Previously on White House Apprentice, Congress continued its many different investigations into just how the Russians interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As part of those investigations, attorneys for Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, were required to turn over to congressional investigators secret direct messages that were passed back and forth on Twitter between him and WikiLeaks.
The Atlantic obtained a copy of the messages, and writer Julia Ioffe reported that WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. for his cooperation in sharing its work, in contesting the results of the U.S. election and in arranging for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be Australia’s ambassador to the United States.
According to the report, the first message was sent to Trump Jr. by WikiLeaks at midnight on Sept. 20, 2016—at the height of the presidential campaign—and it read: “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?”
Trump Jr. responded 12 hours later and said, “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”
The site was an election-season blog launched by Rob Glaser, founder of RealNetworks and an early employee at Microsoft. It was funded by the Progress for USA Political Action Committee and has since moved to Mother Jones, where it now functions as a new project to report on the Trump-Russia ties and foreign influence in U.S. politics.
Beyond the inquiries about Putin-Trump, WikiLeaks continued to solicit Trump Jr.’s cooperation until at least July 2017 with requests that included asking for Donald Trump’s tax returns, urging the Trump campaign on Election Day to reject the results of the election as rigged, and requesting that the then president-elect tell Australia to appoint Assange ambassador to the United States.
Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Jr., told The Atlantic: “Over the last several months, we have worked cooperatively with each of the committees and have voluntarily turned over thousands of documents in response to their requests. 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.”
WikiLeaks did not respond to The Atlantic’s requests for comment.
On Monday evening, Assange publicly tweeted that he could not confirm the DMs that The Atlantic reports to have because WikiLeaks doesn’t keep those records, and The Atlantic’s “presentation is edited.”
A little more than an hour later, Trump Jr. tweeted copies of the DMs reported in The Atlantic’s story.
And for the frosting on this cake of disbelief, the Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau found this juicy little gem:
It appears that Trump Jr. colluded, and his daddy (it appears) knew it.
Messy, messy, messy.
There’s so much more to the story. Even after Trump won the election, WikiLeaks continued to reach out to Junior to get him to cooperate with various things, including asking him to let them leak copies of emails between himself and publicist Rob Goldstone, who had set up a meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya—who has connections to Russia’s powerful prosecutor general. The New York Times had broken the story three days prior.
Trump Jr. did not respond to the request from WikiLeaks, but hours later, he leaked the emails himself on his own Twitter feed.
Read more at The Atlantic.