"With his Fifth Avenue-redneck persona and his affinity for the alt-right, Donald Trump, Jr., has sometimes been described as a chip off the old block. But his relationship with his father hasn’t always been a smooth one.
When Trump, Jr., was twelve, his father left his mother, Ivana, for a much younger woman, Marla Maples. It has been widely reported that Trump, Jr., stopped talking to his father for a time after that. They reportedly had some run-ins later on, too, when Trump, Jr., was enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. “Don Jr. opened the door, wearing a Yankee jersey,” Scott Melker, one of his former classmates, wrote on Facebook last year, describing what happened on one occasion when Trump came to take his son to a Yankees game. “Without saying a word, his father slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor in front of all of his classmates. He simply said “put on a suit and meet me outside,’ and closed the door.” (The Trumps have denied this account.)
After graduating, Trump, Jr., spent some time as a ski bum in Colorado. But eventually he joined the family business, and this apparently improved the father-son relationship. In dynastic fashion, he ascended rapidly. During his father’s Presidential run, he took an active role in the campaign. At last year’s Republican National Convention, Trump, Jr., delivered a speech that culminated in his statement that America needed a President “who will unleash the greatness in our nation and in all of us. . . . That president can only be my mentor, my best friend, my father, Donald Trump.”
After the election, the plan was for Trump, Jr., to stay behind in New York and run the family business with his younger brother Eric Trump. But that’s not how things have worked out. During the past few months, Trump, Jr., has become thoroughly embroiled in the investigation that the special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and he’s already been hauled up to Capitol Hill to testify before a Senate committee. When President Trump gets back to Washington on Tuesday night, following his lengthy trip to Asia, one of the first things he will be asked about is his eldest son, who is once again in the soup—right up to his throat this time.
On Monday, Julia Ioffe, of the Atlantic, revealed that, during the final weeks of last year’s campaign, Trump, Jr., corresponded via direct messages on Twitter with WikiLeaks, which was then busy posting e-mails that had been hacked from the personal account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. According to Ioffe’s article, Trump, Jr., also sent an e-mail informing other people on the campaign—including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and Jared Kushner—about this contact.
Evidently, Donald Trump himself wasn’t included in this e-mail chain, but he has been implicated indirectly in this chain of events. Shortly after Ioffe’s piece appeared, the Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau pointed out that on October 12, 2016, just fifteen minutes after WikiLeaks sent Trump, Jr., a message suggesting that his father should tweet out a link to a WikiLeaks search tool, Trump tweeted, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”
It should be noted that there is currently no proof that Trump, Jr., informed his father about his contacts with WikiLeaks. But the timing is certainly suggestive. “I suppose you could say it was mere coincidence that Trump tweeted about WikiLeaks 15 minutes after the organization asked his eldest son for him to do just that,” CNN’s Chris Cillizza noted on Tuesday. “But, that would be one hell of a coincidence given the timing of the tweets and the fact that we know . . . that Don Jr. let the senior staff of the campaign know that WikiLeaks had made contact back on September 21.”
Those fifteen minutes aren’t the only troublesome timing issue for Trump and Trump, Jr. On October 7th, just five days earlier, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the National Intelligence Director had issued a joint statement, saying, “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” Referring directly to WikiLeaks, the statement went on, “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process...”