Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election — here’s how it all went down

Donald Trump Jr
Donald Trump Jr. John Sommers II/Getty Images
  • The anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks was in contact with Donald Trump Jr. multiple times leading up to the election.
  • After the election, WikiLeaks contacted Trump Jr. but he did not respond.
  • The group asked Trump Jr. to push its content and to provide it with information like Donald Trump’s tax returns and Trump Jr.’s email correspondence with a British music publicist about meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016.
  • It also “strongly” suggested after the election that Trump ask Australia to appoint WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as its ambassador to the US.

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that has drawn scrutiny over its apparently pro-Russia stance, was in touch with Donald Trump Jr. between September 2016 and July 2017, The Atlantic reported on Monday.

At the time, Donald Trump was the Republican nominee for president in the 2016 election and was running against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Here’s a timeline of WikiLeaks’ correspondence with Trump Jr. leading up to and after the election.

September 20, 2016: WikiLeaks first contacts Trump Jr. via Twitter direct message.

“A PAC run anti-Trump site is about to launch,” WikiLeaks wrote, according to documents obtained by The Atlantic. “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?”

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

On the day he received the message from WikiLeaks, Trump Jr. emailed high-ranking campaign officials — including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Jared Kushner — and told them WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner forwarded the email to Hope Hicks, who worked as a communications staffer on the campaign. She is currently the White House’s director of communications.

October 3, 2016: WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr. that it would ‘be great if you guys could comment on/push this story.’

This was referring to an article published by “True Pundit,” a conservative outlet that’s been known to spread junk news. WikiLeaks highlighted a specific quote in the article, in which Clinton apparently said she wanted to “just drone” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Trump Jr. replied that he “already did that earlier today.”

“It’s amazing what she can get away with,” he added. He reached out to WikiLeaks again two minutes after replying and asked what was “behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” He was likely referring to longtime Republican strategist and informal Trump adviser Roger Stone’s tweet from a day earlier, in which Stone wrote that “[email protected] is done. #WikiLeaks.”

WikiLeaks did not respond to the message, per The Atlantic.

October 12, 2016: WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr., saying, “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications.”

The message came after Trump said at a rally on October 10 that he loved WikiLeaks. His comments came three days after the website published the first batch of hacked emails from the account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

“It’s amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet,” Trump said.

On October 12, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr. to “strongly suggest” that Trump tweet out the link, claiming the site would help people search through the hacked documents. WikiLeaks also told Trump Jr. that it had just released another batch of Podesta’s emails.

Though Trump Jr. did not reply to the message, The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau noted that Trump tweeted, 15 minutes later, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”

On October 14, 2016, Trump Jr. tweeted out the link WikiLeaks had sent to him. “For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @WikiLeaks emails are right here,” he said, and attached the link.

October 21, 2016: WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr. and asked for Trump’s tax returns.

Trump repeatedly refused to release his tax returns during the campaign, but WikiLeaks wanted to leak them, and asked Trump Jr. whether the campaign would allow WikiLeaks to leak “one or more” of Trump’s tax returns. The website said allowing it to publish the returns would benefit its credibility as well as Trump’s campaign.

WikiLeaks had primarily leaked information that was damaging to Clinton up until that point, and the site argued that publicizing Trump’s tax returns would help it be seen as more unbiased, and less “pro-Trump” and “pro-Russia.” It also asked Trump Jr. to send over any other information that could potentially reflect negatively on the Trump campaign.

November 8, 2016: On Election Day, WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr. saying that if Trump lost, it would be “much more interesting” if he didn’t concede.

At 6:35p.m. on Election Day, when most polls and pundits believed Clinton would win the presidency, WikiLeaks messaged Trump Jr. and suggested that Trump contest the election results, rather than concede. It said that refusing to concede the election would help Trump mount an opposition media brand, and that it would expose “media corruption, primary corruption, PAC corruption, etc.”

November 9, 2016: Right after midnight, when it became clear that Trump would win the presidency, WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr., saying, “Wow.”

Trump Jr. did not respond.

December 16, 2016: “Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well!”

WikiLeaks told Trump Jr. that it it would be “real easy and helpful” if Trump asked Australia to appoint Julian Assange ambassador to the US.

It continued, suggesting that Trump could frame the request as follows: “That’s a real smart tough guy and the most famous australian [sic] you have!”

WikiLeaks added that Australia would not appoint Assange ambassador to the US, but that the request from Trump alone would force Australia, the UK, and Sweden to “stop bending” the law “to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons.”

July 11, 2017: WikilLaks reached out to Trump Jr. again, nearly seven months after its last message to him.

The message came three days after The New York Times published a bombshell report detailing Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer in June 2016 at Trump Tower.

Trump Jr. initially said in a statement that the meeting was not related to campaign issues and that they had primarily discussed the issue of Russian adoptions and the 2012 Magnitsky Act. However, he had to amend the statement several times, particularly after it emerged that he took the meeting after he was offered compromising information on Clinton.

On July 11, WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr. saying it was sorry to hear about the turmoil surrounding news of his meeting with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. The website then asked Trump Jr. to send over his correspondence about the meeting, which he had with the British music publicist Rob Goldstone. WikiLeaks argued that it would benefit Trump Jr. and the Trump administration if the emails were publicized via its website, rather than the mainstream media, which WikiLeaks said would spin the story to reflect on Trump in a negative light.

“Us publishing not only deprives them of this ability but is beautifully confounding,” WikiLeaks said.

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