Did Hope Hicks Tell Donald Trump Of WikiLeaks Contact? Aide Was On Email Chain About Russian-Linked Site

Jonathan Vankin

Hope Hicks, the longtime aide who is so close to Donald Trump that she is known in Washington as "The Trump Whisperer," was on an internal campaign email chain from September 20 of last year revealing that Wikileaks had made contact with the Trump campaign — two months after the document-dumping site had published a trove of hacked emails stolen from Democratic National Committee servers by Russian agents.

With Hicks, named White House communications director by Trump despite a total lack of political experience, considered a direct conduit of information for Trump, the newly revealed email chain raises the possibility that Trump knew of Wikileaks' attempt to cooperate with his campaign even as the FBI was investigating Russian connections to the site — which has since been labeled a "hostile intelligence service" by Trump-appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Despite his frequent use of the social media platform Twitter Trump does not use email.

The Atlantic Magazine as well as The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Wikileaks had reached out using Twitter's private message function to Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. on September 20 — the first of numerous messages sent, most likely by the site's founder Julian Assange, to Trump Jr. asking to cooperate with the campaign.

Trump immediately emailed other campaign officials about the outreach from Wikileaks, according to The Atlantic, including his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, another top Trump adviser. Kushner forwarded the email to Hicks.

Whether Hicks shared the email with the elder Trump has not been confirmed, but given Hicks' unusual closeness with Trump — who often refers to her by pet names such as "Hopey" and "Hopester" — the possibility appears likely that the reason Kushner sent Hicks the email was in order for Trump to be made aware of it.

"On February 16, 2017, Trump said he had 'nothing to do with" WikiLeaks. But it's clear his son sent Hope Hicks secret WikiLeaks messages in September 2016 so she'd show them to him — because he doesn't use email. So Trump almost certainly lied about this," wrote independent journalist Seth Abramson, a frequent commentator on the Trump Russia collusion investigation, on Monday.

Hicks has also been included on other Russia-connected emails from Trump campaign advisers, including foreign policy adviser Carter Page who copied Hicks on email informing Trump campaign officials of his trip to Russia in the summer of 2016. Why multiple campaign advisers felt the need to include the 29-year-old former model on their high-level emails about contacts with Russia remains unclear — except for Hicks' unique level of access to Trump.

Wikileaks sent numerous messages to Trump Jr., but Trump's elder son sent only three responses. In one case, Wikileaks asked the Trump campaign to "push" a story in which Clinton was quoted joking about ordering a drone strike against Assange. Trump Jr. replied that the campaign "already did that earlier today."

What Hicks, Trump Jr., Kushner and everyone else who became aware of the contacts from Wikileaks — which continued into July of this year — failed to do was report the messages to the FBI or other law enforcement authorities, despite the fact that WikiLeaks had been linked to the Russian hack of the DNC.

Hicks is reportedly set to be interrogated by Russian investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller, possibly as early as this week. Questions about whether Hicks told Trump about the WikiLeaks contacts with the campaign appear likely to be among the subjects on which Mueller will grill Hicks.

On October 12, WikiLeaks messaged Trump Jr. to inform him that the site had only that day published a new installment of the email trove hacked from Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta. Though Trump Jr. did not respond to the message, then-candidate Trump Sr. tweeted about the Podesta emails a mere 15 minutes after the WikiLeaks message arrived.

In the final month of the 2016 presidential campaign, after the initial contact from WikiLeaks on September 20, Trump made praise of WikiLeaks and the site's hacked-document releases a major theme of his campaign, mentioning WikiLeaks an estimated 160 times after the first WikiLeaks message reached the campaign, and when Trump may have been informed about the contact by Hicks.

[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]