Trump Jr.’s WikiLeaks chats revealed
Donald Trump Jr. had direct online conversations with WikiLeaks at the height of the 2016 presidential election, it was revealed this week—the second time that the president’s son has been found to have been communicating during the campaign with people or organizations tied to Russia. WikiLeaks initiated the back-and-forth with Trump Jr. over Twitter’s direct-messaging feature in September 2016, tipping him off about an anti-Trump website, according to a report in The Atlantic. Trump Jr. responded: “Off the record, I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around.” On Oct. 12, days after WikiLeaks began publishing hacked emails belonging to John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, the group wrote, “Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us.” Fifteen minutes later, candidate Trump sent a tweet praising WikiLeaks.
A day after The Atlantic’s report, Attorney General Jeff Sessions insisted to lawmakers that he had not lied when he previously testified he was unaware of any communications between Russia and the Trump campaign. Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee that he had forgotten about a March 2016 campaign meeting he attended in which George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser, bragged about his contacts with Russian officials. Papadopoulos later repeatedly attempted to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I have always told the truth,” Sessions said. “I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports.”
What the columnists said
“For so many people who are close to Donald Trump, Russia is the Bermuda Triangle of their memory,” said Richard Wolffe in TheGuardian.com. Conversations and meetings “pass through this mysterious quadrant of their brains and simply disappear.” Sessions’ amnesia fortunately dissipated enough that he remembered he “pooh-poohed” the idea of a Trump-Putin meeting. “Somehow he could remember none of the other sordid details of what normal people call collusion.”
“It’s hard to overstate the mind-blowing stupidity of” what Donald Trump Jr. did, said Jill Filipovic in CNN.com. By the time the president’s son began corresponding with WikiLeaks, it was already obvious that the organization was “in the tank for Putin.” If nothing else, these messages show that “the Trumps were so interested in winning” the election that they were willing to engage with America’s enemies to do it.
“To be sure, none of this proves Trump Jr. broke any laws,” said John Cassidy in NewYorker.com. Podesta’s emails had been hacked well before Trump Jr. started messaging with WikiLeaks. However, it can be a crime to aid in the dissemination of stolen material, though the law is “somewhat murky.” Presumably this is something special counsel Robert Mueller “will be eager to explore.” The revelations this week are “still a far cry from actual collusion with the Russian government,” said Siraj Hashmi in WashingtonExaminer.com. Even so, Trump Jr. should have known better. WikiLeaks’ “goal was to cause as much chaos in our electoral process as possible”—regardless of who won. ■