- On Monday, the Atlantic broke that Donald Trump Jr had been in conversation with Wikileaks in the weeks before the presidential election
- While not answering every message, the eldest Trump son took some advice from the group, which published stolen emails and is linked to the Kremlin
- Wikileaks made a number of requests of Trump Jr, including linking to their collection of Clinton emails from John Podesta, which he did
- They also wanted President-elect Trump to tell the Australian government to make Julian Assange ambassador to the United States, which he didn’t
- When the New York Times broke the story of the Donald Trump Jr meeting with a Russian lawyer, Wikileaks suggested he leak his emails through them
- Trump Jr instead used Twitter to release his exchanges about Clinton dirt that inspired the meeting, leading Assange to take credit for the idea
The eldest Trump son never rebuffed the transparency group, led by Julian Assange with connections to the Kremlin, but would instead answer messages courteously or not reply to them at all.
A source familiar with the congressional investigations on Russia said Trump Jr emailed a number of senior campaign officials, including Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon and Digital Director Brad Parscale, to inform them Wikileaks had made contact in September 2016.
Donald Trump Jr (left) was corresponding with Wikileaks, whose founder is Julian Assange (right) for several weeks leading up to last year’s presidential election, the Atlantic has found
Wikileaks suggested to Donald Trump Jr that he use his Twitter account to link to the group’s work – which he did several days later
For his part, Julian Assange took credit for Donald Trump Jr’s actions and said publicly that his organization had reached out to the eldest Trump son amid the New York Times outing his meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in July 2016
Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, forwarded the email about it to campaign Press Secretary Hope Hicks, who is now the White House communications director – meaning that a large swath of Trump’s inner circle knew of the conversations.
President Trump’s own CIA Director Mike Pompeo has warned the country about the Assange-fronted group.
‘It’s time to call out Wikileaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,’ he said at a speech in April.
But until Monday, Trump Jr did not disclose these conversations publicly, even though Assange had openly spoke of making contact with the first son.
In the first message given to the Atlantic, dated September 20, 2016, Wikileaks tried giving the Trump son a heads up about an anti-Trump political action committee that was launching.
‘A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,’ Wikileaks wrote, according to the Atlantic’s reporting. ‘The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is “putintrump.” See “About” for who is behind it. Any comments?’
The site, started by tech entrepreneur Rob Glaser, exists today as a reporting project in conjunction with liberal website Mother Jones and explores the Trump-Russia connection.
Then, Trump Jr didn’t know much about it, as he informed the Wikileaks’ Twitter handle through his first known direct message to the controversial group.
‘Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,’ the Trump son wrote, adding ‘thanks’ to his message.
Donald Trump Jr’s conversations with Wikileaks would continue for the next several weeks, with him sometimes responding and other times, seemingly, taking the group’s advice.
On October 3, 2016, Trump Jr was a step ahead of Wikileaks.
The group wrote to Trump, ‘Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story,’ Wikileaks wrote, pointing out that Hillary Clinton had said she wanted to ‘just drone‘ Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange.
‘Already did that earlier today,’ Trump Jr replied. ‘It’s amazing what she can get away with,’ he added.
Two minutes later, he wanted more.
‘What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?’ Trump Jr asked, though was ignored.
The Atlantic figured out that the day before Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone, who held no official role for the campaign, wrote, ‘Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.’
‘Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications,’ Wikileaks wrote back instead, messaging back Donald Trump Jr on October 12.
Candidate Donald Trump had proclaimed to a Pennsylvania crowd, ‘I love Wikileaks’ on October 10, after the organization had published some of Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s stolen emails.
When the media didn’t cover the emails more – in Trump’s opinion – he complained about it on Twitter on October 12.
‘Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by Wikileaks,’ Trump wrote. ‘So dishonest! Rigged system!’
Wikileaks also suggested that Donald Trump Jr tweet out a link that would allow his father’s followers to dig through the trove of stolen Clinton documents.
‘There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your [followers] will find it,’ Wikileaks said. ‘Btw we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.’
