-- The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, flatly denied that the Russian government was the source of the ocean of stolen emails from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party that the anti-secrecy site has been publishing online by the thousands in the lead up to Election Day - despite the U.S. intelligence community seeing Moscow's hands all over the cyber heists.
"Hillary Clinton has stated multiple times, falsely, that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies had assessed that Russia was the source of our publications. That's false. We can say that the Russian government is not the source," Assange said recently in an interview with an Australian broadcaster, according to the Russian state-funded news outlet RT.
Early last month the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which overseas the 17 federal organizations that make up the U.S. intelligence community, and the Department of Homeland Security issued an unusually blunt public assessment that the "Russian Government directed recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including U.S. political organizations." The statement said that "recent disclosures," including those that appeared on WikiLeaks specifically, "are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts."
"These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process," read the statement. "We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities."
The ODNI-DHS statement referenced the June disclosure on WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of emails and documents that had been hacked from the Democratic National Committee. Within days of the publication, multiple private security companies that investigated the cyber attack that stole the data in the first place concluded that it most likely had been the work of Russian hacking groups with purported ties to Russian intelligence organizations.
The hacking continued and early last month, after the ODNI-DHS statement, WikiLeaks began to publish emails from the personal inbox of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The New York Times reported that cyber security researchers have also pinned that hack on Russian intelligence.
Assange, an Australian national, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than four years, out of the reach of authorities in Sweden where he has been accused of sexual assault. Assange has said the Swedish allegations, which he firmly denies, are part of a plot to have him extradited to the U.S. to face unspecified charges connected to his work with WikiLeaks.
Last month, a few days after WikiLeaks began publishing the Podesta cache, the Ecuadorian government "temporarily restricted" Assange's internet connection, saying the South American nation "respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states." The move did little to interrupt WikiLeaks' publication of the emails, which continues today.
In the interview to be aired on RT, Assange reportedly says that the "Clinton camp" is projecting a "neo-McCarthyist hysteria that Russia is responsible for everything." Russian President Vladimir Putin has similarly dismissed the "hysteria" surrounding the hacking allegations, saying last month, "There was nothing in the interest of Russia there."
When asked last week about Putin's denial, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest asked reporters, "Did you expect he would admit that?"