Everyone in the Trump family is a manipulative snake, so you’d think they’d all be particularly adept at recognizing other manipulative snakes when they cross paths, and yet the past year or so has proven that to be demonstrably false. Case in point, a new report from The Atlantic has revealed that Julian Assange —or at least the official WikiLeaks Twitter account—made overt attempts last year to gain favor with Donald Trump Jr., all in an apparent attempt to manipulate the Trump campaign in ways that would benefit WikiLeaks and Assange.
It started with Wikileaks sending Trump Jr. some information in a Twitter direct message about an anti-Trump PAC last September, which he responded to by saying that he’d “ask around” about the group running the PAC. This kicked off a largely one-sided—but not entirely one-sided—conversation between WikiLeaks and Trump Jr., the records of which were turned over to congressional investigators and then obtained by The Atlantic.
After the PAC interaction, WikiLeaks sent frequent messages to Trump Jr. about the campaign that were mostly ignored, but “at no point” did he make a point to reject Assange and WikiLeaks’ advances. At one point, WikiLeaks asked him to push a story about Hillary Clinton making a disparaging comment about WikiLeaks, which he told them he had already done, adding that “it’s amazing what she can get away with” because he apparently has some familiarity with irony. Later, WikiLeaks told Trump Jr. to share a link to its site when talking about it on Twitter and asked him to promote the release of some new John Podesta emails, and though Trump Jr. didn’t respond, Donald Trump himself tweeted about WikiLeaks almost immediately after and Trump Jr. later shared the link he had been asked to share.
It gets even more bizarre and manipulative from there, with WikiLeaks telling Trump Jr. to give up some of his father’s tax returns so the site wouldn’t be “perceived” as a “pro-Trump” or “pro-Russia” source. Then, on the day of the election, WikiLeaks told Trump Jr. to tell his father that he should contest the election results if he—and this was put in quotes—”loses.” Once Trump did win, though, WikiLeaks offered a slightly more brazen proposal: Try to make Assange the Australian ambassador to the United States. The site even pitched how Trump could introduce the idea, suggesting he call Assange “a real smart tough guy and the most famous australian you have”—with the lack of capitalization most likely a nod to Trump being an idiot.
That didn’t happen, and after presumably being disappointed in its inability to manipulate the American government much further, WikiLeaks stopped sliding in Trump Jr.’s DMs.
UPDATE: Frustrated with The Atlantic reporting on the content of his DMs, Trump Jr. has decided to stick it to them by leaking all of the messages in question himself:
There doesn’t appear to be anything here that wasn’t in the original report, so it’s unclear what he thinks is ironic—unless he’s referring to the fact that he’s proving this is all legitimate by leaking the emails himself, including the part where WikiLeaks told him to tweet a link and then he later tweeted that same link