In 2010, then Bradley Manning stole 400,000 documents from the U.S. military and delivered them to Wikileaks, and Wikileaks turned around and put them on the Internet, unredacted and without regard to the human lives named and imperiled. Not long after, Sean Hannity accused Julian Assange of “waging war against the US”, and he was right. Obama’s reaction wasn’t the same as Hannity’s. Instead, Obama resorted to what he did best: He dithered.
This raises the question of why the Obama administration, not known for its tolerance of leaks, decided to stay its hand when it came to Mr Assange. The reason was the difficulty of distinguishing WikiLeaks’ activities from investigative journalism, which is protected by the bit of the First Amendment covering freedom of the press. Mr Obama was far from convinced that WikiLeaks and Mr Assange did merit such protection, but was troubled about where a prosecution might go politically.
There was a time when Hannity exclaimed that Obama was not doing enough against Assange. As I see it, Wikileaks has done nothing since 2010 to change my view that they are a hostile foreign entity, actively working against the interests of the United States and at times on behalf of Vladimir Putin. Wikileaks has refused to leak information from the Putin government, for spurious reasons, then released just enough information to layer on a thin veneer of impartiality. If there is a country that has been treated more badly and has been more a target than the United States by the Assange crew, I haven’t seen it. Last April, CIA Director Pompeo declared the obvious:
Wikileaks is a “hostile intelligence service” helped by Russia, according to the new CIA director Mike Pompeo.
In his first public speech since becoming head of the US spy agency, he said the whistleblowing website’s founder Julian Assange “and his ilk” claimed to act in the name of liberty and privacy, their mission was actually “personal self-aggrandizement through the destruction of Western values”.
Hannity’s views on Wikileaks changed when their releases hurt Hillary and helped Trump, taking a blind eye to the fact that a foreign entity stole information from an American political party and published it. In effect, Hannity put Trump before country, in my opinion, in his praise of Assange. Trump and his campaign also warmed to Assange, with Trump himself five times praising the Australian hacker for damaging Hillary, thus putting himself in a comparatively better light.
But those warm feelings didn’t stop there, as reported by Julio Ioffe at The Atlantic, when Wikileaks and Donald J. Trump, Jr. struck up a friendly correspondence that lasted for months.
The messages, obtained by The Atlantic, were also turned over by Trump Jr.’s lawyers to congressional investigators. They are part of a long—and largely one-sided—correspondence between WikiLeaks and the president’s son that continued until at least July 2017. The messages show WikiLeaks, a radical transparency organization that the American intelligence community believes was chosen by the Russian government to disseminate the information it had hacked, actively soliciting Trump Jr.’s cooperation. WikiLeaks made a series of increasingly bold requests, including asking for Trump’s tax returns, urging the Trump campaign on Election Day to reject the results of the election as rigged, and requesting that the president-elect tell Australia to appoint Julian Assange ambassador to the United States.
The conversations petered out after Wikileaks asked for Trump’s tax returns. What did DJTJ do?
Though Trump Jr. mostly ignored the frequent messages from WikiLeaks, he at times appears to have acted on its requests. When WikiLeaks first reached out to Trump Jr. about putintrump.org, for instance, Trump Jr. followed up on his promise to “ask around.” According to a source familiar with the congressional investigations into Russian interference with the 2016 campaign, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, on the same day that Trump Jr. received the first message from WikiLeaks, he emailed other senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, telling them WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner then forwarded the email to campaign communications staffer Hope Hicks. At no point during the 10-month correspondence does Trump Jr. rebuff WikiLeaks, which had published stolen documents and was already observed to be releasing information that benefited Russian interests.
On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote again. “Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story,” WikiLeaks suggested, attaching a quote from then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton about wanting to “just drone” WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.
“Already did that earlier today,” Trump Jr. responded an hour-and-a-half later. “It’s amazing what she can get away with.”
Two minutes later, Trump Jr. wrote again, asking, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” The day before, Roger Stone, an informal advisor to Donald Trump, had tweeted, “[email protected] is done. #WikiLeaks.”
WikiLeaks didn’t respond to that message, but on October 12, 2016, the account again messaged Trump Jr. “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications,” WikiLeaks wrote. (At a rally on October 10, Donald Trump had proclaimed, “I love WikiLeaks!”)
“Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us,” WikiLeaks went on, pointing Trump Jr. to the link wlsearch.tk, which it said would help Trump’s followers dig through the trove of stolen documents and find stories. “There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows [sic] will find it,” WikiLeaks went on. “Btw we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.”
Trump Jr. did not respond to this message, but two days later, on October 14, 2016, he tweeted out the link WikiLeaks had provided him. “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.
Doug Mataconis does a little more dot-connecting.
As Ioffe shows, there is a remarkable correlation between both Twitter Direct Messages and emails from Wikileaks to Trump Jr., the release of information regarding Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, or Democratic activist John Podesta, whose email was also hacked and stolen by individuals believed to be linked to both Russia and Wikileaks. On numerous occasions throughout the campaign, one can find compelling evidence of a direct correlation between a communication from Wikileaks to Trump about an impending release of information about Clinton or others and a corresponding tweet from him, informal campaign advisers such as Roger Stone, or even the President himself teasing such information. On those occasions when the communication concerned information that had already been released, the tweets or other communications would include a link to the post on the Wikileaks website where the information could be found. Additionally, there were several occasions during the course of the campaign where a Wikileaks communication with the younger Trump would advise him that information would be released and we would see a “tease” from Trump Sr. or others about ‘big information’ that was going to be released about Clinton. On many occasions, the gap between the time these messages was sent and the time someone associated with Trump was tweeting about it was as short as fifteen minutes. Based on this, it’s clear that there was an active and engaged relationship between senior people in the Trump campaign such as Trump Jr. and Wikileaks, which seems quite clearly to have been acting in concert with the Russian government both before and during the 2016 campaign in the United States.
The only thing I disagree with Mataconis is his use of overly long paragraphs. One could say that Wikileaks and the Trump campaign colluded. Going further, it is one-degree-removed collusion with the Putin Kremlin, given Assange’s relationship with Russian hackers. Given that DJTJ was willing to get “dirt” on Hillary from Russians and also from Assange, call it what you want, but I call Trump, Jr.’s acts un-American. To the extent that the campaign knew about this and went along with Trump, Jr. in this matter, also un-American. No response yet from Hannity but I expect some combination of downtalking and charges of “fake news!”