As the 2016 Election Was at Its Peak, Wikileaks Tried to Work Its Way to the Inside of Team Trump
A new report is out and it’s showing just how deep in the muck Donald Trump Jr. was willing to go, as he allowed himself to become pen pals with Wikileaks at the height of the 2016 election season.
And while they deny it (by “they,” I mean Julian Assange), they’re widely believed to be just another propaganda tool for the Kremlin.
Correspondence began on September 20, 2016, when Wikileaks reached out to Junior about a new site, PutinTrump.org.
Junior responded that he would check around, in order to see if he could find out more about the PAC.
The messages were turned over to congressional investigators by Trump Jr’s lawyer, as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Over the last several months, we have worked cooperatively with each of the committees and have voluntarily turned over thousands of documents in response to their requests,” said Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Donald Trump Jr. “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.” Wikileaks did not respond to requests for comment.
What the documents show, however, is that Wikileaks was actively seeking cooperation from someone within the Trump campaign.
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.”
He also apparently reached out to them minutes later and asked what they knew about information alluded to by Trump pal, Roger Stone.
Stone apparently tweeted out something that suggested Hillary Clinton was over the next day, and tagged Wikileaks in the tweet.
On October 12, 2016 Wikileaks reached out to Trump Jr. and thanked him for he and his dad giving a shout out to them.
That’s the day Donald Trump declared, “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.
And just like a Nigerian prince, ready to make you a millionaire, if you only share your bank information with him, Wikileaks made a play for Trump’s tax returns.
“Hey Don. We have an unusual idea,” Wikileaks wrote on October 21, 2016. “Leak us one or more of your father’s tax returns.” Wikileaks then laid out three reasons why this would benefit both the Trumps and Wikileaks. One, The New York Times had already published a fragment of Trump’s tax returns on October 1; two, the rest could come out any time “through the most biased source (e.g. NYT/MSNBC).”
It is the third reason, though, Wikileaks wrote, that “is the real kicker.” “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.” It then provided an email address and link where the Trump campaign could send the tax returns, and adds, “The same for any other negative stuff (documents, recordings) that you think has a decent chance of coming out. Let us put it out.”
That one was so far out there, even Trump Jr. knew it to be a bad idea. He didn’t even respond.
Wikileaks didn’t reach out again until election night, full of helpful suggestions for the planned Trump TV network.
Nobody expected Trump to win, not even Wikileaks. They suggested Trump contest the election and keep it tied up in courts, as a way to build his reputation as a fighter, and up his network’ reach.
Trump Jr. didn’t respond to those, either.
I think he was in shock, along with his dad.
Then the requests from Wikileaks got really wild, as they (Julian Assange) pushed to have an incoming President Trump ask to have Assange made the Australian Ambassador to D.C.
Trump Jr. did not respond to these messages either, but Wikileaks was undeterred. “Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well!” Wikileaks wrote on December 16 to Trump Jr., who was by then the son of the president-elect. “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.”
Wikileaks even imagined how Trump might put it: “‘That’s a real smart tough guy and the most famous australian [sic] you have!’ or something similar,” Wikileaks wrote. “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.” (On December 7, Assange, proclaiming his innocence, had released his testimony in front of London investigators looking into accusations that he had committed alleged sexual assault.)
That takes some serious stones.
Trump Jr. didn’t reply and Wikileaks laid off until news of Junior’s meeting with the Russian lawyer in Trump Tower became very public.
“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,” citing a reference in the paper to emails Trump Jr had exchanged with Rob Goldstone, a publicist who had helped set up the meeting. “We think this is strongly in your interest,” Wikileaks went on. It then reprised many of the same arguments it made in trying to convince Trump Jr. to turn over his father’s tax returns, including the argument that Trump’s enemies in the press were using the emails to spin an unfavorable narrative of the meeting. “Us publishing not only deprives them of this ability but is beautifully confounding.”
The message was sent at 9:29 am on July 11. Trump Jr. did not respond, but just hours later, he posted the emails himself, on his own Twitter feed.
These are the emails we know of.
Are they a bombshell? I don’t think so. There’s no smoking gun, here.
They do show the angles being worked by Russia’s propaganda arm, in order to ingratiate themselves into the administration.