In another attempt at false transparency, Donald Trump Jr. recently disclosed his direct communications with Wikileaks on the same day that news reports exposed their dubious relationship during and after the presidential campaign. Despite the fact that Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and many other senior Trump officials have repeatedly denied colluding with Wikileaks and the Russian government, evidence to the contrary continues to surface.
On Monday, Trump Jr. took to Twitter and wrote, “Here is the entire chain of messages with @wikileaks (with my whopping 3 responses) which one of the congressional committees has chosen to selectively leak. How ironic!”
According to his own direct messages on Twitter, Wikileaks allegedly gave Trump Jr. the password to a website run by an anti-Trump PAC on September 20, 2016. Less than 12 hours later, Trump Jr. responded, “Off the record I don’t know who that is but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”
On Monday, an investigative report from The Atlantic revealed that after receiving the initial message from Wikileaks, Trump Jr. informed other senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. Although Sessions reportedly told George Papadopoulos not to communicate with the Russian government during a meeting in March 2016, no member of the Trump campaign told Trump Jr. to cease his communications with Wikileaks.
In July 2016, Wikileaks released a trove of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee’s servers on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. Less than an hour after the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape went public on October 7, 2016, Wikileaks released hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.
Four days before the release of the Podesta emails, Wikileaks sent another direct message to Trump Jr. with a Clinton quote attached discussing her desire to “just drone” WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. An hour and 30 minutes later, Trump Jr. responded, “Already did that earlier today. It’s amazing what she can get away with.”
Two minutes later, Trump Jr. asked, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?”
While communicating with a Russian-backed hacker named Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter during the same time, Roger Stone suspiciously tweeted, “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.”
After Trump repeatedly professed his love for Wikileaks in the media, Wikileaks contacted Trump Jr. again to inform him that they had just released another batch of Podesta emails on October 12, 2016. Four months earlier, Trump Jr. attended a secret meeting with Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and several Russian officials in an attempt to obtain hacked Clinton’s emails from the Russian government.
Besides encouraging Trump Jr. to release his father’s tax returns through Wikileaks in an attempt for the organization to appear non-biased, Wikileaks also strongly supported Trump’s decision to publicly contest the election if he lost. On December 16, 2016, Wikileaks wrote to Trump Jr., “In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, U.K. 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.”
During the last month of his presidential campaign, Trump reportedly mentioned Wikileaks at least 145 times. According to U.S. intelligence officials, Russian operatives hacked the DNC emails that Wikileaks later published in an attempt to smear Clinton’s campaign and disrupt the election.
Although Trump Jr.’s direct messages do not currently meet the legal definition of collusion, Wikileaks was clearly offering to expose hacked emails with the hope of receiving political favors from the new president.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the House Judicial Committee to once again deny his involvement with Russian meddling last year. Sessions recused himself from any Justice Department investigations into Russian interference due to his repeated false statements.
During an interview with Fox News on October 14, 2016, Mike Pence was asked if the Trump campaign was “in cahoots” with Wikileaks. Pence incorrectly responded, “Nothing could be further from the truth. I think all of us have, you know, have had concerns about WikiLeaks over the years and it’s just a reality of American life today, and of life in the wider world.”
“The Vice President was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with Wikileaks,” said Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, in a recent statement. Pence had also reportedly been unaware of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s involvement with the Russian and Turkish governments before Flynn’s forced resignation.