Julian Assange's WikiLeaks – that bastion of fiercely independent journalism – privately urged the Trump campaign to not concede the 2016 presidential election, to contest the result as rigged, and asked for one of Donald's tax returns so as to appear impartial and nothing whatsoever to do with Russia's meddling in the White House race.
Private Twitter messages obtained by The Atlantic detail how WikiLeaks interacted with the president's son, Donald Trump Jr, between September 2016 and July of this year. The messages include requests for comment from the campaign, which is normal for journalists, and endorsements from Donald Trump of WikiLeaks publications, which is a bit odd, as well as "advice" from WikiLeaks staff to Trump Jr, which is flatout weird.
The DMs were part of a collection of documents Donald Trump Jr's attorneys provided to US congressional committees investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. During the campaigning, WikiLeaks dumped online private emails stolen from the Democratic Party; the source of those messages is believed to be Kremlin-backed hackers.
Most notably from that Twitter exchange is a conversation that took place in late October 2016, just weeks before the national election. In those messages, WikiLeaks suggested that Trump's team provide it with "one or more" of Donald's tax returns in exchange for continued favorable coverage. The TV celebrity was refusing to make his returns public, and it appears WikiLeaks sought a copy to publish in order to demonstrate it totally wasn't rooting against Assange's arch-nemesis, Hillary Clinton, and singing from the same hymn sheet as Trump and Moscow.
"If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,” WikiLeaks told Trump Jr.
“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.”
Trump Jr's Twitter account did not respond to the offer.
Even after the election, the two sides were said to have corresponded, with WikiLeaks offering Trump Jr advice, including one particular diplomatic request regarding Assange, who was and still is hiding out in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, England...
"It would be real easy and helpful for your dad [Donald Trump] to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to [Washington,] DC," the WikiLeaks DMs read.
"They won’t do it but it will send the right signals to Australia, UK + Sweden to start following the law and stop bending it to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons."
The WikiLeaks account has not issued a formal statement in response to the leaking of the private messages this week, although founder Assange did take to Twitter...
I cannot confirm the alleged DM's from @DonaldJTrumpJr to @WikiLeaks. @WikiLeaks does not keep such records and the Atlantic's presentation is edited and clearly does not have the full context. However, even those published by the Atlantic show that: 1/— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) November 13, 2017
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
— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) November 13, 2017
WikiLeaks can be very effective at convincing even high profile people that it is their interest to promote links to its publications. 3/— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) November 13, 2017
WikiLeaks has such chutzpah that it allegedly tried to convince Trump Jr to leak his father's tax returns & his own "Russian lawyer meeting" emails (he did). WikiLeaks appears to beguile some people into transparency by convincing them that it is in their interest. 4/— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) November 14, 2017
Trump Jr, meanwhile, decided to get ahead of everyone by releasing his own full copy of the exchange.
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! 1/3 pic.twitter.com/SiwTqWtykA— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 14, 2017
Just a reminder: none of this is normal. ®