The big problem with Donald Trump Jr.’s excuse for collaborating with WikiLeaks

The timeline is more incriminating than he'd have you believe.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
CREDIT: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Donald Trump Jr. seems to think that the direct messages he exchanged with WikiLeaks aren’t particularly incriminating. On Monday night, Trump Jr. tweeted out what he claims were his “entire chain of messages” with WikiLeaks, and he dismissively wrote that his messages consisted of a “whopping 3 responses.”

According to those direct messages, Trump Jr.’s last message to Wikileaks was sent on October 3, 2016 — four days before the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security released a joint statement publicly accusing WikiLeaks of being a Kremlin front.

“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails 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,” the statement said. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process… We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

While Trump Jr. could argue he stopped sending messages to WikiLeaks as soon as U.S. intelligence agencies publicly accused it of being a Kremlin front, his willingness to collaborate with WikiLeaks seems to have extended past the statement’s release on October 7.

On October 12, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a message lauding Trump Sr. for “talking about our publications” during campaign rallies, and suggested “your dad tweets this link if he mentions us.”

Fifteen minutes later, Trump Sr. posted a tweet complaining that there was “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”

And two days later, Trump Jr. tweeted out the very link WikiLeaks suggested.

During the last month of the campaign, Trump Sr. mentioned WikiLeaks 164 times, with many of them occurring after the intelligence agencies released their joint statement. Despite the fact that stolen emails published by WikiLeaks were a central part of his closing message, Trump later insisted that WikiLeaks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

On Tuesday morning, former Trump campaign manger Corey Lewandowski went on CNN and tried to rewrite history in a manner favorable to the Trumps.

Asked how Trump Jr. could have thought it was a good idea to communicate with Kremlin-linked “known hostile non-state actor,” Lewandowski suggested Trump Jr. might not have known “what WikiLeaks was about” in October of last year.

“I don’t know if we knew back in October that WikiLeaks had that same type of notion behind them,” Lewandowski said. “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that looking back a year ago that we would have known what WikiLeaks was about.”

Lewandowski did not mention the intelligence community statement that was released early that month and received significant media attention.

During another part of the interview, Lewandowski tried to distance the president from his eldest son, saying that “Don Jr. is a private citizen, he can tweet or retweet anything he wants to, and it doesn’t have a material effect on the outcome of the campaign.”

Tuesday night wasn’t the first time Trump Jr. has published incriminating private correspondence under duress. Last July, Trump Jr. tweeted out emails showing that the Trump campaign was eager to collude with individuals connected to the Russian government in an effort to bring down Clinton.