WASHINGTON – Evidence that President Donald Trump’s eldest son exchanged private messages on Twitter with WikiLeaks has raised new questions about the Trump campaign’s communications.
The private messages released by Donald Trump Jr. on Monday show him responding to the WikiLeaks’ Twitter account three times, at one point agreeing to “ask around” about a political action committee WikiLeaks had mentioned. He also asked the site about a rumour about an upcoming leak, and tweeted a link that the account sent him.
Questions and answers about the newly revealed messages:
WHY IS WIKILEAKS SIGNIFICANT?
WikiLeaks released hacked emails from top Democratic officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, including thousands stolen from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. In an intelligence assessment released in January, the NSA, CIA and FBI concluded that Russian military intelligence provided the hacked information from the Democratic National Committee and “senior Democratic officials” to WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks has denied that Russia was the source of emails it released, including Podesta’s emails.
Trump praised the website, which bills itself as an anti-secrecy organization, during the campaign. Trump Jr. tweeted a link that the Twitter account had messaged him that made it easier to search the hacked emails.
WHAT DID THE MESSAGES SAY?
Trump Jr.’s release of the messages on Twitter came hours after The Atlantic first reported them Monday. The messages he released began in September 2016 and ran through July.
In the first message, dated Oct. 3, 2016, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent Trump Jr. an article that included critical comments Clinton had made about WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange and said, “it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story.”
Trump Jr. replied: “Already did that earlier today. It’s amazing what she can get away with.”
Two minutes later, Trump Jr. sent another message: “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?”
Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone had tweeted the day before that on Wednesday, “Hillary Clinton is done,” referencing WikiLeaks.
The WikiLeaks Twitter account never responded, but days later WikiLeaks started rolling out Podesta’s stolen emails. After the emails were released, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a searchable link of the emails. Trump Jr. tweeted that link two days later, on Oct. 14, 2016, The Atlantic noted.
The rest of the messages are one-sided, with WikiLeaks sending Trump Jr. messages through July 2017. They include praise for his father for mentioning them on the campaign trail, a plea to release Trump’s taxes to the site and advice on Election Day that Trump should not concede if he lost. One message suggested Trump encourage Australia to appoint Assange as U.S. ambassador.
In July, the Twitter account messaged Trump Jr. asking for emails surrounding a June 2016 meeting he and other Trump associates held with Russians during the campaign. Trump Jr. then released them himself.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR DONALD TRUMP JR.?
Trump Jr. downplayed the exchanges as he released them.
“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,” he wrote on Twitter. “How ironic!”
In a statement, Trump Jr.’s lawyer said thousands of documents had been turned over to committees investigating Russian intervention.
“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,” said Alan Futerfas.
The messages are sure to increase calls for Trump Jr. to testify publicly. He has already been interviewed behind closed doors by the Senate Judiciary Committee — most likely the “appropriate forum” Futerfas was referring to — but Democrats have called for an open hearing.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary panel, said the committee should subpoena the documents and force Trump Jr. to publicly testify.
“There seems to be no reasonable explanation for these messages,” Blumenthal said.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, says it “demonstrates once again a willingness by the highest levels of the Trump campaign to accept foreign assistance.”
Schiff also pointed to Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked for Trump’s campaign and reached out to WikiLeaks before the election about obtaining emails related to Clinton, according to the company’s CEO.