For months, the WikiLeaks Twitter account has carried on a secret correspondence with Donald Trump Jr., according to messages published today by The Atlantic. The messages, which have also been provided to congressional investigators, show WikiLeaks pushing President Trump’s son to share a variety of messages, ranging from anti-Clinton news to data stolen directly from the campaign. In one case, WikiLeaks even shared the password to an anti-Trump PAC’s website, a potential violation of computer hacking laws.
Not all of the messages were anti-Clinton. There were also significant efforts to convince the younger Trump to release his father’s tax returns in October, which WikiLeaks argued would “dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality.” Trump Jr. does not seem to have taken WikiLeaks up on the offer.
In a message shortly after the election, WikiLeaks also sought a more permanent status for Julian Assange, currently sequestered in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. “Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia (his home country) to illicitly go after Mr. Assange,” the account wrote to Trump Jr.. “It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC.”
More dramatically, WikiLeaks also reached out after The New York Times reported details of a private meeting between Trump Jr. and Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. In a direct message, WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. to send them the emails for release, saying, “We think this is strongly in your interest.” Trump Jr. published the emails on his personal Twitter account shortly afterward — a puzzling move, since much of the conversation is now seen as incriminating. Assange had previously spoken about his role in the released emails, although many were skeptical at the time.
As The Atlantic acknowledges, the conversation was largely one-sided, with WikiLeaks making a proposal and Trump Jr. either acting in accordance or going silent. Still, it shows an ongoing relationship between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, one that was controversial throughout the election. WikiLeaks was instrumental in distributing emails stolen from the Clinton campaign — now believed to have been stolen as part of a Russian influence campaign — but the Trump campaign repeatedly denied any direct coordination with WikiLeaks. The messages published today seem to indicate otherwise.
Responding on Twitter, Julian Assange said he could not confirm the authenticity of the messages since Wikileaks “does not keep such records.” However, he argued the Atlantic had presented the messages in an unfairly damaging light.
The news has already drawn harsh criticism from congressional investigators. In a statement, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the news “demonstrates once again a willingness by the highest levels of the Trump campaign to accept foreign assistance.”
Update 6:05PM ET: Updated with statements from Assange and Schiff.