As the Atlantic reports today Wikileaks reached out to Don Trump Jr. with various suggestions during the 2016 campaign, and in some cases he followed their advice and responded back with requests of his own. They even suggested that if Trump lost on election day, that he should refuse to concede and challenge the results.
Around 6:30 PM EST on Election Day 2016, when most still believed Hillary Clinton would win the election, WikiLeaks messaged Trump Jr. advising his father not to concede.
“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,” the message reportedly read, citing Donald Trump’s rumored plans to start his own media network when and if he lost the election.
Now this was a suggestion the Trump ultimately didn’t need to follow, but there were others and some he performed like a happy little puppy.
In one instance, around when WikiLeaks published emails from Clinton’s campaign Chairman John Podesta, the organization messaged Trump Jr. suggesting his father link to their Twitter account and use their links when praising the group. Though Trump Jr. didn’t respond, he tweeted using the link they provided him a few days later.
“For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @wikileaks emails are right here: //wlsearch.tk/,” he tweeted on October 14, 2016.
Wow, what a coincidence, right? He happens to use the exact same link they sent him to help promote their reports which, by pure happenstance, tend to help his father’s campaign?
This wasn’t an accident as it has already been going on for months. When first contacted by Wikileaks on September 12, 2016 about the provenance of the website PutinTrump.org — which was founded by Rob Glaser in a joint project with Mother Jones — to which Trump responded “I’ll check around.” And he did, he also informed many other members of the campaign that “Wikileaks has reached out.”
When WikiLeaks first reached out to Trump Jr. about putintrump.org, for instance, Trump Jr. followed up on his promise to “ask around.” According to a source familiar with the congressional investigations into Russian interference with the 2016 campaign, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, on the same day that Trump Jr. received the first message from WikiLeaks, he emailed other senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, telling them WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner then forwarded the email to campaign communications staffer Hope Hicks. At no point during the 10-month correspondence does Trump Jr. rebuff WikiLeaks, which had published stolen documents and was already observed to be releasing information that benefited Russian interests.
Then there was this exchange.
On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote again. “Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story,” WikiLeaks suggested, attaching a quote from then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton about wanting to “just drone” WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.
“Already did that earlier today,” Trump Jr. responded an hour-and-a-half later. “It’s amazing what she can get away with.”
And this one.
“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.”
Trump Jr. did not respond to this message. But just 15 minutes after it was sent, as The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau pointed out, Donald Trump himself tweeted, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”
So Wikileaks suggest to Don Jr. that Trump tweet out a link they suggested, and literally 15 mins later Trump himself tweeted exactly what it was they asked.
The problem with all of this is clearly that Wikileaks is not an American entity. They aren’t an American company while Julian Assange himself is technically — just like Rupert Murdock — is an Australian.
And that coordinating your campaign or accepting gifts of any value from foreign nationals or organization is a direct violation of Federal Campaign Finance Laws.
In a Just Security article published on July 10, the day prior to Trump Jr.’s publication of his email exchange claiming he “loves” the prospect of dirt on Hillary Clinton (something suggested to him, in part, by WikiLeaks), former White House Counsel Bob Bauer warned that any “coordination” between the Trump campaign and non-Americans is illegal.
“It is important to underscore here that this area of law applies to any and all coordinated spending beneficial to the campaign, not only to coordination with Russians, the Russian government, or other foreign nationals (think: Wikileaks),” Bauer wrote.
In the world of campaign finance law, “spending” doesn’t just describe monetary contributions. If a campaign accepts help from a foreign national, like a Russian operative, or WikiLeaks’ Australian founder Julian Assange, it’s an expenditure.
“Under the campaign finance laws, spending of all kinds to influence an election can be subject to a finding of coordination resulting in an illegal contribution,” Bauer continued.
The former White House counsel also noted that “under no circumstance may a candidate coordinate campaign spending, which includes any ‘thing of value’ to influence an election, with a foreign national.”
So Don jr. and his father, taking any of these little suggestions from Wikileaks — which is run by an Australian, never mind Russia — and then actually implementing them — is a Federal Crime.
Donald Trump Jr committed that crime and his father, as well as all those he informed while none of them passed that information on to the FBI aided and abetted him in that crime.
That’s quite serious.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.