At the peak of last year's US presidential election, Donald Trump Jr and WikiLeaks reportedly corresponded with each other, sharing several direct messages on Twitter. The conversation appears to be mostly one-sided, with Wikileaks engaging far more than Trump Jr. However, the messages, which have now been publicly shared by Trump Jr himself on Twitter, reveal that WikiLeaks pushed the Trump campaign to mention its publications.
The secret messages were first reported by The Atlantic. The publication said that it obtained the messages between Trump Jr and WikiLeaks after Trump Jr's lawyers handed them over to congressional investigators. However, shortly after the report went public, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took to Twitter, claiming that he could not confirm the messages and that the whistleblowing platform "did not keep such records".
"WikiLeaks loves its pending publications and ignores those who ask for details. Trump Jr was rebuffed just like Cambridge Analytica. In both cases, WikiLeaks had publicly teased the publications. Thousands of people asked about them," Assange tweeted.
"WikiLeaks can be very effective at convincing even high profile people that it is in their interest to promote links to its publications," Assange added in another tweet.
The Atlantic's report revealed that WikiLeaks sent several messages to Trump Jr last year. Here's what you need to know about the secret messages:
- WikiLeaks was the first to reach out and send a message to Trump Jr about an alleged PAC-run anti-Trump site "putintrump.org". The whistleblowing platform urged Trump Jr to check out who was running the site. Trump Jr responded to WikiLeaks' message after 12 hours, saying that he would "ask around".
In another message WikiLeaks requested that the Trump campaign "comment on/push" a quote about Hillary Clinton wanting to "just drone" Assange. Trump Jr responded to the message within a few hours writing, "Already did that earlier today. It's amazing what she can get away with."
- Trump Jr also asked WikiLeaks about an upcoming leak that the whistleblowing platform had allegedly teased. However, WikiLeaks did not respond to the message.
- Two days after Trump said "I love WikiLeaks" at a rally in October, WikiLeaks again reached out to Trump Jr, requesting that Trump tweet out the link to the whistleblowing platform's leaks. "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." Although Trump Jr did not respond to the message, Trump himself tweeted about the "dishonest media" not appropriately covering the "incredible information provided by WikiLeaks".
- Two days after WikiLeaks requested the link be tweeted, Trump Jr shared the link on Twitter.
- In yet another message, WikiLeaks requested Trump Jr to leak to them his father's tax returns. "If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality," WikiLeaks wrote. "That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing on Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won't be perceived as coming from a 'pro-Trump' 'pro-Russia' source."
- On election day, WikiLeaks sent another message to Trump Jr, suggesting that should Trump lose then he could "challenge" the media and "other types of rigging" instead of conceding. "He is also much more likely to keep his base alive and energised this way," WikiLeaks wrote.
- WikiLeaks wrote a one-word message to Trump Jr - "Wow" – shortly after midnight on election day, when it was clear that Trump had won the presidency.
- In mid-December, Trump Jr received yet another message from WikiLeaks. "Hi Don. Hope you're doing well!" WikiLeaks wrote on 16 December to Trump Jr, who was by then the son of the president-elect. "In relation to Mr Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia to illicitly go after Mr Assange. It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC."
In July, in the final message of the nearly 10-month long correspondence, WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr, about an idea that may help combat the repercussions the administration was facing after the New York Times first reported about Trump Jr's meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. "We have an idea that may help a little. We are VERY interested in confidentially obtaining and publishing a copy of the email(s) cited in the New York Times today," WikiLeaks wrote. "We think this is strongly in your interest."
- Although Trump Jr did not respond to the message, just a few hours later, he made the emails public, posting them on his Twitter feed.
It is unclear whether the various suggestions made by WikiLeaks may have influenced the decisions of not just Trump Jr but the Trump campaign or even the White House.