After siding with Russia President Vladimir Putin against his country’s intelligence community, US president-elect Donald Trump fully embraced WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been called a “high-tech terrorist” by some in his own party.
In a string of tweets, his go-to megaphone, Trump derided the intelligence community for delaying a briefing on Russia’s alleged hack and citing Assange, he argued the Democrats, targets of the hacking, brought it upon themselves.
The central issue is the alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic party’s computer network, which, the US intelligence community has concluded with a high degree of confidence, was intended to undermine Hillary Clinton and help Trump win the presidency.
Trump did win, but has questioned that assessment and pointed to the faulty intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, arguing they got it wrong then and may have gotten it wrong again this time.
After being openly critical of the intelligence community’s assessment, Trump agreed to a focus briefing on the hacking, which, he said, was scheduled for Tuesday, but was postponed to Friday as those briefing him needed more time.
“The "Intelligence" briefing on so-called "Russian hacking" was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” he tweeted on Tuesday, using quotation marks to highlight his skepticism.
Except, according to multiple news reports, the briefing was never meant to take place on Tuesday. It was always scheduled for Friday from the start, and Trump may have tweaked the facts, as he is known to, to meet his own deadlines.
On Wednesday morning, he topped it with a stream of tweets accusing Democrats of having brought on the hacking by being “careless” and not being as vigilant as the Republican party which he claimed had fended off a similar cyber attack.
“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!” Trump tweeted citing a man once called a “high-tech terrorist” by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
US intelligence has said that data stolen from Democrats by Russia hackers — acting on orders from the highest level in the government (read Putin) — were passed on to WikiLeaks and two other websites for release.
Assange has disputed that and did so again in an interview on Fox news on Tuesday, saying, “Our source is not the Russian government. It is not state parties.” US intelligence has said before that Russia may have used intermediaries.
But Trump’s continued attacks on the intelligence community is beginning to irritate past and present constituents. “Let's stare this reality square in the face: PEOTUS is pro-Putin and believes Julian Assange over the @CIA. On Jan. 20 we will be less safe,” former CIA spokesman George Little tweeted.