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    Secret correspondence between Wikileaks and Donald Trump Jr. includes requests for cooperation in sharing the work of the transparency group


    Americas: United States


    Special Report:  


    Secret correspondence between Wikileaks and Donald Trump Jr. includes requests for cooperation in sharing the work of the transparency group, contesting the results of the election, and arranging the appointment of Julian Assange as Australia’s ambassador to the United States.  


    In Detail: 


    On Nov. 13, 2017, a report by the Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe revealed secret correspondence between the radical transparency group, Wikileaks, and the son of United States President Donald Trump prior to the 2016 presidential election. 


    Those private messages between Wikileaks and Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 presidential campaign included requests by Wikileaks for cooperation in sharing their, requests by Wikileaks that the Trump campaign contesting the results of the election (under the assumption that Trump would lose), and requests that the Trump cadre arrange the appointment of Julian Assange -- the founder of Wikileaks - to be Australia’s ambassador to the United States.  Such a move would entail certain machinations since Assange has been a fugitive from justice for years, forced to live in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.   


    The message exchange between Trump Jr. and the WikiLeaks Twitter account had been turned over to congressional investigators but was obtained by Ioffe, who disseminated the news story in the publication, The Atlantic.  According to these direct messages (DMs), Trump Jr. corresponded with Wikileaks via DM at least three times.  Trump Jr. also informed several top operators in the Trump campaign via email about the fact that Wikileaks had reached out to him.  According to Ioffe, Trump Jr. specifically emailed top Trump campaign officials  including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Jared Kushner to inform them of contact with  WikiLeaks.  Then, Kushner forwarded the email to Trump communications contact, Hope Hicks.


    For its part, WikiLeaks dispatched many DMs to Trump Jr. over the course of several months, although Trump Jr. only responded to a handful of them.  The content and tone of the messages that did entail engagement, however, illustrated that Trump Jr. welcomed the connection with Wikileaks.  Moreover it pointed towards an alliance between the two sides.  


    That alliance was illustrated as follows:


    On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote: “Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story.” WikiLeaks even suggested including a quote from then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton about wanting to “just drone” WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.   Trump Jr. responded by messaging: “Already did that earlier today. It’s amazing what she can get away with.”


    The messages from Wikileaks included requests that the Trump campaign disseminate certain stories -- a move pointed to coordination. 


    Indeed, when WikiLeaks suggested on Oct. 12, 2016 that Trump Jr. tweet out a link to its site hosting the hacked emails of the Clinton campaign's chairperson, John Podesta, Trump  did exactly that.   Wikileaks messaged the following to Trump Jr. " 

    “Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us.”  Only 15 minutes later, Trump  tweeted: “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”


    There is no suggestion that Trump Jr. had the inside track on the hacked Democratic emails that Wikileaks published.  Indeed, on Oct. 3, 2017, Trump Jr. messaged  WikiLeaks and asked, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?”  The question pointed to the sense of anticipation in the public sphere that WikiLeaks would soon release information expected to be damaging to the Clinton campaign. It should be noted that Wikileaks did not respond to that message from Trump Jr. 


    A week later on Oct. 10, 2016, Trump himself declared at a rally, "I love Wikileaks."  Then two days after on Oct. 12, 2016,  Wikileaks messaged Trump Jr. to thank the Trump camp for referencing the radical transparency entity.  The DM was as follows: “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications." 


    Wikileaks' overtures to Trump Jr. continued for some time, even suggesting mutually-beneficial cooperation.  To this end, Wikileaks suggested that the Trump camp leak Donald Trump's tax returns to the group.  On Oct. 21, 2016, Wikileaks said, “Hey Don. We have an unusual idea. Leak us one or more of your father’s tax returns.”  In the words of Wikileaks, the move would “improve the perception of our impartiality.” The idea was that while Wikileaks would publish hacked information that would damage the Clinton campaign, and thus benefit Trump, the Trump camp could assist Wikileaks in crafting a false image of impartiality.  


    Wikileaks became increasingly foreceful in its messages to Trump Jr., even offering political advice on election day that trump not concede the election if he lost.  On Nov. 8, 2016, Wikileaks issued the following message:  “Hi Don if your father ‘loses’ we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT conceed [sic] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred—as he has implied that he might do.” 


    That message indicated that Wikileaks -- like most of the political pundit class -- did not expect Trump would win the election.  After midnight in the early hours of Nov. 9, 2016 when the shock result of the election was apparent, Wikileaks messaged Trump Jr. with one word:  “Wow.”


    In December 2016, a month prior to Trump's inauguration into power, Wikileaks had further political suggestions for the incoming administration. Specifically, Wikileaks brazenly urged Trump to pressure Australia to appoint its own founder, Assange, as  ambassador to the United States.  


    The message read as follows: “In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK 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.”


    The correspondence between Trump Jr. and Wikileaks do not indicate that the Trump campaign had any knowledge of the actual hacking of Democratic emails.  In fact, Trump Jr.'s question noted above suggested that he had no awareness of this particular dimension.  However, the DMs reveal clear collaborative contact between  Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks during a sensitive campaign season.  The messages also make clear that the uppermost echelon of the Trump campaign was aware of the contact with Wikileaks.  While this contact does not extend to the realm of collusion with Russia  -- the area under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller -- it hints towards an alliance.  


    The appropriateness of such an alliance would certainly evoke debate since Wikileaks was a foreign-based entity that had illegally accessed and published classified and sensitive documents; those documents ranged from United States Department of State diplomatic correspondence to the hacked emails of the Democratic Party. Given the illicit nature of the Wikileaks enterprise, national security experts will inevitably pose the question as to whether any person or cadre of persons seeking to guide the national security of the United States would be allied with an entity at odds with the national interests.  Indeed, as noted by the United States national security apparatus, Wikileaks is a hostile non-state actor, functioning as an influence operation, but masquerading as a radical transparency "cause."


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