Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman said there is a “reasonable belief” that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange passed information to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in connection with Russian-directed e-mail hacking of Democrats in an attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election.
John Podesta, speaking with reporters on Hillary Clinton’s campaign plane on Tuesday night, did not offer any details from federal investigators regarding the possible coordination between Trump, Assange, and the Russians.
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Instead, he cited confirmation last week by U.S. intelligence officials that Guccifer 2.0 is an active program of Russian intelligence agencies and that DCLeaks and WikiLeaks coordinated efforts in the release of the hack of Democratic National Committee e-mails. In addition, Podesta said that statements made earlier this year by Trump surrogate Roger Stone, in which he suggested Podesta could be next, also suggested a connection.
“I think there is definitely circumstantial evidence that Mr. Stone must have been witting about what was to come,” Podesta said. “It’s a reasonable assumption or at least a reasonable conclusion that Mr. Stone had advance warning” and that, through him, Trump was warned “about what Assange was going to do,” Podesta said.
Stone said in an e-mail Tuesday that Podesta’s assertion was “categorically false” and “without foundation,” according to the Associated Press.
The FBI told Podesta on Sunday that it is investigating a hack of his Gmail account in connection with the broader hacking probe.
Trump, who continues to question Russia’s role in the high-profile leaks of e-mails, is “either willfully ignoring the information that’s coming from the highest reaches of the U.S. intelligence community” or is “an unwitting agent of the Russian federation,” Podesta said.
A trove of leaked Podesta e-mails that appear to detail issues ranging from Clinton’s private, paid speeches to Wall Street before launching her campaign, to her choice of running mate Tim Kaine over a year ago, have been released in recent days. Podesta declined to answer most questions about those e-mails, saying, “I’m not confirming the validity of the e-mails.”
Pressed on the notion furthered by some of the leaked e-mails that Clinton may have had a softer attitude in her private remarks to Wall Street about the need for regulations after the 2008 financial crash than she did as a candidate, Podesta disagreed.
“What she says in private and what she says in public is that she will crack down on Wall Street abuses,” he said. “She said you know your industry best. That doesn’t mean regulators can’t crack down on them.”
At a Tuesday rally in Panama City, Florida, Trump sprinkled his hour-long speech with numerous references to the hacked e-mails.
“You see so much from these WikiLeaks. You see so much,” he said. “These WikiLeaks e-mails confirm what those of us here have known all along: Hillary Clinton is the vessel of a corrupt global establishment that’s raiding our country and surrendering the sovereignty of our nation. This criminal government cartel doesn’t recognize borders, but believes in global government, unlimited immigration.”
He said new e-mails revealed by ABC News showed that after deadly earthquake, “the Clintons couldn’t stop cashing in.” As people were dying in Haiti, Clinton insiders were separating out requests from VIPs so their business interests or contracts would receive very special treatment, he said.
“People who were labeled not friends of Bill were placed very much on side lines,” he said.
The new e-mails show members of the Clinton team attacking Catholics, he said.
“WikiLeaks e-mails showed her staff even has given up secret notes on when she needs to smile.” he said.
Asked how it feels to have the internal deliberations of a campaign laid bare for all to see, Podesta acknowledged, “It doesn’t feel great.” But, he said, “I’m kind of Zen about it at this stage.”
He said while it was “clearly intended” to hurt Clinton’s campaign, he is hopeful that voters see her offering a positive message and Trump “desparately hanging on to these leaks.”
“It’ll make our victory sweeter,” Podesta said.