Four years ago today was one of the most eventful days in Presidential campaign history–three events, the revelation that Putin had personally ordered the March 2016 hack of the DNC, the revelation of the Access Hollywood tape and the release of John Podesta’s emails–shaped the final four weeks of the 2016 struggle for the Presidency. It seems scarcely possible a day like this could happen again.
“For Immediate Release,” the press release read, “The US Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” The intelligence community was announcing that Russia was interfering in the presidential election. The release continued: “Recent disclosures of alleged hacked emails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” It was early on October 7, 2016.
But due to events ten years in the past, the Trump campaign would scarcely have time to respond. Roger Stone had information for Jerome Corsi—a videotape of Donald Trump making crude and sexist remarks about women was about to be released to the public. Corsi suggested that Stone tell WikiLeaks to immediately release the Podesta emails.
Corsi told a conference call with the staff of right-wing tabloid World Net Daily that a tape featuring Trump making crude remarks was about to leak, and he urged the online site’s staff to reach Assange immediately to have the Podesta emails released.
It turned out that the tape of Donald Trump on a hot mic making a series of lewd comments about women had been sitting in the vaults of NBC Universal’s television show Access Hollywood for years. Three days earlier, a staffer for the show had remembered the tape and a producer went to dig it up. NBC debated for days what to do with the tape, finally making a decision on the morning of Friday, October 7. Access Hollywood prepared a story to air on Monday, the day after the second presidential debate.
Fate would not spare Trump the weekend. A source called the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, whose relentless pursuit of Trump’s finances would later win him the Pulitzer Prize. The source asked him if he wanted to watch previously unaired footage of Donald Trump. Within minutes, the reporter was on the telephone with NBC, Access Hollywood, and the Trump campaign.
Hope Hicks burst into a debate prep session for the candidate with Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie and Kellyanne Conway. Hicks showed Jason Miller an email from Fahrenthold and the campaign went into damage control mode. The team pushed back, demanding a copy of the tape, but settled for a rough transcript. NBC readied a story for air, as the Post raced to get its tip on the internet, a race Fahrenthold won, at 4 p.m.
As negative reactions to Trump’s lewd and offensive comments poured in, WikiLeaks and the Internet Research Agency (IRA) sprang into action to try and save his candidacy. Within an hour, WikiLeaks released the first of the Podesta emails stolen by the GRU. The Translator Department was actually ahead of the game. In preparation for their own October surprise, the tweets at the IRA peaked the day before. The Russians moved quickly to draw attention to the Podesta release.
As many Republicans prepared to jump ship, one stood up for Donald Trump. That Sunday, Rudy Giuliani appeared on all four Sunday morning national news programs. Donald Trump never forgot it.
Will we see a day like October 7, 2016 this year? It seems scarcely possible that three October surprises on the same day could happen again. But as Konstantin Kilimnik told an associate in April of that year “there could be surprises, even in American politics.”