Here’s Exactly What Donald Trump Jr. Talked To Wikileaks About
On Monday evening, Donald Trump Jr. released his Twitter messages with WikiLeaks by tweeting out screenshots of what he claims to be his entire correspondence with the organization during his father's campaign for the 2016 presidential election.
The Atlantic published a story earlier in the day revealing that WikiLeaks' Twitter account had sent Trump Jr. a series of direct messages between September 2016 and July 2017, to which he replied with three messages of his own in September and October.
The Twitter exchange mostly involved WikiLeaks offering advice to the Trump campaign. For example, the organization suggested that Trump Jr. publicize a few specific leaks about Clinton and her campaign, that Trump confidentially leak one of his tax returns to WikiLeaks, and later, that newly-elected President Trump ask Australia to appoint Julian Assange, the site's founder and an Australian native, as ambassador to the United States.
Trump Jr.'s lawyer responded to the Atlantic story with the following statement: "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."
By tweeting out the entire message chain, Trump Jr. may be trying to indicate that he truly has "no concerns about these documents." It's a tactic he's used before: In July, after The New York Times leaked parts of an email chain in which he accepted a Russian attorney's offer to provide him with dirt on the Clinton campaign, he opted to release the emails himself on Twitter.
On Monday, he posted 10 screenshots of his direct messages with @wikileaks in a series of three tweets.
In this case, his screenshots don't divulge much information that we didn't already know, though they do flesh out the correspondence described in the Atlantic exposé. We now see that WikiLeaks told Trump Jr. that "you guys can get all your followers digging through the content" of the leaked Podesta emails by tweeting out their link. Wikileaks argued that Trump should leak one of his tax returns to the organization because a liberal-leaning news outlet might otherwise obtain them and "distort them into the worst possible light."
The new messages include an explanation about how to leak Trump's tax returns — Trump Jr. could "email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or use our secure submission system at wikileaks.org/#submit or many other methods (e.g. lawyer to lawyer)" — as well as a "heads up" that "Obama people will surely try to delete records on the way out."
The Russian government chose WikiLeaks to be the publishing vehicle for many of its hacks into the DNC, according to the U.S. intelligence community. Still, these messages alone do not reveal anything incriminating about the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia (potential ties Trump firmly denies). We also don't know whether the messages might eventually make Trump Jr. liable for any other sort of crime; it's unclear whether he actually used the password WikiLeaks provided to him in a message to access the website for the anti-Trump PAC "putintrump.org." If he did, that could mean that he broke the anti-hacking Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to legal expert Renato Mariotti.
In October 2016, then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence asserted that his campaign was not "in cahoots" with WikiLeaks to release damaging information about the Clinton campaign, saying, "Nothing could be further from the truth." Trump Jr.'s Twitter messages with the organization don't constitute being "in cahoots," but nevertheless, Pence's press secretary responded to the news about Trump Jr.'s correspondence by putting out a statement on Monday claiming that he was unaware of the messages.
"The Vice President was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with Wikileaks," reads the statement. "He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight." There is no evidence to refute this, although we know from the Atlantic investigation that Trump Jr. alerted other top campaign officials about his messages with the organization, including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway.