Trump Jr. mes­saged with Wik­iLeaks dur­ing 2016 cam­paign

Yuma Sun - - SUN SPORTS -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s old­est son on Mon­day re­leased a se­ries of pri­vate Twit­ter ex­changes be­tween him­self and Wik­iLeaks dur­ing and af­ter the 2016 elec­tion, in­clud­ing pleas from the web­site to pub­li­cize its leaks.

Don­ald Trump Jr.’s re­lease of the mes­sages on Twit­ter came hours af­ter The At­lantic first re­ported them. In the ex­changes — some of them around the time that the web­site was re­leas­ing the stolen emails from Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man — Wik­iLeaks praises his fa­ther’s pos­i­tive com­ments about Wik­iLeaks and asks Trump Jr. to re­lease his fa­ther’s tax re­turns to the site.

The rev­e­la­tions are sure to in­crease calls in Congress to have Trump Jr. tes­tify pub­licly as part of sev­eral com­mit­tee probes into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. And they add a new el­e­ment to the in­ves­ti­ga­tions that have been prob­ing for months whether Trump’s cam­paign col­luded in any way with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

In an in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ment re­leased last Jan­uary, the NSA, CIA and FBI con­cluded that Rus­sian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence pro­vided hacked in­for­ma­tion from the DNC and “se­nior Demo­cratic of­fi­cials” to Wik­iLeaks. Wik­iLeaks has de­nied that Rus­sia was the source of emails it re­leased, in­clud­ing those from Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man, John Podesta.

The pri­vate mes­sages re­leased by Trump Jr. show him re­spond­ing to the Wik­iLeaks ac­count three times, at one point agree­ing to “ask around” about a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee Wik­iLeaks had men­tioned. He also asked the site about a ru­mor about an up­com­ing leak. The mes­sages be­gan in Septem­ber 2016 and ran through July.

Trump Jr. down­played the ex­changes as he re­leased them.

“Here is the en­tire chain of mes­sages with @ wik­ileaks (with my whop­ping 3 re­sponses) which one of the con­gres­sional com­mit­tees has cho­sen to se­lec­tively leak,” he tweeted. “How ironic!”

Trump Jr.’s lawyers had re­leased the ex­changes to three con­gres­sional com­mit­tees that have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion in the 2016 elec­tion and whether there were any links to Trump’s cam­paign.

In a state­ment, Trump Jr.’s lawyer said thou­sands of doc­u­ments had been turned over to the com­mit­tees.

“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,” said Alan Futer­fas.

Futer­fas didn’t say which fo­rum he was re­fer­ring to, but Trump Jr. was in­ter­viewed be­hind closed doors by Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee staff in Septem­ber. A per­son fa­mil­iar with that meet­ing said the pri­vate Twit­ter mes­sages were dis­cussed. The per­son de­clined to be iden­ti­fied be­cause the tran­script of that in­ter­view hasn’t been made pub­lic.

In one mes­sage dated Oct. 3, 2016, the Wik­iLeaks Twit­ter ac­count sent Trump Jr. an ar­ti­cle that in­cluded crit­i­cal com­ments Clin­ton had made about Wik­iLeaks edi­tor Ju­lian As­sange and said “it’d be great if you guys could com­ment on/ push this story.”

Trump Jr. replied: “Al­ready did that ear­lier today. It’s amaz­ing what she can get away with.”

Two min­utes later, Trump Jr. sent an­other mes­sage: “What’s be­hind this Wed­nes­day leak I keep read­ing about?”

Long­time Trump as­so­ciate Roger Stone had tweeted the day be­fore that on Wed­nes­day, “Hil­lary Clin­ton is done,” ref­er­enc­ing Wik­iLeaks.

The Wik­iLeaks Twit­ter ac­count never re­sponded, but days later Wik­iLeaks started rolling out Podesta’s stolen emails. Af­ter the emails were re­leased, Wik­iLeaks sent Trump Jr. a search­able link of the emails. Trump Jr. tweeted that link two days later, on Oct. 14, 2016, The At­lantic noted.

The rest of the mes­sages are one-sided, with Wik­iLeaks send­ing Trump Jr. mes­sages through July 2017. They in­clude praise for his fa­ther for men­tion­ing them on the cam­paign trail, a plea to re­lease Trump’s taxes to the site and ad­vice on Elec­tion Day that Trump should not con­cede if he lost. One mes­sage sug­gested Trump en­cour­age Aus­tralia to ap­point As­sange as U.S. am­bas­sador.

In July, the Twit­ter ac­count mes­saged Trump Jr. to ask him to give the site emails sur­round­ing a meet­ing he and other Trump as­so­ciates held with Rus­sians dur­ing the cam­paign. Trump Jr. then re­leased them him­self.

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence re­sponded quickly to the rev­e­la­tions, is­su­ing a state­ment through his press sec­re­tary that he knew noth­ing about the sit­u­a­tion.

“The vice pres­i­dent was never aware of any­one as­so­ci­ated with the cam­paign be­ing in con­tact with Wik­iLeaks,” said spokes­woman Alyssa Farah. “He first learned of this news from a pub­lished re­port ear­lier tonight.”

As­sange tweeted af­ter The At­lantic re­port that he couldn’t con­firm the mes­sages but then de­fended them af­ter Trump Jr. re­leased them.

“Wik­iLeaks ap­pears to be­guile some peo­ple into trans­parency by con­vinc­ing them that it is in their in­ter­est,” As­sange tweeted.

Democrats swiftly re­acted to the re­port, say­ing Trump Jr. should pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion. Cal­i­for­nia Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Demo­crat on the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, says it “demon­strates once again a will­ing­ness by the high­est lev­els of the Trump cam­paign to ac­cept for­eign as­sis­tance.”


IN THIS OCT. 5 FILE PHOTO, DON­ALD TRUMP JR. speaks dur­ing a fundraiser for Faulkner Univer­sity in Mont­gomery, Ala.

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