Donald Trump Jr. has a lot more to worry about than Keurig pulling ads from Sean Hannity's Fox News show. On Monday, The Atlantic published a bombshell article detailing alleged communicative ties between Don Jr. and WikiLeaks, a group U.S. intelligence officials have recognized as aiding Russia in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
The Atlantic claims Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks over Twitter DMs on-and-off for approximately 10 months, entertaining requests for comment and sharing hacked information about then-candidate Hillary Clinton. In one instance, The Atlantic reports that Trump Jr. responded to WikiLeaks' request to publish a damning story that claimed Clinton asked to "just drone" founder Julian Assange by saying, "Already did that earlier today. It's amazing what she can get away with."
Another time, The Atlantic reports Trump Jr. allegedly passed along information about Podesta's emails to his father, who tweeted out his disgust with the "rigged system" a mere 15 minutes later.
Up until this point, WikiLeaks hadn't explicitly shared their intentions with Trump Jr., but a later request for Trump's tax returns made it clear that they were intent on bolstering the campaign against Hillary Clinton.
"If we publish [Trump's tax returns] it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality," WikiLeaks wrote, according to The Atlantic. "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...The same for any other negative stuff (documents, recordings) that you think has a decent chance of coming out. Let us put it out."
Why would WikiLeaks need to "improve the perception of [their] impartiality" if they weren't trying to sway the election in Trump's favor? And why would WikiLeaks allegedly tell Trump Jr. to have his father "NOT conceed [sic] and [spend] time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred" if he lost the election to Clinton? These seem to be huge questions for reporters and political figures who have been tweeting their thoughts.
Trump Jr., who as of press time has not responded to Refinery29's request for comment, commented on the news Monday evening and shared what he claims are screenshots of his interactions with WikiLeaks on his personal Twitter account.
Assange — who sought asylum at the Embassy of Ecuador in London to avoid charges for sexual assault and rape allegations in Sweden — has also tweeted about the alleged communications, stating that he "cannot confirm the alleged DM's from @DonaldTrumpJr to @WikiLeaks" because the source "does not keep such records."
Additionally, Assange said that "WikiLeaks can be very effective at convincing even high profile people that it is their interest to promote links to its publications." Assange also didn't directly address the claims that WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. to ask his father "to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to [Washington,] DC."
So, why should you care?
Trump Jr. has admitted to talking with WikiLeaks. He's also shown in the past that he is willing to take meetings with Russians. At the very least, it shows that the Trump family will blur an ethical line in order to damage their opponents, even if that means working with an organization that has a history of leaking classified U.S. documents. But this new report seems to indicate something much darker: At least one member of the Trump family potentially knew that a questionable organization wanted to help them get into the White House, and they didn't see that as an issue.