Trump Jr didn’t respond, though tweeted the suggested link two days later, on October 14, 2016.
After this, Donald Trump Jr stopped responding to Wikileaks messages, the Atlantic noted.
The group wanted him, on October 21, to leak one of his father’s tax returns in order to make it look like Wikileaks was an impartial operator.
Wikileaks argued that its site would be a better arbiter to release them then a more liberal news publication like the New York Times or MSNBC.
The New York Times had previously released part of Trump’s returns.
‘If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,’ Wikileaks noted. ‘That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing on Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a “pro-Trump,” “pro-Russia” source.’
‘The same for any other negative stuff (documents, recordings) that you think has a decent chance of coming out,’ Wikileaks continued. ‘Let us put it out.’
Trump Jr didn’t do anything with the offer.
Wikileaks had an idea for how the Trumps could play election day too.
‘Hi Don if your father “loses” we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT [concede] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred—as he has implied that he might do,’ Wikileaks wrote on election night, hours before the final results would come in. ‘The discussion can be transformative as it exposes media corruption, primary corruption, PAC corruption, etc.’
Trump Jr didn’t bite on that suggestion as well – because he didn’t need to.
With his father elected, Wikileaks later just wrote back, ‘Wow.’
In December 16, 2016, several weeks into the presidential transition, Wikileaks tried again, asking Trump Jr for a favor.
‘Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well! In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia (his home country) to illicitly go after Mr. Assange,’ Wikileaks wrote. ‘It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to [Washington,] D.C..’
President-elect Trump, Wikileaks thought, could say something to the affect of, ‘That’s a real smart tough guy and the most famous australian [sic] you have!’
‘They won’t do it but it will send the right signals to Australia, UK + Sweden to start following the law and stop bending it to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons,’ Wikileaks said.
Trump Jr didn’t answer the group’s request.
The Atlantic found that through the winter and spring Wikileaks didn’t have much contact with the eldest Trump son, who forgoed going to Washington like his sister Ivanka, to instead take the reins of the Trump businesses in New York.
But on July 11, 2017, three days after the New York Times broke the story about a Trump Tower meeting Donald Trump Jr had a year before with a Russian lawyer, who was promised to have dirt on Hillary Clinton, Wikileaks contacted the Trump son and had a thought.
‘Hi Don. Sorry to hear about your problems,’ Wikileaks wrote. ‘We have an idea that may help a little. We are VERY interested in confidentially obtaining and publishing a copy of the email(s) cited in the New York Times today.’
The emails contained a promise from music publicist Rob Goldstone, who was setting up the meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, that there was Russian dirt on Clinton.
‘We think this is strongly in your interest,’ Wikileaks advised Trump Jr of leaking his emails on the site, as it would prevent journalists from casting the meeting in a negative light. ‘Us publishing not only deprives them of this ability but is beautifully confounding.’
Again, Trump Jr didn’t respond, though later published the emails himself using Twitter.
Several hours later, Assange took credit for the idea.
‘Contacted Trump Jr this morning on why he should publish his emails (i.e. with us),’ Assange wrote. ‘Two hours later, does it himself.’
Donald Trump Jr’s lawyer Alan Futerfas made reference to the fact that his client’s conversations had been leaked to the Atlantic when responding to the publication’s inquiry.
‘Over the last several months, we have worked cooperatively with each of the committees and have voluntarily turned over thousands of documents in response to their requests,’ Futerfas said.
‘Putting aside the question as to why or by whom such documents, provided to Congress under promises of confidentiality, have been selectively leaked, we can say with confidence that we have no concerns about these documents and any questions raised about them have been easily answered in the appropriate forum,’ Futerfas added.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committee, along with the Senate Judiciary Committee have been looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election – along with looking for evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is also looking into the issue, having taken over the FBI’s probe.
In September, Donald Trump Jr spoke with Congressional investigators, however he’s not testified about Russian influence in an open, public session.