Foreign policy and national security reporter for The Atlantic Julia Ioffe published a shocking report yesterday that detailed the correspondence between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr. that began in September 2016 and continued up until July 2017.
Ioffe has previously made headlines after Melania Trump panned a profile Ioffe wrote on the first lady for GQ. Trump supporters flooded the reporter’s inbox with anti-semitic images and sentiments—Ioffe is Jewish and fled the Soviet Union when she was seven. She was also fired from Politico after publishing an inflammatory tweet about the president.
Here’s what you need to know about Julia Ioffe:
1. She Previously Worked at Politico but Was Fired in 2016 After Posting An “Obscene” Tweet About Trump
The tweet came on the heels of a false rumor that Ivanka would occupy office space in the White House normally reserved for the First Lady, and included a clip from Trump’s March 2006 appearance on The View with his daughter. “[S]he does have a very nice figure. If Ivanka weren’t my daughter perhaps I would be dating her,” said the future president.
The video prompted a number of media outlets to compile various occasions on which Trump had made a sexual comment directed toward his daughter. “Donald Trumps unsettling record of comments about his daughter Ivanka,” read a headline in the Independent.
“We have a president-elect who popularized ‘saying what everyone is thinking,’ but I guess my phrasing should’ve been more delicate,” tweeted Ioffe after her first tweet was widely panned.
Politico posted a statement on Twitter denouncing the journalist and terminating her contract immediately.
“You will remember the note from … a few days ago in which we emphasized that POLITICO journalists are representing the publication at all times and on all platforms, and must present themselves accordingly. … Julia Ioffe’s tweet this afternoon about President-elect Trump … is a clear example of the opposite of what we were talking about. Julia had previously announced she is taking her work to the Atlantic. We have accelerated the close of her POLITICO contributor contract, effective immediately,” said editors Carrie Budoff Brown and John Harris.
2. She Later Deleted the Tweet and Posted a Public Apology
Senior Vice President of Communications for The Atlantic Emily Lenzner released a statement in support of Ioffe shortly after the journalist’s Politico contract was terminated.
“Julia Ioffe made a mistake today on Twitter, which she regrets and for which she has publicly apologized. We’re confident that when she joins The Atlantic next month she will adhere to our standards,” said Lenzner.
Ioffe issued an apology for the tweet the same day she wrote it, defending her words but also expressing regret over them:
We have a president-elect who popularized “saying what everyone is thinking,” but I guess my phrasing should’ve been more delicate. In Russia, the Kremlin rarely has to make the call to media organizations. The media bosses anticipate and do the censoring themselves. All that said, I do regret my phrasing and apologize for it. It was a crass joke that I genuinely regret. It was a tasteless, offensive tweet that I regret and have deleted. I am truly and deeply sorry. It won’t happen again.
3. Ioffe Has Been the Victim of Cyber Attacks From Trump Supporters, Whose Rhetoric Has Largely Centered Around Her Jewish Heritage
In April 2016, Ioffe published a profile of Melania Trump in GQ magazine, which included an interview with Mrs. Trump herself. Following its publication, but the former model criticized Ioffe for including information about her family. Ioffe revealed in the profile that Mrs. Trump has a half-brother who she does not speak to; the first lady responded to the article in a Facebook post:
Julia Ioffe, a journalist who is looking to make a name for herself, clearly had an agenda when going after my family. There are numerous inaccuracies in this article including certain statements about my family and claims on personal matters. My parents are private citizens and should not be subject to Ms. Ioffe’s unfair scrutiny.
Furthermore, the statement surrounding the performance of my skincare collection is completely false. The company in which I was involved with did not honor the contract and did not meet their obligations and as such the courts ruled in my favor.
I am hopeful that the media will begin to cover me fairly and be respectful of my family’s privacy.
Following the publication of the article, Ioffe became the target for cyber attacks from Trump supporters who took issue with her characterization of the first lady.
“In the subsequent 24 hours, Ioffe — who is Jewish and was born in Russia — has been told she should be burned in an oven, told she should be shot in the head, received a call inquiring about overnight casket delivery, and sent Photoshopped images of her in a concentration camp uniform.'” wrote Vox.
“I started the day off having a sense of humor about it but by the end of the day, after a few phone calls like this, with people playing Hitler speeches, and the imagery, and people telling me my face would look good on a lampshade, it’s hard to laugh,” Ioffe told The Guardian in an interview.
“This is not a heavily critical article. There is nothing in it that is untrue,” said Ioffe. “If this is how Trump supporters swing into action what happens when the press looks into corrupt dealings, for example, or is critical of his policies?”
4. In November 2017, She Re-Entered the Spotlight When She Broke a Story Describing a Months-Long Email Chain Between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr.
The email exchanges began with a direct message on Twitter from WikiLeaks to Donald Trump Jr. “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?” WikiLeaks wrote.
Trump Jr. responded, “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”
In a January 2017 report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian interference in the 2016 election, the U.S. intelligence community asserts that Russian intelligence chose to distribute information it gained from hacks via WikiLeaks because of its perceived credibility among the American public.
“We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks. Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries,” read the report.
The exchanges between WikiLeaks and Trump Jr., according to Ioffe’s report, were largely one-sided, with the former making numerous appeals to the latter for favors such as making Julian Assange the U.S. ambassador to Australia or asking for Trump Sr.’s tax returns. According to Ioffe, while Trump Jr. rarely responded to the messages, he did appear to comply with some requests.
The report has come under fire for editing down some of the messages without inserting the appropriate ellipsis that indicates content was removed. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tweeted: “Incredible. The Atlantic edited “Trump Jr” DM story to reverse its meaning even removing “that the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with” right after “pro-Russia”. Full text changes everything.”
Trump Jr. subsequently posted the entire, unaltered message chain on his Twitter account.
Ioffe has since turned over the email exchanges to Congress as a part of its ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the election. “It’s not clear what investigators will make of the correspondence, which represents a small portion of the thousands of documents Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer says he turned over to them,” said Ioffe in her article. “The stakes for the Trump family, however, are high.”
5. Ioffe Was Born in the Soviet Union and Immigrated to the U.S. When She Was 7 Years Old
Ioffe grew up in Columbia, Maryland, where she and her Jewish family ended up after fleeing the Soviet Union in 1990. She graduated from Princeton University with a degree in history, and began her journalism career as a fact checker at The New Yorker. She has since contributed pieces to POLITICO, The New Yorker, Foreign Policy, Forbes and The Washington Post.
A longtime critic of the Kremlin and of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ioffe worked as a foreign correspondent in Moscow under a Fulbright Scholarship, and has faced backlash from pro-Russian factions as far back as 2010, when she first returned to the states from Moscow.
“Yes, I am critical of Russia, but because I wish the country would meet the standards it sets for itself. I wish the government would stop comparing itself to Europe and the United States in one breath and proclaim its sacred exceptionalism in the next. I wish it would stop posturing and demanding respect, and simply command it with its actions, the way it showed it could when half the Polish government crashed into a Russian field,” Ioffe wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.