Donald Trump Jr. made senior Trump campaign staff, including Kushner and Bannon, aware that he was in touch with WikiLeaks

Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr. John Moore/Getty Images
  • Donald Trump Jr. told high-level campaign officials including Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner that WikiLeaks contacted him on September 20, 2016.
  • The Atlantic published the full, secret correspondance between Trump Jr. and the Wikileaks account, which spanned 10 months.
  • Trump Jr. is under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to NBC. Kushner has reportedly turned over documents to Mueller.

President Donald Trump’s son told high-level Trump campaign officials, including Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner, that the self-described transparency organisation WikiLeaks had made contact with him in September 2016.

“A PAC run anti-Trump site is about to launch,” Wikileaks wrote, according to a series of private messages released on Twitter by Trump Jr. after they were obtained by The Atlantic.

“The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC,” WikiLeaks continued. “We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?”

Trump Jr. replied: “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”

Trump Jr. then passed along WikiLeaks’ message to high-level campaign officials, including his brother-in-law and senior campaign adviser Jared Kushner; campaign manager Kellyanne Conway; digital director Brad Parscale; and senior strategist Steve Bannon, a source familiar with the congressional investigations into Russia’s election interference told The Atlantic.

Kushner forwarded the email to the campaign’s communications director, Hope Hicks. It is unclear whether she then sent it to then-candidate Donald Trump.

Trump Jr. is under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to NBC. Kushner has reportedly turned over documents to Mueller, and Hope Hicks is scheduled to meet with Mueller’s team later this month.

Trump praised WikiLeaks hundreds of times along the campaign trail for publishing emails that had been stolen from the Democratic National Committee by hackers linked to Russia. 

On October 10, Trump told a crowd of supporters: “I love WikiLeaks!”

Two days later, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. another private Twitter message: “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us. 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. But fifteen minutes later, Trump Sr. tweeted: “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by Wikileaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”

‘A non-state hostile intelligence service’

WikiLeaks continued to reach out to Trump Jr. into July 2017, asking for his father’s tax returns and suggesting that the campaign challenge the results of the election if Trump lost to Hillary Clinton.

On the morning of July 11, WikiLeaks asked for the email exchanges between Trump Jr. and the music publicist Rob Goldstone that led up to the Trump Tower meeting on June 9 with two Russian nationals. Assange tweeted that day that he had “contacted Trump Jr this morning on why he should publish his emails (i.e with us). Two hours later, does it himself.” 

Trump Jr. stopped responding altogether in late October. His lawyer did not dispute the accuracy of the private messages.

“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,” he told The Atlantic.

But the revelation that Trump Jr. told senior Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks’ first message raises questions about whether there was any high-level coordination between WikiLeaks and the campaign.

The correspondence began about two weeks before WikiLeaks published emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, which Trump Jr. promoted on his Twitter account (two days after WikiLeaks asked him to, according to The Atlantic).

The US intelligence community concluded in January that Russia used WikiLeaks as a tool to interfere in the election. In April, CIA Director Mike Pompeo characterised WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” He added that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was “a fraud” and “a coward.”

WikiLeaks’ outreach came on the heels of two other meetings between members of the campaign and Russia-linked officials.

Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner famously met with a Russian lawyer on June 9 on the promise of obtaining negative information about Hillary Clinton. Another low-level campaign staffer, George Papadopoulos, met with a Russia-linked professor in London in late April who told him that the Kremlin had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

Trump Jr. responded to The Atlantic’s report via Twitter on Monday: 

Assange also issued a lengthy response: 

“I cannot confirm the alleged DM’s from @DonaldJTrumpJr to @WikiLeaks. @WikiLeaks does not keep such records and the Atlantic’s presentation is edited and clearly does not have the full context. However, even those published by the Atlantic show that: WikiLeaks loves its pending publications and ignores those who ask for details. Trump Jr. was rebuffed just like Cambridge Analytica. In both cases WikiLeaks had publicly teased the publications. Thousands of people asked about them. WikiLeaks can be very effective at convincing even high profile people that it is their interest to promote links to its publications. WikiLeaks has such chutzpah that it allegedly tried to convince Trump Jr to leak his father’s tax returns & his own ‘Russian lawyer meeting’ emails (he did). WikiLeaks appears to beguile some people into transparency by convincing them that it is in their interest.”