WikiLeaks Contacted Donald Trump Jr. About Releasing Russia Emails, Julian Assange Says

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, May 19. The WikiLeaks founder stated on Twitter that he contacted the president’s son and encouraged the leak of his emails anonymously. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, claimed Tuesday he reached out to Donald Trump Jr. and offered to publish anonymously his emails related to the Russia election meddling investigation but said the president’s son instead released them himself two hours later.

Assange, who’s presently in exile in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, did not state how he contacted Trump Jr. He said he encouraged the self-publishing through the leaks site because “his enemies have it—so why not the public?” The enemies in this case apparently referred to The New York Times, which was preparing to publish an article that appeared just after Trump released the emails.

Assange, who has long advocated for government transparency and encouraged leakers around the world, then said that leaking the emails anonymously would have been “safer” for Trump Jr., and that by doing so himself it’s now “easier” for the emails to be used as evidence.

The disclosure from Assange comes after the billionaire president’s son on Tuesday posted his email exchange with a publicist named Rob Goldstone from June 2016, during which they discuss setting up a meeting at Trump Tower where information said to be potentially damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could be exchanged, the Times reported Tuesday.

Assange and WikiLeaks played an integral role in last year’s election: The group slowly dripped out emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, and many accused Russia of being the source of the hack. The site is also known for leaking the materials passed on by U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

According to Trump Jr.’s emails, which he posted to Twitter, Goldstone first reached out June 3, 2016, and stated that the Russian government could provide information to help his father during his campaign against Clinton.

Trump Jr. responded: “Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to [Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov] first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?”

Trump Jr. said in a statement he was releasing the email messages “in order to be totally transparent,” and that Agalarov and his wealthy father, Aras Agalarov, had suggested they had “political opposition research” against Clinton.

Trump Jr. had previously stated, for the Times first report of the meeting Saturday, that the discussion with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was meant to focus on an adoption program between the U.S. and Russia.