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Why Trump Jr's campaign contacts with WikiLeaks matter

Donald Trump Jr. has effectively admitted that he helped Russia's allies distribute their stolen materials.
US President- elect Donald Trump stands with his children Ivanka and Donald Jr., during Trump's press conference at Trump Tower in New York on January 11,...

Even now, a year after the 2016 presidential election, we're still learning about previously unreported communications between Trump World and Russia and its compatriots. Take the revelations from late yesterday, for example.

President Donald Trump's oldest son on Monday released a series of direct messages he received from the Twitter account behind the WikiLeaks website, including his responses to the communications.Donald Trump Jr.'s release of the messages on Twitter came hours after The Atlantic first reported them.... The documents released by Trump Jr. show him responding three times, at one point agreeing to "ask around" about a political action committee WikiLeaks had mentioned. He also asked the site about a rumor about an upcoming leak. The messages began in September 2016 and ran through July.

Julia Ioffe's report in The Atlantic, documenting the exchanges that occurred during WikiLeaks' dissemination of stolen materials, is well worth your time. Among other things, it makes clear that Donald Trump's eldest son was communicating -- during the campaign -- with the same people who were helping carry out the Russian intelligence operation that was mounted during our election to put his father in power.

What's more, as Rachel added on last night's show, Trump Jr. has effectively admitted that he helped Russia's allies distribute their stolen materials.

What's more, Trump Jr. hadn't exactly gone rogue while these events unfolded. The Atlantic's reporting added, "[O]n the same day that Trump Jr. received the first message from WikiLeaks, he emailed other senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, telling them WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner then forwarded the email to campaign communications staffer Hope Hicks."

Team Trump has a standard move in circumstances like these, but it's not available to them in this specific case.

When Paul Manafort found himself in hot water, for example, Trump World pretended to barely know him. When Michael Flynn was in the hot seat, he was dismissed as a peripheral volunteer. The president said he and his team had no idea who Carter Page was. George Papadopoulos was dismissed as a guy who picked up coffee for important people. They even put distance between the campaign and Cambridge Analytica, the data firm Trump World paid millions to last year.

In each of these instances, the efforts have been impossible to take seriously -- who's going to believe the president didn't know his own campaign chairman? -- but with Donald Trump Jr., the tack is obviously a non-starter. Donald Trump and his staff simply aren't in a position to say the president's eldest son is an irrelevant figure.