Posts tagged with "Julian Assange"

Just humor him: Trump was joking about loving WikiLeaks, Sarah Sanders says

April 16, 2019

“I love WikiLeaks,” Donald Trump exulted in October 2016 during a campaign rally. “Boy, they are good. You gotta read WikiLeaks!” ended

But on April 11—after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London and ejected from Ecuador’s embassy following his seven-year asylum there—President Trump told reporters at the White House, “I know nothing about WikiLeaks.”

“It’s not my thing,” he added, according to an April 14 report by NBC News.

And White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quick to come to his defense. “Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign,” Sanders told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace about Trump’s past praise for WikiLeaks.

Sanders spoke about Trump’s WikiLeaks remarks after the Department of Justice charged the website’s fugitive founder Julian Assange with computer hacking following his arrest in London, partly in connection with a U.S. extradition warrant.

The Department of Justice indicted Assange on a charge of conspiring with former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to hack a classified government computer. Manning provided WikiLeaks with a trove of secret government documents that the website published in 2010.

In his own defense, NBC News reports, Assange has insisted that the United States is trying to infringe on journalistic freedom.

Assange and WIkiLeaks were at the forefront of leaking stolen emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, including from 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

Research contact: @NBCNews

A racist, a con man, and a cheat: Michael Cohen characterizes Donald Trump in House testimony

February 28, 2019

President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” and personal attorney Michael Cohen appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 27 to “correct the record.”

In the process, Cohen characterized his former boss as “a racist, a con man, and a cheat”—and said he regretted his loyalty to the man for whom he had worked for ten years.

Cohen admitted last year that he lied to the House Intelligence Committee in his September 2017 testimony about his machinations on behalf of the Trump Organization.

Specifically, he misrepresented facts about the timing of his negotiations with the Kremlin for a Moscow Trump Tower; as well as about Trump’s relationships with Felix Sater and Roger Stone, who are targets of the Russia investigation; about a “massive dump” of Democratic National Committee emails; and about payoffs to Trump’s paramours.

Cohen also said that he was in the room both when Stone told Trump via speaker phone that the email dump was coming shortly; and when Donald Trump, Jr., told his father that he had confirmed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that would provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” Cohen said in his own opening statement. adding, “ I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.

Cohen admitted, “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates. In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell  me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie. There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me ‘How’s it going in Russia?’– referring to the Moscow Tower project.”

He added, “You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.”

In discussing his career at the Trump Organization, Cohen said, “At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.”

Among the tidbits that he dropped about the president’s character during his testimony are the following:

  • “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen testified. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation—only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’”
  • While Cohen was in a limousine with Trump, driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, Trump commented that only black people could live that way. “And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid,” Cohen said.
  • Trump directed Cohen to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. “Mr. Trump [then] directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself,” Cohen said.
  • Trump directed Cohen “to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and [tell] them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.”
  • “He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly—and she did not deserve that,” Cohen said.
  • Trump tasked Cohen with handling the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft. “Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery,” Cohen remarked. “He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters, but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment. He finished the conversation with the following comment. ‘You think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.’

Cohen was reviled by the Republican members of the committee, who said they wondered why they were listening to additional testimony from a convicted liar who would be going to prison soon.

In addition to apologizing for his lies, Cohen stated, “I am not a perfect man. I have done things I am not proud of, and I will live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life. But today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I attempt to change how history will remember me. I may not be able to change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.”

Research contact: @RepCummings

In 2016, Manafort held secret talks with Wikileaks’ Assange in Ecuadorian embassy

November 28, 2018

President Donald Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had sought asylum—and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, The Guardian reported on November 27.

Manafort’s March 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, a source told the news outlet. Just two months later, in June 2016, WikiLeaks emailed Russian intelligence (the GRU) via an intermediary—seeking DNC materials. After failed attempts, Vladimir Putin’s spies sent the Democrats’ documents in mid-July to WikiLeaks as an encrypted attachment.

What’s more, this was not Manafort’s first visit to Assange. The Guardian’s “well-placed” source said that Manafort previously had visited Assanage at the embassy in 2013 and 2015.

Indeed, The Guardian reported, Manafort’s acquaintance with Assange goes back at least five years, to late 2012 or 2013, when the American was working in Ukraine and advising its Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

However, it is the 2016 encounter that is especially likely to come under scrutiny by Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Just this week, Mueller said that Manafort had “repeatedly lied to the FBI” after he promised to cooperate with the probe in mid-September. The former campaign manager now has been referred by Mueller to the court for sentencing. Whether the secret tête-à-tête in London already has been investigated Mueller’s team is unknown.

According to The Guardian’s report, Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

His defense team says he believes what he has told Mueller to be truthful and has not violated his deal.

One key question is when the Trump campaign, itself, became aware of the Kremlin’s hacking operation—and what, if anything, it did to encourage it. President Trump repeatedly has denied collusion

One person familiar with WikiLeaks said Assange was motivated to damage the Democrats campaign because he believed a future Trump administration would be less likely to seek his extradition on possible charges of espionage. This fate had hung over Assange since 2010, when he released confidential U.S. State Department cables. It contributed to his decision to take refuge in the embassy.

According to the dossier written by the former MI6 Officer Christopher Steele, The Guardian reports, Manafort was at the center of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s leadership. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Steele wrote, whom Putin “hated and feared.”

Research contact: @lukeharding1968

Senate Intelligence Committee asks WikiLeaks’ Assange to testify

August 9, 2018

WikiLeaks—the organization led by Julian Assange that posted candidate Hillary Clinton’s private emails, as well as emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), on its website at several critical junctures during the 2016 presidential campaign—broke news on August 8 that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee “has called on editor @JulianAssange to testify.”

In a letter signed by Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the chairman and vice chairman of the select committee—and delivered by U.S. embassy personnel in London directly to Assange, who remains in hiding to avoid extradition under the U.S. Espionage Act at Ecuador’s embassy—the group asked the WikiLeaks editor to make himself available for a closed-door bipartisan discussion “at a mutually agreeable time and location” to discuss “Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.”

Interestingly enough, WikiLeaks pointed out, eight other legislators, not all of them on the panel, also had “demanded today that @JulianAssange’s asylum be revoked in violation of international law. Remember them.” Those legislators included Senators Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire).

Committee members Kamala Harris (D-California), Martin Heinrich (D,New Mexico), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) were rather conspicuously absent from that list; as were all Republicans, save Burr.

In response to the letter, WikiLeaks’ legal team said they are “considering the offer, but testimony must conform to a high ethical standard.”

A CNN poll conducted at the end of June found that most Americans continue to believe that the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election “is a serious matter that should be investigated.”

Research contact: @wikileaks