Julian Assange refuses House request as WikiLeaks colleague slams ‘pathetic’ hunt for collusion
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson denied ties Friday to President Trump’s election campaign on the heels of his predecessor, Julian Assange, defying requests for related material from the House Judiciary Committee.
“It’s rather pathetic how people are trying to connect the dots about some kind of collaboration,” said Mr. Hrafnsson, an Icelandic journalist who previously served as the spokesperson for WikiLeaks prior to succeeding Mr. Assange as the website’s editorial lead last September.
Mr. Hrafnsson made the remarks in an interview published by the Reykjavk Grapevine shortly after it emerged that Mr. Assange and an associate, Randy Credico, would both refuse requests issued as part of the House panel’s probe into alleged obstruction, corruption and other crimes potentially committed by Mr. Trump and individuals in his inner circle.
WikiLeaks published emails during the 2016 election belonging to the Democratic National Committee, among others, and U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have since determined those messages were sourced by Russian government hackers conducting a broad campaign targeting Mr. Trump’s rival in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and committee chairman, sent requests to dozens of individuals earlier this month as part of his panel’s newly launched probe, including various people connected to Mr. Trump’s campaign and administration in addition to Mr. Assange, the website’s founder and publisher, and Mr. Credico, a New York City radio host who has referred to the WikiLeaks boss as a personal friend.
Neither Mr. Assange, 47, nor Mr. Credico, 64, will turn over records requested by Mr. Nadler’s committee, their lawyers said Thursday.
“The First Amendment dictates that an inquiry by Congress should not begin by issuing requests to journalists for documents pertaining to its newsgathering,” said Mr. Assange’s attorney, Barry Pollack.
Martin Stolar, an attorney for Mr. Credico, said they declined the House request, in order to avoid conflicting with a separate probe into the 2016 race led by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on behalf of the Department of Justice.
“Mr. Credico has no objection to the Special Counsel’s Office providing to your Committee all the materials which were turned over to them pursuant to subpoena,” Mr. Stolar wrote to Mr. Nadler.
Speaking to the Grapevine, Mr. Hrafnsson denied reports that Mr. Assange spoke by phone during the race with Roger Stone, Mr. Trump’s former campaign adviser, and in person with Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman.
He also defended WikiLeaks releasing stolen Democratic material, saying: “The DNC emails had information that was newsworthy, and definitely it should have been published prior to the election, and that’s the end of it.”
Mr. Stone, 66, was charged last month by the special counsel’s office with crimes including lying to Congress about his conversations involving WikiLeaks, as well as obstruction and witness tampering.
He previously told lawmakers that Mr. Credico acted as a conduit during the race between himself and WikiLeaks. Mr. Credico has denied acting as their backchannel, and prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Stone offered that account in lieu of explaining messages he exchanged about the DNC release with another associate.
Moscow has denied meddling in the 2016 race, and Mr. Stone has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Manafort, 69, was convicted of charges brought by Mr. Mueller’s office. He denied from prison a report published in The Guardian newspaper last year that alleged he privately met multiple times with Mr. Assange at the latter’s residence in London, and lawyers for both have subsequently threatened to sue the outlet for libel.