Donald Trump backs Julian Assange over hacking claims
WikiLeaks founder had said Russia was not behind the leaking of Democrat emails
US president-elect Donald Trump has backed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claims over the hacking of Democrat emails. File photograph: Kevin Hagen/The New York Times
US president-elect Donald Trump has used WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to cast doubt on the US intelligence community’s claim that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
WikiLeaks published a series of the private DNC emails during the election campaign following the hacking.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Mr Trump suggested that the DNC is to blame for the hacking of its computers and emails, including those of top Hillary Clinton adviser John Podesta.
Mr Trump claimed the DNC did not have a “hacking defence” and questioned why the Democratic Party had not responded “to the terrible things they did and said”.
“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!” Mr Trump tweeted early on Wednesday.
Mr Assange’s organisation has been under criminal investigation for its role in classified information leaks.
Mr Assange had said his source for the hacked emails was not a government, but left open the possibility they came from a third party.
The American intelligence community, as well as Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, have insisted that Russia was behind the hacks.
However, Mr Trump has repeatedly dismissed the allegation, challenging the intelligence experts who will aid him once he becomes president on January 20th.
Mr Trump has insisted that the US government does not really know who was behind the attacks.He has also said he will release more information this week.
In the tweets on Wednesday, Mr Trump said without evidence that the timing of an upcoming intelligence briefing on suspected Russian interference in the 2016 election had been delayed.
“Perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” he wrote, using quote marks around the word “intelligence”.
Mr Trump’s tweets caused confusion among intelligence officials, who said there was no delay in the briefing schedule.
The fresh row came as Mr Trump took further steps to fill his cabinet and key White House positions.
Mr Trump’s plans for repealing president Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law are expected to be his initial focus, with vice-president-elect Mike Pence and secretary of state choice Rex Tillerson due to meet top Republicans on the issue on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Mr Pence issued a direct challenge to Washington Republicans on Tuesday, saying: “The president-elect has a very clear message to Capitol Hill. And that is, it’s time to get to work.”