House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday called WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as “sycophant for Russia,” just as President-elect Donald Trump was on Twitter promoting Assange’s interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
During an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, the Wisconsin Republican said he would not “comment on every little tweet or Facebook post” from Trump. But he said he’s hopeful the president-elect will “get up to speed on what’s been happening” regarding Russian hacking of political operatives and organisations when he receives an intelligence briefing on the subject later this week.
Asked by Hewitt if he had any thoughts on Assange, Ryan said he had “none, other than I think the guy is a sycophant for Russia.”
“He leaks, he steals data and compromises national security,” Ryan said, later adding, after Hewitt pointed out that Assange is facing accusations of rape in Sweden, that he thinks the Wikileaks founder is “under house arrest.”
Assange has been at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than four years after being granted asylum.
Recent public revelations showed that US intelligence tied the election-related hacking of Democratic political organisations and operatives, such as Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, to senior Russian officials. The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the US election to try to tip the scales toward Trump, though other agencies haven’t gone as far in their assessments.
Both Republicans and Democrats have called for action against Russia after the hacking. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona have been two of the loudest voices on that front. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both released statements after President Barack Obama’s announced sanctions last week that both criticised Russia while calling out Obama for not going harder on the nation’s government in previous years.
Russia has repeatedly denied its involvement in the hacking, and Trump has refused to acknowledge that Russia had involvement in election-related hacks.
Last week, he insisted that although it was time for the country to move on to “bigger and better” things, he would “nevertheless” meet with intelligence officials to discuss the hac kings. Over the weekend, he said he knew things about the hacking that no one else did, and would say so on Tuesday or Wednesday. He has yet to provide any further information.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”
Intelligence officials brushed back on his tweet, saying the briefing was originally supposed to be held on Friday.
Then, in a Wednesday tweet, Trump repeated Assange’s claim from his Hannity interview that Russians did not give him the hacked information.
“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!” he posted, followed by a quoted tweet in which Assange had called the media’s election coverage “very dishonest.”
“More dishonest than anyone knows,” Trump added.
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