Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange has responded to controversy over his organisation’s effort to cooperate with Donald Trump’s election campaign with a sarcastic Twitter post, repeating his offer to become Australia’s ambassador to the US.
Leaked private messages between the whistleblower organisation and Mr Trump’s eldest son – apparently currently being examined by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller – revealed that Wikileaks asked the Trump campaign to retweet links to its document dumps, dispute the election result if Hillary Clinton won, and arrange for Mr Assange to become the top Australian envoy to Washington.
After details of the Twitter messages were first reported by The Atlantic, Mr Trump Jr posted what he said was the entirety of his correspondence with Mr Assange’s organisation. He claimed he had only responded briefly on three occasions.
The publication of the messages triggered fresh accusations that the Trump campaign had worked with Wikileaks to try and influence the 2016 election. Mr Trump had praised the organisation on at least five occasions, after it published damaging emails from inside the Democratic National Committee and elsewhere.
Several of his comments were made after it published emails from Ms Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta’s private email – something that worked to distract from media coverage of an Access Hollywood video dating from 2005, in which Mr Trump bagged about sexually assaulting women.
“This just came out,” Mr Trump said at a rally in Pennsylvania on October 10 2016. “Wikileaks, I love Wikileaks.”
On Tuesday, Mr Assange, who has denied claims from the US intelligence community that the emails his organisation published were originally obtained by Russian hackers linked to the Kremlin, responded to the latest furore with sarcasm.
“Dear @DonaldJTrumpJr our offer of being ambassador to the US still stands. I could open a hotel style embassy in DC with luxury immunity suites for whistleblowers,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The public will get a turbo-charged flow of intel about the latest CIA plots to undermine democracy. DM me.”
The Associated Press said the latest revelations are likely to increase calls in Congress to have Mr Trump Jr testify publicly as part of several committee probes into alleged Russian interference.
In an intelligence assessment released last January, the NSA, CIA and FBI concluded that Russian military intelligence provided hacked information from the DNC and “senior Democratic officials” to Wikileaks.
The private messages released by Mr Trump Jr show him responding to the Wikileaks account three times, at one point agreeing to “ask around” about a political action committee Wikileaks had mentioned. He also asked the site about a rumour about an upcoming leak. The messages began in September 2016 and continued until July 2017.
Mr Trump Jr downplayed the exchanges as he released them.
“Here is the entire chain of messages with (at)wikileaks (with my whopping 3 responses) which one of the congressional committees has chosen to selectively leak,” he tweeted. “How ironic!”
Lawyers for Mr Trump’s eldest son had released the exchanges to three congressional committees that have been investigating alleged Russian intervention in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
In a statement, Mr Trump Jr’s lawyer said thousands of documents had been turned over to the committees.
“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,” said Alan Futerfas.
The developments come as Mr Mueller continues to pursue his own investigation into the issues. He was appointed to do so by the Department of Justice after Mr Trump fired FBI director James Comey.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies