Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and Nairobi, Kenya, and the author of the book “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Jill Filipovic: Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks, flouting ethical norms
She says Trumps so interested in winning they were willing to engage enemies of state
Another day of the Trump administration, another revelation that its members and associates have been engaged in behavior that would have been major career-ending scandals in any other presidency. This time, it’s revelations in The Atlantic that Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks, and appears to have occasionally done its bidding.
It’s hard to overstate the mind-blowing stupidity of this move (especially considering that the messages were sent via Twitter direct message, an unencrypted platform). Has Trump Jr. forgotten Anthony Weiner so soon?
Trump voters claimed to want Washington outsiders in the White House to “drain the swamp.” What they got instead are people who either don’t understand or don’t care about the most basic of ethical (and potentially legal) obligations, coming from an industry where the focus is notoriously narrow and short term: Make the deal, whoever it screws.
Bringing this ethos to Washington doesn’t drain the swamp; it makes it even muckier.
And as evidenced by this latest story, even dumber.
Those of us on the left have a complicated relationship with WikiLeaks. The group’s philosophy of challenging oppressive governments and releasing secrets is at least ideologically appealing, although the practical reality of it – no adult at the table to say that maybe some of these disclosures are wildly irresponsible and could potentially get people killed – is predictably reckless and negligent.
That the organization is in the tank for Vladimir Putin – an autocrat who is happy to compromise basic human rights, stand by as LGBT Russians are targeted and dozens of journalists are killed on his watch – has not helped their case.
The group’s morally bankrupt mascot, Julian Assange, has proven to be cowardly, hypocritical and deceitful – not someone any sensible or reasonably intelligent person should trust or even interact with. (He has been accused of sexual assault and hiding out to avoid a full reckoning with the accusations, though Swedish prosecutors in May dropped these investigations – some crusader for the free exchange of information.)
But of course “sensible” and “reasonably intelligent” are not words we associate with the Trump administration or the Trump sons.
The messages in question were not even ones that WikiLeaks sent but the Trumps ignored. Trump Jr. in fact corresponded with the organization, even asking his correspondents for information.
Then-candidate Donald Trump appears to have tweeted at the behest of WikiLeaks: The organization messaged Trump Jr. on October 12, 2016, “Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us.” Fifteen minutes later, Trump Sr. tweeted approvingly of the organization, and two days later Trump Jr. tweeted the link WikiLeaks had sent – to an obscure domain (now offline) that likely hosted an archive of the latest WikiLeaks releases.
It was no secret at the time that WikiLeaks was affiliated with the Russians and has long been hostile to the interests of the US government. The Trumps were so interested in winning that they were willing to engage enemies of the state to do it.
This is shameful, and should be scandalous enough to take Trump Jr. down and seriously damage the current administration. But so, too, should a dozen other stunningly bad acts committed by this President, his family members and his cronies.
They will all likely weather this scandal, too, simply by shrugging it off and making up their own facts. They’ll stay in power, and it will be American democracy – and Americans – who are the losers.