President-elect Donald Trump is seemingly taking the word of Julian Assange over that of the U.S. intelligence community, writing on Twitter that the WikiLeaks founder “said it was not the Russians who gave” him the leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee and other prominent political officials.
“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 wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. That post replaced an earlier one with similar language in which Assange’s name was misspelled.
Minutes later, Trump cited a Twitter post from Fox News in which Assange is quoted as labeling American media coverage as "very dishonest." The president-elect added his own commentary, writing that media coverage in the U.S. is "more dishonest than anyone knows."
He followed that tweet with another series that renewed criticism of both the DNC and the media.
“Somebody hacked the DNC but why did they not have 'hacking defense' like the RNC has and why have they not responded to the terrible things they did and said (like giving the questions to the debate to H),” he tweeted. “A total double standard! Media, as usual, gave them a pass.”
The president-elect quoted Assange from an interview he gave to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that aired Tuesday night, in which the WikiLeaks founder said that the emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and other prominent political figures were not given to him by a foreign government. The interview was held inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange has been for five years in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on charges of sexual assault.
Trump's decision to side with Assange and Russia over the intelligence community he will soon lead has irked even some in his own party. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have been clear in identifying Russia as the culprit behind the cyberattcks, as has Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who said Wednesday that he does not dispute the assessment of the intelligence community that the Kremlin is to blame.
"I have a lot more faith in our intelligence officers serving around the world, very smart and experienced analysts that we have here in the nation's capital than I do in people like Julian Assange, I can tell you that much," Cotton said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Trump has thus far been unwilling to accept the assessment of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that it was the Russian government that was responsible for the wave of cyberattacks during the 2016 presidential election. He has instead suggested that it would be nearly impossible to know the true culprit and that “I also know things that other people don’t know” when it comes to the cyberattacks.
He and his surrogates have also suggested that concern about the cyberattacks from the intelligence community and media are actually thinly-veiled efforts to delegitimize the Trump administration before it even begins. Trump had announced plans to receive a briefing on those attacks early this week but announced Tuesday night that that briefing had been postponed until Friday. He wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night that “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”