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Trump Jr. had contact in 2016 with WikiLeaks

Papers made public on chats; AG looks at special counsel

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Photographs by AP Photo/Darron Cummings

In this Nov. 6, 2017, file photo, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to members of the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition in Indianapolis.

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's eldest son exchanged private messages with WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign at the same time the website was publishing hacked emails from Democratic officials, according to correspondence made public Monday.

Also, The Washington Post reported Monday that it obtained a letter that says Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns -- including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia -- and has directed senior federal prosecutors to explore at least some of the matters and report back to him and his top deputy.

Donald Trump Jr. did not respond to many of the notes from WikiLeaks, which were sent using the direct message feature on Twitter. But he alerted senior advisers on his father's campaign, including his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to two people familiar with the exchanges.

In the messages, WikiLeaks urged Trump Jr. to promote its trove of hacked Democratic emails and suggested that President Trump challenge the election results if he did not win, among other ideas. They were first reported by the Atlantic and later posted by Trump Jr. on Twitter.

[RUSSIA REPORT: Documents on Russian interference in election ]

WikiLeaks, which bills itself as an anti-secrecy group, was described in April by CIA Director Mike Pompeo as a "non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia."

The newly revealed exchanges provide additional information about the role played by Trump Jr. in 2016. He also has come under scrutiny for agreeing to meet with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower who he was told wanted to provide "dirt" about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on behalf of the Russian government.

Alan Futerfas, Trump Jr.'s attorney, said his client's exchanges with WikiLeaks were innocuous.

"All sides in this campaign, the Clinton side, the Trump side, were monitoring WikiLeaks to see what they would publish next," Futerfas said. "If The Washington Post or the New York Times was looking to see what was being released, does that suggest any impropriety on their part? Of course not."

The revelation about a possible second special counsel came in a response from the Justice Department to an inquiry from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., who in July and again in September called for Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate concerns he had related to the 2016 election and its aftermath.

In response, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that Sessions had "directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters," and those prosecutors would "report directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel."

Trump has repeatedly criticized his Justice Department for not aggressively probing a variety of conservative concerns.

Sessions, who was a Republican senator for Alabama before he was appointed attorney general, is also set to testify before Goodlatte's committee today and was likely to face questions on the topics raised in the letter.

Sessions is also likely to face an onslaught of lawmaker questions about how much he knew of contacts between Russians and Trump's campaign last year.

His appearance follows a guilty plea from one Trump campaign aide who served on a foreign policy council that Sessions chaired, as well as statements from another adviser who said he had advised the then-senator about a trip to Russia.

Democratic lawmakers who already contended the attorney general had not been forthcoming with them have signaled that questions about the new revelations are likely to dominate what could otherwise have been a routine oversight hearing.

Also, Russian state-funded broadcaster RT has complied with U.S. demands to register as a foreign agent, Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said.

"Between a criminal case and registration, we chose the latter," Simonyan said on the channel's website on Monday. "We congratulate American freedom of speech and all who still believe in it."

Simonyan said last week that the head of RT's U.S. subsidiary risked detention and the organization's bank accounts could be frozen if it didn't comply with the Monday deadline for registration set by the U.S. Justice Department.

Information for this article was contributed by Eric Tucker, Steve Peoples and Tom LoBianco of The Associated Press; by Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and staff members of The Washington Post; and by Jake Rudnitsky of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 11/14/2017

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