hillary Clinton know that it’s handcuff time and they’re apoplectic,” Stone said.
What now appears more likely is that there was never an October surprise, at least not of the magnitude that Stone had been promising when he tweeted Sunday, “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”
WikiLeaks, however, batted down the suggestion that Tuesday was some kind of D-Day.
“Regarding upcoming elections...We hope to be publishing every week for the next 10 weeks,” Assange said, alluding to a more prolonged and less-decisive document drip. Assange said that the “significant” disclosures would cover the U.S. election and Google, but he gave no precise details about when they would occur.
Clinton’s most fervent antagonists were outraged.
“Julian Assange trolling the world is Hillary’s October surprise,” Jones declared in a Tuesday morning tirade. Jones, who had covered the press conference live on his website Infowars, had promised his followers that Assange had a revelation that “could swing the election against Hillary if it catches fire.”
“He was promising this damning evidence and he doesn’t release it now 34 days out and now he’s saying he’ll release it by the end of the year so that smacks of a sell-out,” Jones said. “I think he’s probably out of documents.”
But some people would still like to know where Assange is getting those documents. At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee last month, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked FBI Director James Comey whether law-enforcement officials had interviewed Stone “about his communications with Julian Assange or his knowledge of how WikiLeaks got these illegally obtained documents,” referring to the hacked DNC emails.
Comey declined to comment. Nadler also pressed the director on whether the FBI had talked to Stone about his claims to have “knowledge about upcoming leaks of additional illegally hacked documents.”
Comey again declined to comment and wouldn’t say whether or not the FBI had opened an investigation into the matter.
U.S. intelligence officials and computer-security experts suspect that WikiLeaks obtained the DNC emails from a source working on behalf of the Russian government, which is the prime suspect in that hack as well as other intrusions of U.S. political organizations, elected officials, and former government officials.
Democrats have been pressing the FBI to investigate in particular the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government and whether Trump is benefiting from the breaches. Republicans, though, have refused to sign on to those inquiries, leaving the Democrats with few tools to pursue an investigation.
Update, 10/4/16, 11:30 a.m.: This article has been updated with Roger Stone's response.