Throughout the 2016 US election and for the better part of this year, WikiLeaks sent private messages via Twitter to the US president's adult son Donald Trump Jr, according to newly leaked correspondence first reported by The Atlantic. Trump Jr only occasionally responded and apparently ceased all communication less than a month before the US election.
The chats, which were also handed over to congressional investigators, started last winter after WikiLeaks began releasing a trove of emails poached by hackers from prominent Democratic Party members - the product of Kremlin-directed cyberattacks, according to the US intelligence community, as well as multiple private security firms that examined the DNC's corpse of a server. The communications, which Gizmodo has not confirmed independently, reveal an intense thirst on the part of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who clearly holds a candle for Donald Trump.
Although WikiLeaks, which denies being a Russian puppet, did the lion's share of the talking, it appears that in some cases Trump Jr actually conveyed the whistleblowing website's requests through to the highest echelons of his father's presidential campaign. Following their initial chat, in which WikiLeaks warned Trump Jr that "anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch," Trump Jr reportedly alerted, among others, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The various requests WikiLeaks made of Trump Jr grew increasingly bizarre as time marched on.
"It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC," WikiLeaks suggested a little more than a month after the US election. The account - almost certainly with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange behind the keyboard - went on to suggest how Trump might frame the argument: "'That's a real smart tough guy and the most famous australian you have!' or something similar," WikiLeaks wrote in a transparent attempt to capture Trump's inarticulate style.
About a month before the US election - and 15 minutes after WikiLeaks notified Trump Jr that it had released the fourth set of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta - then-candidate Trump tweeted, "Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!"
After Donald Trump proclaimed, "I love WikiLeaks!" during an October 10 campaign rally, WikiLeaks messaged Trump Jr: "Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications."
WikiLeaks also had a plan for if Trump lost the election, which it reportedly conveyed to Trump Jr on Election Day: "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." WikiLeaks continued: "The discussion can be transformative as it exposes media corruption, primary corruption, PAC corruption, etc."
In July of this year, WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr to consider handing over his father's tax returns. While running, Donald Trump promised to release his tax records on numerous occasions, though he, of course, never did. WikiLeaks suggested that doing so would rob his opponents of a valuable talking point, according to The Atlantic. "Us publishing not only deprives them of this ability but is beautifully confounding," WikiLeaks argued.
According to The Atlantic, Trump Jr never once told WikiLeaks to piss off. He instead tweeted out links Assange secretly sent him.
Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Jr, told the magazine that he had been cooperating with investigations into ties between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, and had turned over thousands of documents so far. "Putting aside the question as to why or by whom such documents, provided to Congress under promises of confidentiality, have been selectively leaked," Futerfas said, "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."
Gizmodo reached out to WikiLeaks for comment via a Twitter DM, but did not receive a response.
Julian Assange has started tweeting about the story:
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. 2/
— Julian Assange ???? (@JulianAssange) November 13, 2017