Gage Skidmore / Flickr donald trump jr...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The Atlantic has released a series of messages showing that between September 2016 and July 2017, Donald Trump Jr. carried on a private exchange with WikiLeaks. Trump coordinated in the release of stories, worked with WikiLeaks to maximize the impact of their releases, and fielded some … unusual requests. The coordination appears to have started on Sept. 20, when WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a direct message on Twitter to warn him about a new anti-Trump website—along with the password to access the site. 

“A PAC run anti-Trump site is about to launch,” Wikileaks wrote. “The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ …

The next morning, about 12 hours later, Trump Jr. responded to Wikileaks. “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,” he wrote on September 21, 2016. “Thanks.” …

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.

The George Papadopoulos statement of offense established that the Trump campaign learned about Russia’s theft of the DNC emails months before it became public knowledge. Subsequent reports have revealed that Papadopoulos passed that news onto Stephen Miller within a day. That means the Trump campaign had a month to digest the news before the meeting at Trump Tower. 

WikiLeaks was clearly the chosen means of disseminating those letters. And the Trump campaign was very clearly working hand in glove with WikiLeaks.

What’s still missing from this story to prove conspiracy? It’s a trick question. The answer is “nothing.”

At this point, it’s hard to think of what part of “collusion” hasn’t been verified over and over. And before anyone tries to say that the connections—despite being communicated to everyone in the Trump campaign—were somehow limited to Donald Trump Jr.  here’s the final nail in this coffin.

“Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us,” Wikileaks went on, pointing Trump Jr. to the link, 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!”

Two days later, on October 14, 2016, Trump Jr. tweeted out the link WikiLeaks had provided him. “For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @wikileaks emails are right here:,” he wrote.

Emphasis #$%*ing added. 

After Trump gave his “I love WikiLeaks” speech in October, Trump Jr. stopped replying directly to the WikiLeaks messages. But that doesn’t mean he stopped reading them or using them—even when it came to how he should handle the news of that Trump Tower meeting.

“Hi Don. Sorry to hear about your problems,” Wikileaks wrote. “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,” citing a reference in the paper to emails Trump Jr had exchanged with Rob Goldstone, a publicist who had helped set up the meeting. “We think this is strongly in your interest,” Wikileaks went on. It then reprised many of the same arguments it made in trying to convince Trump Jr. to turn over his father’s tax returns, including the argument that Trump’s enemies in the press were using the emails to spin an unfavorable narrative of the meeting. “Us publishing not only deprives them of this ability but is beautifully confounding.”

The message was sent at 9:29 am on July 11. Trump Jr. did not respond, but just hours later, he posted the emails himself, on his own Twitter feed.

Since Trump Jr. tweeted out WikiLeaks’ willingness to communicate to everyone in the Trump campaign leadership team, it’s impossible at this point to determine who else was carrying on secret discussions with Assange’s team behind the scenes. That remains a mystery … for now.

What is clear from the messages is that WikiLeaks understood their own role in this scheme very well.

“If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,” WikiLeaks explained. “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.” 

  • The Trump team was made aware of the emails.
  • The Trump team was enthusiastic to meet about the emails.
  • The Trump team agreed to the payment for the emails in the form of reviewing the Magnitsky Act.
  • The Trump team coordinated with WikiLeaks to use the emails, even as they pretended that WikiLeaks was neither a “pro-Trump” or “pro-Russia” source.

Everything else is gravy. At least Trump can say he didn’t follow through on this request …

“It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to [Washington,] DC.”

At least, so far as we know.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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