Donald Trump Jr. admitted to exchanging messages with Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign, and those messages are going to be a major headache for his father.
On Monday, The Atlantic published leaked messages obtained by Julia Ioffe between the president’s oldest son and Wikileaks’ Twitter account, which is believed to be run by founder Julian Assange, though it’s unclear if Assange was sending the messages.
Wikileaks initiated the exchange on September 20, 2016, just weeks before the election.
“A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,” they wrote in a Twitter direct message to Don Jr. “The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?”
“Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,” Trump Jr. wrote back. “Thanks.”
Though Trump Jr. did not write back, The Atlantic notes that he reached out to virtually every top adviser in the campaign to let them know about the contact with Wikileaks.
On October 3, Wikileaks wrote to Trump again about a story that claimed Hillary Clinton wanted to “just drone” Assange.
“Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story,” Wikileaks told Trump Jr.
“Already did that earlier today,” he replied. “It’s amazing what she can get away with.”
Two minutes later, Trump Jr. followed up to ask about a claim made by longtime Trump associate Roger Stone that Wikileaks was getting ready for a big day.
“What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” Trump Jr. asked, but apparently got no response.
On October 12, Wikileaks reached out again.
“Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us,” they wrote, adding a link to wlsearch.tk. “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.”
Trump Jr. did not respond to that message but did tweet the link two days later. “For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @wikileaks emails are right here: http://wlsearch.tk/.” he wrote.
Trump Jr. apparently stopped interacting with Wikileaks at this point but they did not stop messaging him.
“Hey Don. We have an unusual idea,” Wikileaks wrote on October 21. “Leak us one or more of your father’s tax returns.”
“If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,” Wikileaks explained. “That means that 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 ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source. The same for any other negative stuff (documents, recordings) that you think has a decent chance of coming out. Let us put it out.”
On Election Day, when it was still presumed Trump would lose, Wikileaks wrote, “Hi Don if your father ‘loses’ we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT conceed [sic] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred—as he has implied that he might do.”
After Trump won and Don Jr. was not the son of the president-elect, Wikileaks reached out with a bizarre proposal.
“Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well!” Wikileaks wrote in December. “In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia (his home country) to illicitly go after Mr. Assange. It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to [Washington,] DC.”
They followed up again in July, after it was revealed Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.
“Hi Don. Sorry to hear about your problems,” Wikileaks wrote. “We have an idea that may help a little. We are VERY interested in confidentially obtaining and publishing a copy of the email(s) cited in the New York Times today.”
Trump Jr. did not reply, but instead published the emails leading up to the meeting himself. After The Atlantic published his messages, he posted them on his Twitter account as well, apparently thinking transparency is being forthcoming after you’ve already been caught.
Trump Jr. reportedly also handed the messages over to special counsel Bob Mueller.
Trump’s own son’s involvement in attempting to collude with Russian-linked agents could become a major problem for the president’s narrative. Trump shrugged off the indictments of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates as being related to crimes they are alleged to have committed before joining the campaign.
He dismissed George Papadopoulos, the foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian agents, as a “low level volunteer.”
Trump Jr., however, is implicated in repeated attempts to collude with foreign agents to help his father win the presidency. Though it’s not entirely out of the question the president simply pretends he never met his son.