NEW YORK — Donald Trump Jr. corresponded with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign — and the presidential son appears to have acted on requests made by the Kremlin-connected transparency organization, according to a new report.
As the investigation into Russian collusion continues to loom over the White House, Twitter messages obtained by The Atlantic on Monday reveal that Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks on a number of occasions, starting in September last year and spanning until at least July this year.
Roughly two months before Election Day, the WikiLeaks Twitter account initiated contact, informing the Trump son over a direct message that an anti-Trump PAC was about to launch a website called putintrump.org.
“The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC,” the WikiLeaks handle wrote. “We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comment?”
“Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around. Thanks,” Trump Jr. responded about 12 hours later.
And it appears Trump Jr. made good on that promise.
A source familiar with the congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election told The Atlantic that Trump Jr. contacted a number of senior Trump campaign officials hours after receiving those messages, telling them that WikiLeaks had made contact. The officials included Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Pascale and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who in turn forwarded the information to communications staffer Hope Hicks.
WikiLeaks also made more brazen requests, such as asking Trump Jr. to coax his father into telling Australia to appoint its founder, Julian Assange, ambassador to the United States. The anti-secrecy site also tried to persuade Trump Jr. to share his father’s tax returns.
Trump Jr. at no point rebuffed WikiLeaks’ attempts at contact, even though the U.S. intelligence community had already concluded that the organization had published stolen documents and operated on behalf of Russian interests.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, told the New York Daily News his client has turned over the correspondences to congressional committees probing 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,” Futerfas said in an email. “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.”
Assange pushed back against The Atlantic report over Twitter.
“I cannot confirm the alleged DM’s from DonaldJTrumpJR to WikiLeaks,” he tweeted. “WikiLeaks does not keep such records and the Atlantic’s presentation is edited and clearly does not have the full context.”
While Trump, Jr. usually didn’t respond to WikiLeaks’ frequent messages, he appeared to have acted on them on a number of occasions.
WikiLeaks expressed appreciation after then-candidate Trump exclaimed “I love WikiLeaks” during a campaign rally on Oct. 10.
“There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows (sic) will find it,” WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr. two days later. Just 15 minutes after that message was sent, Trump Jr. tweeted, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”
After it was revealed this summer that Trump Jr. had met with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during the campaign, WikiLeaks tried to persuade him to share revealing emails that The New York Times had reported on the day before.
Roughly two hours later, Trump Jr. posted the emails on his own Twitter feed.
Trump Jr. is one of many Trump associates entangled in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates were indicted on a slew of federal charges last month and Trump policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian operatives, reportedly out of loyalty to the president.