Student pleads guilty to trying to HACK Trump’s tax returns

  • After two students were accused of trying to hack President Donald Trump’s tax returns, one of them has pleaded guilty.
  • One student’s lawyer called the alleged crime a “college prank gone awry.”

Before the 2016 election, two college students allegedly attempted to illegally obtain then-candidate Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Although the students were unsuccessful, one of the students involved, now 22-year-old Justin Hiemstra, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanor charges for his involvement in the incident. Hiemstra could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000, the Washington Post reported.

"...then used the President’s personal identifier information, including his social security number and date of birth..."   

Hiemstra and the second student, Andrew Harris, had attended Haverford College and, according to the U.S. Justice Department, the two defendants allegedly used a Haverford computer lab to reset a password and open a fake federal financial aid application under a Trump family member’s name.

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"In order to reset the password, the defendant was prompted to answer challenge questions, which the original person had created when setting up the account," DOJ said Tuesday in a statement. "The defendant was able to answer the questions and reset the password, and then used the President’s personal identifier information, including his social security number and date of birth, to attempt to import the President’s federal tax information into the bogus FAFSA application."

Although their attempts failed, both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of Education were able to detect the alleged hack attempts.  

Trump’s tax returns have been a controversial subject since his campaign back in 2016.

“This is a college prank that just went awry,” William Brennan, Harris’ lawyer, said, according to news reports. Harris “certainly has no ill will or malice toward the president of the United States and his family, and he is very remorseful for any inconvenience he caused him.”

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“No matter what you think about the President’s tax returns, clearly this kind of illegal activity cannot be tolerated or condoned,” Trump appointee and U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in a Tuesday statement. “Unauthorized or false attempts to obtain any citizen’s IRS filings are a serious violation of privacy rights and a federal crime, and there’s nothing funny about it.”

Campus Reform reached out to the legal teams for both defendants for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Campus Reform also reached out to Haverford College, which did not respond in time for publication. However, after Campus Reform sought comment from Haverford, Thomas Lee of the law firm Dechert LLP said in a statement, "The College is aware of the charges but had no involvement in the matter other than to provide information requested by the investigating agencies as specifically required by federal law."

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ethanycai



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Ethan Cai
Ethan Cai | New Hampshire Campus Correspondent

Ethan Cai is a Campus Reform Intern and New Hampshire Campus Correspondent, reporting on liberal bias and abuse. He is a Freshman at Dartmouth College studying Quantitative Government Analysis with a minor in Economics.

20 Articles by Ethan Cai