-- President-elect Donald Trump revealed on Tuesday that his classified briefing on Russian political hacking is slated for Friday, while continuing to cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence agencies’ investigations, suggesting that they don’t have their ducks in a row.
Joining Trump in casting doubt on the intelligence community, fugitive computer activist Julian Assange appeared in an interview on Fox News from his hideout at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
“The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” the president-elect tweeted.
Assange — whose WikiLeaks website is at the center of the hacking drama for its role in publishing thousands of embarrassing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee — gave an interview to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that aired on the network late on Tuesday.
The Trump-aligned Hannity asked Assange if he could confidently say Russia was not the source of the stolen emails, and Assange replied, “We can say — we have said repeatedly — over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party.”
Assange denied ever speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Trump or any of their surrogates.
Trump’s tweet and Assange’s comments were the latest attempt to throw shade on the U.S. intelligence community, which has concluded that Putin-directed Russian hackers conducted cyberattacks on U.S. political targets in an attempt to influence the election.
But a PBS interview with CIA Director John Brennan suggests that the incoming president and fugitive computer activist don’t know what they are talking about.
“This report is going to include what it is that we know about what happened, what was collected, what was disclosed and what the purpose and intent of that effort was,” Brennan said.
And officials say the embarrassing Democratic Party emails were delivered to Assange’s website by a middleman for the Russians — or what spies call a cut-out.
Russian intelligence operatives have “figured out how to use WikiLeaks as a propaganda weapon to put out the information that they stole from the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations,” said Matt Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and an ABC News contributor.
He added, “The Russian intelligence services are clearly capable of hiding their tracks, of using a cut-out to provide this information to WikiLeaks ... There's no way that Assange would have any idea who was behind dropping this information off.”
So with less than three weeks until he assumes leadership of the U.S. and its intelligence agencies, Trump finds himself aligned with Putin and the WikiLeaks mastermind, who delivers a message much like that of Trump’s transition team.
The Obama administration, Assange told Fox News, is “trying to delegitimize the Trump administration as it goes into the White House. They are trying to say that President-elect Trump is not a legitimate president.”
Those comments are reminiscent of remarks made by Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Dec. 20, when she said the Obama administration was trying to “discredit, delegitimize” the election.
But the doubt is hardly universal.
“Whether Assange is a knowing participant or what the Russians call useful idiot, that’s hard to tell,” Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, told ABC News on Tuesday. “But nonetheless, the Russians were very much behind the hacking and dumping of this information.
ABC News’ Lissette Rodriguez, Matthew Mosk, Cho Park and Alex Hosenball contributed to this report.