Trump uses Assange to cast doubt on claims of Russian hacking

US President-elect Donald Trump quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (pictured) while casting doubt over allegations of Russian hacking in the US election.
US President-elect Donald Trump quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (pictured) while casting doubt over allegations of Russian hacking in the US election. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President-elect Donald Trump quoted WikiLeaks founder and fugitive Julian Assange in a message on Twitter on Wednesday (Jan 4) morning questioning the Russians' role in hacking Democrats' e-mails.

Mr Trump's tweet came the morning after he cast doubt on a US intelligence briefing on Russian hacking that he is expected to receive later this week.

"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!" Mr Trump said on Wednesday (Jan 4) on Twitter, referring to the hacking of e-mails connected to the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, who served as chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

His message comes a day after Fox News aired part of an interview of Assange by Mr Sean Hannity, which was taped at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The missive comes a day after Mr Trump claimed his briefing by US officials on evidence that the Russian government was the attack was delayed until the end of the week, and that US officials may need more time to bolster their conclusions.

"The 'Intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday (Jan 6), perhaps more time needed to build a case," Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday (Jan 3) night.

"Very strange!"

A US official, who has knowledge of the matter and asked for anonymity, said that Mr Trump is to be briefed on an intelligence summary on foreign interference with the US presidential election in the next few days.

The briefing had not been scheduled for Tuesday (Jan 3), the official said. Mr Trump said on Dec 31 that he planned to release more information about the Russia hacking on Tuesday (Jan 3) or Wednesday (Jan 4).

President Barack Obama last week moved to sanction top Russian intelligence officials over the hack. The Obama administration also expelled 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the country, and restricted access to two Russian diplomatic compounds.

Mr Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism at the conclusion of intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking and release of e-mails in an effort to damage his campaign opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. He has pledged to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has denied it was behind the hacking, and praised the Russian leader last week for not retaliating after the Obama administration penalised Russian officials.

"I just want them to be sure, because it's a pretty serious charge," Mr Trump told reporters on Saturday (Dec 31) as he arrived at a New Year's Eve celebration at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

"When you look at the weapons of mass destruction - that was a disaster and they were wrong, and so I want them to be sure. I think it's unfair if they don't know. I know a lot about hacking, and hacking is a very hard thing to prove. It could be somebody else."

That is despite top Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, welcoming the sanctions and warning that Russia poses a threat to national security. Mr Trump's comments have riled critics, who say the president-elect is too quick to discount US intelligence.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday (Jan 1) on ABC's This Week that Mr Trump needs to make peace with US intelligence agencies.

"He needs to stop denigrating the intelligence community. He's going to rely on them. He's going to have to rely on them," Mr Schiff said.

"This is the overwhelming judgment of the intelligence community and, frankly, all of the members of the intelligence committees in Congress, Democrats and Republicans."