Trumps’ trouble with WikiLeaks
Donald Trump Jr was in communication during the US election campaign with WikiLeaks, which published a trove of damaging Democratic emails that the US intelligence community concluded were stolen by Russian hackers, according to an email.
Among the messages exchanged by the son of the US President and WikiLeaks was a suggestion that the incoming administration advise Australia to appoint the whistleblower’s founder Julian Assange, an Australian, as ambassador to Washington.
WikiLeaks first contacted the son of Donald Trump through a direct message on Twitter on September 20 last year to advise him about the pending launch of a website that would highlight ties between the elder Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the email.
“A PAC run, anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,” WikiLeaks warned the younger Mr Trump, who was a top campaign adviser to his father.
The WikiLeaks message told him it had “guessed the password” behind the website, and asked Mr Trump Jr: “Any comments?”
The President’s son responded the next day that he was unaware of the group behind the website, but would “ask around”, according to the email, adding, “Thanks.”
He forwarded the email to top campaign aides, including then campaign chief executive Steve Bannon, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser Jared Kushner and digital director Brad Parscale. “Do you know the people mentioned and what the conspiracy they are looking for could be?” he asked the group.
The exchange — which was first reported by The Atlantic magazine yesterday and is part of a collection of documents turned over to congressional investigators by the younger Mr Trump’s lawyers — marks the first evidence of direct contact between senior Trump campaign officials and the Sweden-based WikiLeaks.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators are probing whether Trump associates colluded in Russia’s alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. US intelligence agencies in January concluded that Russia sought to influence last year’s campaign by hacking political websites and spreading false ads on social media pages.
The President has called the investigation a “witch hunt” and has denied collusion by him or his campaign, and Moscow has denied meddling in the election.
The younger Mr Trump was questioned by the Senate judiciary committee staff in September as part of the Russia investigation. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the President’s son, said he had “no concerns” about his client’s interactions with WikiLeaks.
“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,” he said.
Mr Assange said via Twitter that he could not confirm the communication between his organisation and the younger Mr Trump.
The President’s son had been denied when he asked for details from the website about its pending publications of the stolen messages, he said. “Trump Jr. was rebuffed just like Cambridge Analytica,” Mr Assange wrote.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that in June last year the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that at that point had begun working as a subcontractor for the Trump campaign, had contacted Mr Assange to ask him to share the Clinton-related emails his website was planning to publish. Mr Assange declined.
By September last year, the website had spent nearly three months publishing its hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. The next month, it began publishing the stolen messages of John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman.
The younger Mr Trump yesterday published his communications with WikiLeaks on Twitter, showing the website sent him several messages that he ignored. Among those was a request for the elder Mr Trump’s tax returns and the bid to make Mr Assange the US ambassador.
On October 12 last year WikiLeaks said it was “great to see you and your dad talking about our publications” and suggested a link for the elder Mr Trump to tweet if he were to mention the website, according to the Atlantic.
Fifteen minutes later, the elder Mr Trump tweeted: “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”
In October last year, VicePresident Mike Pence rejected the suggestion the Trump campaign was “in cahoots” with WikiLeaks.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said to Fox News.
‘A very cordial and positive exchange’: a journalist snaps a selfie with Justin Trudeau in Manila yesterday
Donald Trump Jr