BY JOE UCHILL – 01/03/17 THE HILL
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange warned it would be a «stupid maneuver» for Democrats to continue to hound President-elect Donald Trump for Russian hacking on various Democratic agencies.
“[Y]ou watch. They will seize on this and harp on it for the next four years. I think that’s a mistake. I think that’s a mistake not just in fact, that’s a mistake for the U.S. Democratic Party. I think it’s a stupid maneuver. It’s the same reason why they lost the election,” he said in a wide-ranging interview on Fox News’ «Hannity» that aired Tuesday.
“Instead of focusing on substance, they focused on other things which they think are short-term wins, but they’re not strategic, a little comment by Trump here and there, for example, or this attempt to say how outrageous it is that the American public received true information before an election.”
Though Trump continues to question whether Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton adviser John Podesta and others, experts, politicians from both sides of the aisle and U.S. intelligence agencies widely believe the attacks came from Russian intelligence agencies.
The CIA and the FBI are reportedly in agreement that the cyberattacks were aimed at helping Trump’s White House bid.
There is bipartisan support for congressional investigations into the allegations – including party stalwarts like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Homeland Security Chair Michael McCaul. McCaul has advised Trump as part of the president-elect’s foreign policy team.
In sections of the interview released earlier in the day, Assange said the “obvious” reason the administration was concerned about the link between Russia and cyberattacks is because Obama is «trying to delegitimize the Trump administration as it goes into the White House.”
Assange noted during the interview that the administration’s recent report about the attacks — in which the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security detailed how they believe hackers gained access — did not mention WikiLeaks specifically.
“What was missing from all of those statements, the word WikiLeaks. It’s very strange,” he said.
And he called the administration memo, which also outlined ways to identify a Russian attack, «a bad report,» something even those who believe Russia was behind the attack agree with. Cloudiness in the report led a Vermont electric utility to incorrectly believe an employee had been attacked by Russia.
The report was issued at the same time that Obama announced new sanctions and other punitive measures against Russia.
Assange has insisted that documents published on WikiLeaks did not come from Russia. And in a prior interview for Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show, Assange also said that the leaks did not come from Guccifer 2.0, the hacker or hackers who published files from the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Assange said he has never met with Guccifer 2.0, and said the individual or group may very well have been Russia intelligence.
He also denied directly communicating with operatives from the Trump campaign and Russian government as he released files. He said he never spoke with Roger Stone, a Trump supporter who previously claimed to have “back channel” communications with Assange through a mutual friend.
“No, that’s false,” said Assange, later adding that a mutual friend had contacted him about setting up a radio show, which might have led to confusion.
Stone’s comments led many Democratic lawmakers to call for an investigation of the Trump campaign about involvement with Russia. Speaking with The Hill Tuesday night, Stone repeated his claims.
“Assange told my friend, not me, he had unspecified political dynamite,» he said, later saying that perhaps Assange didn’t think of their communication the same way he did. “Maybe he did not see it as formally as I did.”