Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 15th November, 2017
WASHINGTON, U.S. - In yet another expose involving U.S. President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., a report has shed light on the direct messages he exchanged with the anti-secrecy group, WikiLeaks.
The communication reportedly took place ahead of the controversial 2016 U.S. presidential election and the expose about the nature of the exchange has added more intrigue to the already convoluted Russia probe.
A report that first appeared in The Atlantic on Monday revealed that the exchanges between WikiLeaks and Trump Jr. took place around the time that the website was releasing the stolen emails from Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.
Hours after the report appeared, Trump Jr. himself released a series of private Twitter exchanges between himself and WikiLeaks during and after the 2016 election.
These messages included pleas from the website to publicize its leaks.
Trump Jr.'s release of the messages on Twitter shows that WikiLeaks praises his father's positive comments about the anti-secrecy group and asks Trump Jr. to release his father's tax returns to the site.
The private messages released by Trump Jr. show him responding to the WikiLeaks account three times.
At one point in the messages, he agrees to "ask around" about a political action committee WikiLeaks had mentioned.
He also asked the site about a rumor about an upcoming leak.
A message dated October 3, 2016 showed that the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent Trump Jr. an article that included critical comments Clinton had made about WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange and said "it'd be great if you guys could comment on/push this story."
Trump Jr. replied, "Already did that earlier today. It's amazing what she can get away with."
Two minutes later, Trump Jr. sent another message which said, "What's behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?"
The day before, longtime Trump associate Roger Stone had tweeted the day before that on Wednesday, "Hillary Clinton is done," referencing WikiLeaks.
While the WikiLeaks Twitter account never responded, days later WikiLeaks started rolling out Podesta's stolen emails.
And after the emails were released, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a searchable link of the emails.
Two days later, on October 14, 2016, Trump Jr. tweeted that link two days later.
Meanwhile, the report noted that the rest of the messages are one-sided, with WikiLeaks sending Trump Jr. messages through July 2017.
These messages included praise for his father for mentioning them on the campaign trail, a plea to release Trump's taxes to the site and advice on Election Day that Trump should not concede if he lost.
One message reportedly suggested Trump encourage Australia to appoint Assange as U.S. ambassador.
In July, the Twitter account messaged Trump Jr. to ask him to give the site emails surrounding a meeting he and other Trump associates held with Russians during the campaign.
Trump Jr. then released them himself on Twitter.
The messages began in September 2016 and ran through July.
Trump Jr. downplayed the exchanges he released on Twitter and said, "Here is the entire chain of messages with @wikileaks (with my whopping 3 responses) which one of the congressional committees has chosen to selectively leak. How ironic!"
Incidentally, Trump Jr.'s lawyers had reportedly released the exchanges to three congressional committees that have been investigating Russian intervention in the 2016 election and whether there were any links to Trump's campaign.
After the expose, Trump Jr.'s lawyer released a statement saying thousands of documents had been turned over to the committees.
Alan Futerfas said in the 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.”
Futerfas however did not mention which forum he was referring to.
However, in September, Trump Jr. was interviewed behind closed doors by Senate Judiciary Committee staff.
A source with knowledge of the meeting said the private Twitter messages were discussed behind the closed doors.
Following the revelations, Vice President Mike Pence responded in a statement through his press secretary that he knew nothing about the situation.
Pence’ spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said, “The vice president was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks. He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight."
Following the Atlantic report, Assange tweeted that he couldn't confirm the messages.
However, after Trump Jr. released the messages, Assange defended the messages saying, "WikiLeaks appears to beguile some people into transparency by convincing them that it is in their interest.”
The revelations also immediately led to increased calls in Congress to have Trump Jr. testify publicly as part of several committee probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The series of messages have also added a new element to the investigations that have, for months now, been probing whether Trump's campaign colluded in any way with the Russian government.
In January, in an intelligence assessment, the NSA, CIA and FBI concluded that Russian military intelligence provided hacked information from the DNC and "senior Democratic officials" to WikiLeaks.
So far, WikiLeaks has denied that Russia was the source of emails it released, including those from Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Democrats reacted to the report saying Trump Jr. should provide more information.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said it "demonstrates once again a willingness by the highest levels of the Trump campaign to accept foreign assistance."
Schiff further pointed to Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked for Trump's campaign and according to the company's CEO, it reached out to WikiLeaks before the election about obtaining emails related to Clinton.
Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel should subpoena the documents and force Trump Jr. to publicly testify.
Blumenthal added, “There seems to be no reasonable explanation for these messages.”
After the private interview in September, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he would call Trump Jr. to publicly testify.
However, amid disagreements with Democrats on the panel, negotiations over witnesses broke down last month.
Meanwhile, reports noted that the House and Senate intelligence committees are also expecting to interview Trump Jr., but those interviews are expected to be behind closed doors.
On Tuesday, the former director of the CIA has said that the message exchanges ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election “take your breath away.”
Former CIA boss Michael Hayden said, “When I read the story I was just shaking my head. I have actually defaulted to the explanation of inexperience and naiveté when it comes to some of the campaign’s behaviour with regard to Russia and Wikileaks, and there’s probably still a fair amount of that, but I have to tell you that these continued discoveries that we are picking up here, I have to begin to ask the questions: ‘Were there any limits? Was there any sense of appropriateness? Was there any sense of propriety? Were there any lines beyond which the campaign would not go?’”
He added, “I’m not talking about it as a legal matter… I’m talking about a question of ethics in American political culture. There doesn’t seem to have been any limits here.”
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