Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) declared Wednesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a “sycophant for Russia.”
Ryan made his case on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that the controversial Assange is attempting to gain favor with Russia, saying, “He leaks, he steals data and compromises national security.”
Ryan acknowledged that President-elect Donald Trump has not yet received his security briefing on the alleged Russian hacking to influence the 2016 election and seemed to advise Trump to wait until the intelligence community has the chance to brief him before making a final assessment on the potential involvement of Russia, telling Hewitt, "I think he has not received his Russia briefing yet...hopefully he’ll get up to speed on what has been happening and what Russia has or has not done. And he’ll be better informed on that.”
Assange has been very vocal about the 2016 U.S. election. He has asserted that Russia was not his source in obtaining the emails leaked by WikiLeaks that proved Hillary Clinton’s campaign Chairman John Podesta had been the target of a phishing attempt. Wikileaks was also responsible for leaks related to the Democrat National Committee that Trump has said was the result of carelessness by the DNC.
In a widely promoted interview with Sean Hannity Tuesday night, Assange dismissed the notion that Russia was behind the phishing expedition into Podesta’s emails. That expedition led to leaks that ultimately damaged Clinton’s reputation in the campaign. The ordeal prompted President Barack Obama to officially declare an investigation and subsequently impose sanctions on Russia in retaliation for alleged cyber meddling.
Assange also made light of the leaks to Hannity, saying they were so technologically simple that a 14-year-old could have managed them. Trump reiterated Assange’s assertion on Twitter Wednesday morning:
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!— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1483532558.0
Trump, appearing to side with Assange that Russia was not behind the leaks, reaffirmed his stated belief that the intelligence community — including a report from the CIA backed by the FBI — is misinformed on its contention that a security briefing may prove a connection to Russia.
At the time the CIA report was released, Trump laughed off the Russian connection, saying the CIA was the same organization that said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as justification for George W. Bush’s invasion following 9/11.
Responding to the criticism, CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday the agency has improved its methods since then.
"And so, it’s been light-years since that Iraq WMD report has been done, and there has been tremendous further development of our analytic capabilities as well as our intelligence-collection capabilities,” Brennan said.
Brennan touted the U.S. intelligence community, saying there are no other intelligence agencies in the world with the same capabilities.
“I would suggest to individuals who have not yet seen the report, who have not yet been briefed on it, that they wait and see what it is that the intelligence community is putting forward,” he said, “before they make those judgments.”
An intelligence briefing Trump has been scheduled for Friday.