Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said “it’s very disturbing” that Donald Trump has cited transparency activist Julian Assange for being reluctant so far to acknowledge an alleged role on the part of Russia in election meddling. In an interview with CNN today, Graham said that he has “no doubt” that Russia is the origin of the hacks on the emails received and sent by Democratic Party officials, such as Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. It was Assange’s WikiLeaks website that published the emails that contained embarrassing revelations about Clinton’s campaign tactics, rhetoric, and its relations with establishment media.
Graham said today, “Mr. Assange is a fugitive from the law, hiding in an embassy, who has a history of undermining American interests.” Graham added, “I hope no American will be duped by him. You shouldn't give him any credibility.”
Graham thus appeared to bolster House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who referred to Assange as a “sycophant of Russia” today in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt. Ryan also said that Assange had stolen U.S. classified information and compromised national security.
Trump has repeatedly expressed reservations about claims emanating from the Obama administration that cites the various agencies of the intelligence community as having concluded that there is a tie between the release of the emails and Russian operators. President Barack Obama took action on the issue last week when he expelled a group of Russian diplomats from the United States as retribution for the supposed hacks.
Today Trump issued comments on Twitter that highlighted remarks Assange made to Fox News’ Sean Hannity in a televised interview that was released last night. Trump tweeted Assange’s contention that American media coverage has been “very dishonest.” Yesterday, Trump announced that a scheduled briefing from the federal government on the supposed hacking was postponed until January 6. He found this to be “strange.”
Graham said, “This was done by the Russians, and I hope by Friday President-elect Trump comes to that realization and ignores Mr. Assange.” Graham continued, “Not only should he ignore Julian Assange, he should condemn him for what he’s done to our country, putting our soldiers at risk, putting our foreign policy at risk. Julian Assange is no friend of America and he’s no friend of democracy.”
Graham, who has been a sharp critic of Trump, stopped short of saying that Trump may have been duped by Assange. He said that he hopes Trump will listen to the coming briefing.“I’m sure he will,” he added, because “you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what the Russians are up to.”
Graham also said that he may not vote for Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. The latter has conducted business in Russia in his capacity as CEO of Mobil/Exxon. As the CNN host wrapped up the segment, Graham said, “Don't listen to Julian Assange on anything. Thank you.” Graham joined another one of Trump's GOP critics, Sen. John McCain, in calling for a special select committee to investigate Russian meddling in the U.S. political process. While their Democratic colleagues are anxious to start the investigation, the special select committee has yet to materialize. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, according to McCain, does not see the necessity of it.
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