Don Jr., WikiLeaks Communicated Through Critical Stage of Campaign
Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks via Twitter direct message off-and-on from September 2016 through at least July of this year, including one suggestion from the leakers that was quickly mirrored in a tweet from the candidate.
The Atlantic reported this evening on the messages turned over by Trump Jr.'s lawyers to congressional investigators that began with outreach by WikiLeaks, which CIA Director Mike Pompeo calls a non-state hostile intelligence service, to then-candidate Trump's son on Sept. 20, 2016.
“A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,” WikiLeaks wrote. “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?”
"Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around. Thanks," Trump Jr. responded the next day. The Atlantic reported that he did ask around, telling Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Jared Kushner that WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner forwarded the email to Hope Hicks.
On Oct. 3, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote, “Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story." They included a quote reportedly said by Hillary Clinton in 2010 about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: "Can't we just drone this guy?" (Clinton said in response to the report, “It would have been a joke, if it had been said, but I don't recall that.”)
“Already did that earlier today,” Trump Jr. responded. “It’s amazing what she can get away with.” He then asked WikiLeaks, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” Roger Stone had tweeted the day before, “[email protected] is done. #WikiLeaks.”
On Oct. 7, the Access Hollywood tape of Trump bragging about grabbing women was released. Less than an hour later, WikiLeaks released Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's stolen emails. On an Oct. 10 rally, Trump declared, "I love WikiLeaks!"
Two days later, WikiLeaks messaged Trump Jr.: “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us." They added the link for a docu-dump search. "There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows [sic] will find it. Btw we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.”
Fifteen minutes later, candidate Trump tweeted, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!” On Oct. 14, Trump Jr. tweeted the link WikiLeaks had sent him: “For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @wikileaks emails are right here: http://wlsearch.tk/,” he wrote.
A week later, WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. to leak one of his dad's tax returns, because "if we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality. 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.”
On Election Day, before polls closed, WikiLeaks wrote again: “Hi Don if your father ‘loses’ we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT conceed [sic] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred—as he has implied that he might do." Once Trump won, WikiLeaks simply messaged to Don Jr., "Wow."
In December, WikiLeaks told Don Jr. it would be "real easy and helpful" for president-elect Trump to appoint Assange ambassador to Australia.
After the story of Trump Jr.'s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya broke in July, WikiLeaks wrote again: “Hi Don. Sorry to hear about your problems. 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. We think this is strongly in your interest." They argued it would be "beautifully confounding" to the media. Hours later, Trump Jr. published the meeting emails exchanged with publicist Rob Goldstone on his own Twitter feed.
Following publication of The Atlantic story today, Don Jr. tweeted screenshots of direct messages with WikiLeaks. Assange tweeted that he couldn't confirm the DMs as WikiLeaks doesn't keep records. "WikiLeaks loves its pending publications and ignores those who ask for details. Trump Jr. was rebuffed just like Cambridge Analytica. In both cases WikiLeaks had publicly teased the publications. Thousands of people asked about them," he wrote. "WikiLeaks can be very effective at convincing even high profile people that it is their interest to promote links to its publications."
The Wall Street Journal reported that Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign’s data firm, reached out to Assange after the firm joined the campaign to offer help organizing the stolen Podesta emails.
Pompeo, who said Russia's GRU military intelligence service used WikiLeaks to strategically release hacked materials, warned at the Aspen Security Forum that WikiLeaks "will take down America any way they can, and find any willing partner to achieve that end."
"I don't love WikiLeaks," the CIA chief said when asked about candidate Trump's praise of the document-dumpers.
Former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden told CNN that he's now asking the question "were there any lines beyond which the campaign would not go... there doesn't seem to have been any limits here."
Hayden said the Trump campaign "clearly synchronized actions" with WikiLeaks, which "even then was known to be hostile to the United States."
"The campaign was talking to WikiLeaks about stolen goods ... the campaign was frankly excited about that."