Donald Trump Jr. was secretly messaging with WikiLeaks during the election — and it’s a big deal

Less than two months before the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump Jr. received a direct message from the WikiLeaks Twitter account alerting him to an anti-Trump political action committee, The Atlantic reports.

"A PAC run anti-Trump site is about to launch," WikiLeaks wrote. "The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is 'putintrump.'"

But the correspondence didn’t end there. According to The Atlantic, Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks continued to exchange messages until July 2017 — possibly even later. Communicating with WikiLeaks, which prides itself on releasing confidential information to the public, may not seem like that big a deal. But WikiLeaks has been linked to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, meaning supplying information to a major American political campaign raises big red flags.

Trump Jr.’s lawyers released the messages to the Congressional committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election upon request. After The Atlantic reported on the correspondence, Trump Jr. tweeted the messages himself.

Trump Jr. downplayed the messages’ significance, sarcastically referencing his “whopping 3 responses,” but his exchange with WikiLeaks heightens suspicions that the Russian government was actively working to get Donald Trump elected.

In revealing an anti-Trump PAC’s password to Trump Jr., WikiLeaks granted the Trump team access to a private site working against Trump. The WikiLeaks Twitter account also made several tactical recommendations to Trump Jr., writing that Trump should claim the election was rigged should he lose.

Trump Jr. came under fire in July after he met privately with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Trump Jr. arranged the meeting after he received an email promising incriminating information about the Clinton campaign.

So far there is no evidence that the Trump campaign actually obtained this information, but the situation is still unfolding.

The newly released messages suggest that WikiLeaks wanted to help Trump win the election, but the implications of this are not entirely clear. Regardless, this is an important development that could ultimately indicate that outside, illegal forces tampered with the 2016 election.