In the final weeks before the election, Julian Assange’s Wikileaks attempted to smear Hillary Clinton’s inner circle as bunch of crazed, creepy Satanists. Yet when it comes to learning about the threats the United States faces, President-elect Donald Trump is putting more stock in Assange’s word over the unified assessment of the U.S. intelligence community.
On Tuesday night, Trump again expressed skepticism about the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was behind cyberattacks meant to manipulate the presidential election on Trump’s behalf, tweeting that officials may have postponed briefing him on intelligence about “so-called ‘Russian hacking’” because “perhaps more time [is] needed to build a case. Very strange!” But Trump’s suggestion is false — U.S. intelligence officials say his briefing has always been scheduled for Friday, so Trump’s tweet appears to be an intentional effort to discredit them.
Then, on Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted out an Assange quote from his interview with Sean Hannity that aired the night before — a comment aimed at sowing doubt about how Wikileaks acquired the hacked emails it used in its effort to discredit Clinton.
Julian Assange said "a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta" – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
It’s true that avoidable cybersecurity errors facilitated the hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, but information about the hacker who stole Podesta’s emails that has subsequently emerged indicates his or her resume is much more robust than your typical teenager’s.
Trump later wondered aloud why the Democratic National Committee — one of the targets of the hacks the intelligence community believes Russian officials played a role in — didn’t have “hacking defense” like the Republicans did. But as the New York Times reported last month, senior Obama administration officials, citing intelligence agencies, say “the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.” Other unnamed intelligence officials quoted in a Wall Street Journal report dispute that, saying hackers tried to breach the RNC but failed.
If Trump has information contradicting that, he hasn’t provided it. On New Years Eve, he told his press pool, “I know things that other people don’t know” about the hacking of Clinton and Democratic officials during the campaign, and said, “You will find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.” But on Tuesday, a transition team official said that disclosure won’t be happening after all.
Trump’s effort to discredit the intelligence community stands in contrast to his position four years ago, when he gave intel officials all the credit for killing Osama bin Laden.
Obama deserves much less credit for the killing of Bin Laden. The praise goes to our brave military and intelligence officers.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2012
And the high esteem in which the president-elect holds Assange’s opinion stands in contrast to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who on Wednesday morning told Hugh Hewitt he thinks “the guy is a sycophant for Russia. He leaks, he steals data, and compromises national security.”