Donald Trump, Jr. actively corresponded with Wikileaks at the height of the 2016 presidential election, a new report published Monday in the Atlantic revealed.
A series of messages show Trump Jr. maintained a lengthy correspondence with Wikileaks, which lasted from September 2016 until at least July 2017. During that time Trump Jr. repeatedly pushed out messages from an organization that the American intelligence community believed was actively collaborating with Russian intelligence.
In one instance, on October 3, 2016, Wikileaks wrote to Trump Jr. saying, “It’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story,” and attaching a quote from Hillary Clinton about wanting to “just drone” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. “Already did that earlier today,” Trump Jr. responded 90 minutes later.
When he received the first message from Wikileaks, Trump Jr. reportedly emailed senior officials within the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Jared Kushner telling them Wikileaks had contacted him. Kushner then forwarded the email to communications director Hope Hicks.
Wikileaks continued to send messages to Trump Jr. in the final few weeks of the presidential election. On October 12, 2016, it wrote, “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, Donald Trump himself tweeted about Wikileaks, saying that the 20,000 emails stolen from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and released over October 2016 provided “incredible information.” Eric Trump also appeared on Fox News that day to explain how Wikileaks helps expose government corruption.
Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2016
Two days later, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence categorically denied that the Trump campaign had anything to do with Wikileaks’ release of Hilary Clinton’s campaign emails. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Pence said. “I think all of us have, you know, have had concerns about Wikileaks over the years and it’s just a reality of American life today, and of life in the wider world.” On the same day, Trump Jr. tweeted out a Wikileaks link: “For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @wikileaks emails are right here,” he said, providing a link to a Wikileaks search engine.
In return for supplying Trump Jr. with information, Wikileaks made a series of bold, and increasingly bizarre requests. They included asking for Trump’s tax returns, asked the Trump campaign to say the election was rigged if they lost, and requesting Trump tell Australia to appoint Julian Assange as ambassador.
In the final month of the election, Trump mentioned Wikileaks at least 164 times. But in January, when the U.S. intelligence community wrote, “We assess with high confidence that the GRU [Russian military intelligence] relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to Wikileaks,” Trump changed downplayed the organization’s significance, saying the information distributed via Wikileaks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
The messages have been turned over to congressional investigators as part of the ongoing probe into Russian collusion.”If these allegations are true, and Donald Trump Jr.’s attorney does not appear to contest the authenticity of the direct messages, it is yet another secret communication between the Trump campaign and cut-outs for the Kremlin,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said. “[The messages] demonstrate once again a willingness by the highest levels of the Trump campaign to accept foreign assistance.”