Wikileaks slid into Trump Jr.’s DMs
Wikileaks slid into Donald Trump Jr.’s inbox during the 2016 presidential election to coordinate the promotion of hacked emails. Copies of the messages, turned over to congressional investigators by Trump Jr.’s lawyers and obtained by The Atlantic, show that Wikileaks solicited Donald Trump’s eldest son to publicize emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that were published after being obtained by Russian hackers.
The reported dialogue between Trump Jr. and Wikileaks began on September 20, 2016 and continued until at least July 2017. One notable exchange took place on October 12, 2016.
On October 12, 2016, the account again messaged Trump Jr. “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications,” WikiLeaks wrote. (At a rally on October 10, Donald Trump had proclaimed, “I love WikiLeaks!”)
“Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us,” WikiLeaks went on, pointing Trump Jr. to the link wlsearch.tk, which it said would help Trump’s followers dig through the trove of stolen documents and find stories. “There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows [sic] will find it,” WikiLeaks went on. “Btw we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.”
It appears Trump Jr. passed along the message. On the same day, as noted by the Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau, Trump tweeted praise of the Podesta report mentioned to his son. “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks,” Trump wrote. “So dishonest! Rigged system!”
Two days later, Trump Jr. himself tweeted the link shared by Wikileaks. “For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy,” Junior wrote, “all the @wikileaks emails are right here: wlsearch.tk.” Fredo shot that off on the same morning that Mike Pence, asked whether the campaign was “in cahoots” with Wikileaks, told Fox News, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has repeatedly declined to say how the outlet obtained the DNC and Podesta emails, which U.S. intelligence maintains were stolen by Russian hackers working on behalf of the Kremlin. The Twitter messages don’t prove that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to obtain and publish the emails, but they do demonstrate Wikileaks made an effort to coordinate with the campaign the promotion of those emails, via the most Twitter-obsessed member of the Trump family. Credit where credit’s due — it’s not a bad strategy for audience engagement.
Other messages published by The Atlantic show that Wikileaks tried to persuade Trump Jr. to leak his father’s tax returns, encouraged the campaign to refuse to concede if Clinton won the election, and attempted during the transition to get Assange appointed as Australia’s ambassador to the United States.
Hours after The Atlantic published its report, Trump Jr. shared screenshots of his DM inbox on Twitter. You can read the full report here.