Don­ald Trump Jr com­mu­ni­cated with Wik­iLeaks dur­ing fi­nal stages of elec­tion

The Guardian Australia - - News / World News - Ed Pilk­ing­ton in New York

Don­ald Trump Jr, the el­dest son of the US pres­i­dent, was in di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Wik­iLeaks in the cru­cial fi­nal stages of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, a new leak of pri­vate cor­re­spon­dence from inside the Trump cir­cle re­veals.

The younger Trump ex­changed di­rect mes­sages with the Wik­iLeaks ac­count on Twit­ter be­tween 20 Septem­ber and 12 Oc­to­ber 2016. Copies of the cor­re­spon­dence were handed to con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors by Trump Jr’s lawyers and sub­se­quently ob­tained by the At­lantic mag­a­zine.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tion oc­curred at a highly sen­si­tive mo­ment for both the Trump pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and for Wik­iLeaks, just weeks be­fore elec­tion day and at the height of Wik­iLeaks’ pub­li­ca­tion of hacked emails be­long­ing to se­nior Demo­cratic fig­ures at the in­sti­ga­tion, US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies al­lege, of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

The most po­lit­i­cally ex­plo­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the two par­ties, ac­cord­ing to the At­lantic, came on and af­ter 12 Oc­to­ber 2016.

“Hey Don­ald, great to see you and your dad talk­ing about our pub­li­ca­tions,” the Wik­iLeaks ac­count, @Wik­iLeaks, said to Trump Jr two days af­ter his fa­ther had pro­claimed at a cam­paign rally: “I love Wik­iLeaks!”

“Strongly sug­gest your dad tweets this link if he men­tions us. There’s many great sto­ries the press are miss­ing and we’re sure some of your fol­lows [sic] will find it,” the mes­sage con­tin­ued.

The mes­sage went on to of­fer a link to – a search tool that fa­cil­i­tates the ex­plo­ration of the data­base of leaked emails from John Podesta, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s 2016 cam­paign chair­man, that Wik­iLeaks had by then be­gun to pub­lish.

Ju­lia Ioffe, au­thor of the At­lantic ar­ti­cle, writes that Trump Jr did not re­ply to the Wik­iLeaks mes­sage. But two days later, on 14 Oc­to­ber, he did tweet that same link to, en­cour­ag­ing “those who have the time to read about all the cor­rup­tion and hypocrisy” ex­posed by the Wik­iLeaks emails.

The Guardian con­tacted Wik­iLeaks, which re­ferred to a Twit­ter post by the group’s founder, Ju­lian As­sange; he sug­gested that the At­lantic had se­lec­tively edited the mes­sages.

As­sange also wrote that the mes­sages from Wik­iLeaks, in­clud­ing ones urg­ing Trump Jr to re­lease his fa­ther’s tax re­turns through the or­gan­i­sa­tion, showed its “chutz­pah”.

A lawyer for Trump Jr told the At­lantic: “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.”

On Mon­day even­ing, Trump Jr tweeted what he said were copies of the “en­tire chain of mes­sages with @wik­ileaks”.

The first con­tact from Wik­iLeaks was made on 20 Septem­ber 2016, the mag­a­zine re­ports. In it the open in­for­ma­tion web­site in­formed Trump Jr that a new po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee called “putin­trump” was about to launch.

Trump Jr replied the fol­low­ing morning: “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around.”

Ac­cord­ing to leaked in­for­ma­tion ob­tained by the At­lantic, Trump Jr shared the news that Wik­iLeaks had been in touch with him with sev­eral mem­bers of the in­ner cam­paign team. Among those he al­legedly told were Steve Ban­non, then chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Trump pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, as well as the can­di­date’s son-in-law Jared Kush­ner.

On 3 Oc­to­ber there was a fur­ther ex­change through Twit­ter in which Wik­iLeaks en­cour­aged the Trump team to pub­li­cise a com­ment by Clin­ton about want­ing to “just drone” the head of Wik­iLeaks, Ju­lian As­sange.

“Al­ready did that ear­lier to­day,” Trump Jr replied, ac­cord­ing to the At­lantic.

Soon af­ter, the busi­ness­man sent a sec­ond DM to Wik­iLeaks ask­ing to know more about an up­com­ing leak from Wik­iLeaks that had been teased by Roger Stone, the Trump­sup­port­ing po­lit­i­cal ag­i­ta­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to the At­lantic the in­for­ma­tion flow con­tin­ued un­til as late as July this year, al­though af­ter 12 Oc­to­ber 2016 it was en­tirely in one di­rec­tion – af­ter that date the younger Trump did not re­spond to any ap­proaches. Be­yond that point, the leak be­comes more re­veal­ing about Wik­iLeaks and its mav­er­ick founder As­sange, holed up in the Ecuardo­rian em­bassy in Lon­don, where he has lived since 2012, than about the cir­cle of the US pres­i­dent.

The most rev­e­la­tory de­tail in that re­gard dates back to 21 Oc­to­ber 2016 when the Wik­iLeaks ac­count – pre­sum­ably con­trolled by As­sange him­self, though the iden­tity of the correspondent is un­known – con­tacted Trump Jr urg­ing him to al­low Wik­iLeaks to pub­lish his fa­ther’s tax re­turns. Wik­iLeaks sug­gested the move would be pos­i­tive as it would un­der­mine sug­ges­tions that the or­gan­i­sa­tion was in the pocket of the Krem­lin.

“If we pub­lish [the tax re­turns] it will dra­mat­i­cally im­prove the per­cep­tion of our im­par­tial­ity,” Wik­iLeaks says. “That means 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 ‘proTrump’ ‘pro-Rus­sia’ source.”

On elec­tion day it­self, 8 Novem­ber, Wik­iLeaks con­tacted Trump Jr to make the ex­tra­or­di­nary sug­ges­tion that should his fa­ther lose the con­test, as was then widely ex­pected, he should refuse to con­cede the race and in­stead turn the spot­light on the me­dia for “rig­ging” the re­sult.

Even more bizarrely, Wik­iLeaks wrote again in De­cem­ber, by which time Don­ald Trump Sr was the pres­i­dent-in-wait­ing, to ask for sup­port in As­sange’s le­gal bat­tles against the gov­ern­ments of Swe­den, the UK and Aus­tralia. “It would be real easy and help­ful for your dad to sug­gest that Aus­tralia ap­point As­sange am­bas­sador to DC.”

The Twit­ter mes­sage added: “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.”

The younger Don­ald Trump did not re­ply.

This is not the first con­tro­versy in­volv­ing Trump Jr and links to Rus­sia. In June 2016 he met a Rus­sian lawyer, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, in what was pre­sented to him as part of a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort to aid his fa­ther’s cam­paign by pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion that could be used against Hil­lary Clin­ton.

A lawyer said Trump Jr had worked co­op­er­a­tively with con­gres­sional com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. Pho­to­graph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Im­ages

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