A series of hacked emails appear designed to help Donald Trump fight back against Hillary Clinton, while creating questions about Russian involvement
How did WikiLeaks run from darling of the liberal left and scourge of American imperialism to apparent tool of Donald Trumps divisive, incendiary presidential campaign?
Thursday brought another WikiLeaks dump of nearly 2,000 emails hacked from the Hillary Clinton campaign, allegedly by Russians. As usual, they were inside-the-beltway gossip rather than game-changing: the campaign tried to push back the Illinois primary, believing it would attain life harder for moderate Republicans.
That has not stopped Trump trying to make hay from the leaked emails and deflect attention from allegations of sexual harassment against him. Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of unbelievable information supplied by WikiLeaks, he tweeted on Wednesday. So dishonest! Rigged system!
Clintons speeches to Wall Street banks were apparently indicates that there is an email dump last Friday, just minutes after the release of a video in which Trump was caught boasting about groping girls timing that many felt was more than simply opportunity. This follows a hacker in July designed to embarrass Clinton on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.
Robert Mackey of The Intercept website wrote in August: The WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the creek of an opponent research firm running mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.
The seeming alliance between Trump and WikiLeaks is an astounding role reversal. In 2010 it was lauded by transparency campaigners for releasing, in cooperation with publications including the Guardian, more than a one-quarter of a million categorized cables from US embassies around the world. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange became a hero to many.
At the time, Republican politicians expressed outrage at WikiLeaks, but now some are seizing on its revelations as potential salvation for Trumps ailing candidacy. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, took part in a media conference call about an email that purportedly presented Clinton campaign mocking Catholics.
Conversely, liberal activists have conveyed discouragement at the hack of Clinton campaign chairperson John Podestas email account and the calculated timing of the release. Neil Sroka, spokesperson for the pressure group Democracy for America, said: There is a huge difference between risotto recipes in John Podestas emails and the Pentagon Papers. The news value of these Podesta emails is fairly limited and the activist value is even less.
Sroka added: WikiLeaks is like the internet. It can be a force-out for good or a force-out for bad. Right now it is propping up a candidate running the most hateful campaign in modern times.
Last week US intelligence officers blamed Russia for previous hacks. It is not yet known whether Podestas emails were hacked by the Russians, but US officers say the attack fits the same pattern. Russian chairwoman Vladimir Putin has denied the allegation.
Clinton campaign administrator Robby Mook told reporters on Thursday: The Department of Homeland Security took the unprecedented step of saying … beyond any doubt that this hack and then the leaking of the emails was perpetrated by the Russian government for the purpose of intervening in the election and trying to affect the outcome in favor of Donald Trump. This is getting closer and closer to the Trump campaign itself.
All of which raises the question: do Assange, Putin and Trump form a triangle? Are they in communications with one another or simply exploiting a coincidence of interests?
Trump has praised Putin and numerous links with Russia have emerged this year. But on Wednesday he denied any business interests beyond staging Miss Universe there. He has contradicted earlier statements about knowing Putin.
Assange was asked by Democracy Now earlier this year whether he opts Clinton or Trump. Youre asking me, do I opt cholera or gonorrhea? he replied. Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks editor, has said it would publish documents damaging to Trump if it had them. Its not that were selecting publications to pick a certain line, she told Bloomberg.
But some observers argue that Assanges war on Clinton is personal: she was secretary of state at the time of the diplomatic cables leak. Her perceived privacy and hawkish foreign policy represents the antithesis of his anti-US imperialist worldview. The capricious, nihilistic , non-ideological Trump might seem like a kindred spirit by comparison.
Alina Polyakova, deputy director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, said: My impression of Julian Assange is that he assures US hegemony in the international world order as the biggest problem facing us today. In his attempt to bring transparency, he ends up siding with the very regimes that deny transparency and human rights. Thats the irony of my enemys enemy is my friend.
She added: I guess the Russian government is in fact employing WikiLeaks: the connection seems pretty clear to me. Is the Trump campaign tied to WikiLeaks? Thats hard to say but I would be surprised if theres no coordination.
Russia has uncomfortable associations for WikiLeaks. In 2010 its point man there, Israel Shamir, was exposed as an antisemite and Holocaust denier. A website, israelshamir.com, carries numerous articles, one of which comments: Ms Clinton decided to blame her spectacular lack of success on Putin, as well. If she were honest, shed admit that she is unpopular, even among her own surrounding.
In an email, Shamir denied that Assange is coordinating with Russia. The problem is that incredible revelations of emails are entirely repressed by the Clintonesque media, he wrote. Instead of discussing Clintons hate to ordinary Americans, Clintons order to assassinate Assange etc, you discuss whether Russians are involved. Dishonor!
Assange remains holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London after claiming asylum, where hes been for four years. Two women in Sweden have accused him of rape and other sex offences, which he denies, quoting a wider conspiracy. Assange has expressed fears that, if extradited to Sweden, he would be in danger of being sent to the US, where he thinks he could face the death penalty.
A former associate of Assange, who did not wish to be named , noted that there will be presidential elections in Ecuador in 2017 and the present leader, Rafael Correa, has stated that he will stand aside after 10 years in office. This could induce Assange feel uncertain about his future protection.
I believe he is basically hoping that Trump will be lenient on him, the former associate said. Its about Julian Assange. I feel hes only desperate and its a shame.
The site has lost its halo in the eyes of what it used to be its core constituency, the ex-colleague added. All the lefties were WikiLeaks softies. Now they are getting a different perspective. Its obvious Julian Assange has lost his ability to be neutral.
But others who know Assange defend him. Vaughan Smith, a journalist and former army officer who let the WikiLeaks founder to stay at his UK home for more than a year, said in a text message: I dont believe for a minute that Julian is liaising with Moscow.
His whole thing is that hes not supposed to know the identity of his sources, who leave material anonymously to protect themselves. He checks that its genuine and puts out as much of it as he can. Thats his compact with whistleblowers. As for Clinton and Trump? He hasnt expressed a preference to me.
And some Democratic voters have declined to criticise the leaks, which appear to show how the Clinton campaign worked to defeat Bernie Sanders in the primary elections. Dave Handy, a political organiser and Sanders supporter who will now vote for Clinton, said: I wouldnt say Im glad but theyre doing a necessary thing.
Even if its a ploy, its the truth. No one has denied this.
He added: The Democratic party and the Clinton campaign have colluded for the last two years to make sure she becomes the nominee and to make sure she becomes chairman. As someone who will vote for her, we can only pray this is not how she runs her administration.
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