tv Witness LINKTV May 1, 2022 9:00pm-9:31pm PDT
♪♪♪ michael brissenden: julian assange has become one of the most influential and divisive figures of our time. julian assange: reporters that don't have new information, to some degree, have nothing useful to y. michael: a martyr for free speech and freedom of infoation to some--a ckless anarchist to others. julianall are-- investigations. scott shane: i suppose very flawed personalities often are, you know, sort of the engineers of history, and i think julian assange is one of them.
donald trump: wikileaks, i love wikileaks. michael: assange's most disruptive act of all was his intervention in u.s. politics in the 2016 u.s. election. daniel domscheit-berg: what clearly happened there is that wikileaks was a useful tool, and somebody figured out how to use that. julian might've been the useful idiot to president trump or his advisers or whoever, you know, helping him to get more political momentum. ♪♪♪ jennifer robinson: for anyone to suggest that julian is owned by any particular government is simply wrong, and you need to know julian to know that that's simply not the case. ♪♪♪ michael: in the 2016 campaign, wikileaks sent shock waves through the u.s. political system. the publication of thousands of e-mails stolen from senior figures in the democratic national committee was enthusiastically embraced by candidate donald trump. now as president, trump has flipped.
his administration is coming after assange, but is it just about national security, or is it also part of a broader attack on media freedom? ♪♪♪ pj crowley: it mostly likely changed the course of american politics and the american presidency, and here again, this is a delicious irony, you know, he, the president that he helped to elect now wants to prosecute him. michael: tonight on "4 corners," "the united states versus julian assange." ♪♪♪ michael: in june 2012, julian assange was a man under pressure, wanted for questioning in sweden over allegations of
sexual assault and the subject of an ongoing investigation in the united states over the publication of huge tranches of classified information. on a spring day, he made his way here to the ecuadorian embassy in london, seeking asylum. jennifer: julian sought asylum in 2012, in the ecuadorian embassy, because he didn't have assurances that, once in custody to face extradition to sweden, he wouldn't be served with a u.s. extradition request. we had asked the australian government to seek those assurances. the australian government had refused to do so. it was only then that he sought asylum, which was his right as a matter of ternational law. fidel narvaez: julian arri. it's publicly known that he was disguised as a deliveryman. he had his request for asylum written and ready. he handed it over to us.
michael: fidel narvaez was consul at the embassy when ecuador took him in. fidel narvaez: we were challenging the major superpower in the world and some of its closest allies. a small nation took that bet. it was gonna be a very, very tough fight. male newscaste first the breang news tonight. the diplomatic high drama surrounding julian assange's asylum bid. female newscaster: "the new york times" is reporting the government of ecuador is prepared to allow wikileaks founder julian assange to remain in its embassy in london indefinitely. michael: approving the asylum request was a bold and provocative decision. fidel narvaez: the embassy was surrounded by no less than 50 to 60 british armed police. thmain street was closed.
they were outside every window of the embassy, the inside of the building--everywhere. ♪♪♪ julian: inside this embassy after dark i could hear teams of police swarming up into the building through its internal fire escape, but i knew there would be witnesses, and that is because of you. the world was watching, anthe world was watching because you were watching. ♪♪♪ michael: the embassy would be assange's home for nearly seven years. fidel narvaez: julian slept in the floor in a inflatable mattress for more than four months, at least. we needed to adapt some working spaces for him to be able to work as well.
we needed to adapt all our routines in order to allow him to have the many, many visitors from all over the world that wanted to come and see him. and julian himself is a workaholic. he was always working, doing something, either working with his computer, either having meetings with his team, with his visitors, with his legal team, giving conferences, giving interviews. ♪♪♪ michael: from inside the embassy, assange continued to challenge governments around the world. over the next three years, wikileaks published more than two million foreign government e-mails, the details of international trade agreements, and evidence of how america's national security agency was tapping the phones of
foreign leaders. matthew miller: i think there was always a lot of anger at julian assange for accepting and publicizing a united states national security information. i think there was never a sense inside the justice department that julian assange was a journalist or that he s just, yoknow, trying to publish national security information for any whistle-blowing purpose but that he just, kind of, wanted to take whatever he could get and publish it without any wonder whether any care--whether it would do damage to the united states national security interest or not. julian: in theork that we do, the work that wikileaks does-- michael: assge continued to broadcast to the world through an interview program aired on the russian government tv channel, russia today. julian: you have fought against a hegemony of the united states. kristinn hrafnsson: a production company is created who produces this program. it's offered for sale. the only tv station that actually wanted to negotiate
that deal was rt--had no editorial control over the material. simply bought the packets. so that is the essence of the cooperation between julian and rt. michael: when the criticism is made about that, about rt, you don't--so you don't believe it is essentially an arm of the putin administration? kristinn: well, i mean, who cares? i mean, you were working on certain platform. you don't want anybody to question your integrity. my god, this was a program being created and sold on the markets without any editorial control, so who does it care--who cares, i mean, where it was, you know, published? and what to read into that? scott: what's julian assange, this crusader against oppressive government, doing, getting in bed with the russian government?
that didn't last terribly long, but it, you know, was sort of a red flag, and people--i think even people who had been sticking up for wikileaks and sange all along began to get, you know, chills about, you know, "who is this guy really?" and we didn't know. you know, we did--he did seem to have a blind spot when it came to russia. neera tanden: the fact that juan assange has been working hand in glove with russia today, rt, seems to indicate, to me, that he has less journalistic enterprises behind him and more goals of undermining democracy and achieving the aims of the russn government. donald: ladies and gentlemen, i am officially running for president of the united states, and we are going to make our
country great again. michael: by the middle of 2015, the u.s. was heading into what would be a bitterly contested presidential election campaign. hillary clinton: i will be the youngest woman president in the history of the united states. michael: julian assange had been highly critical of hillary clinton when she was secretary of state. hillary: oh, thank you all. hillary: well, i had a lot of history with him because i was secretary of state when wikileaks published a lot of very sensitive information from our state department and our defense department. and, you know, i think that whatever claim to transparency and openness that he may have started with, i can't judge, but now i think he's very clearly a tool of russian intelligence. scott: she had a lot of pretty harsh things to say about
wikileaks and julian assange, you know, in part, because she was secretary of state when they put out 250,000 diplomatic cables, so, it's not surprising that she didn't have any warm feelings for him, and he returned the favor. michael: internal wikileaks chats le no doubt about what assange believed to be the best political outcome in the coming presidential election. "it would be much better for a republican win," he says. "clinton is a bright, well connected, sadistic sociopath." julian: american liberal press, in falling over themselves to defend hillary clinton, are erecting a demon that is going to put nooses around everyone's necks as soon as she wins the election, which she is almost rtainly going to do. michael: in march 2016, wikileaks released a searchable
archive of more than 30,000 e-mails obtained through freedom of information. the e-mails were from clinton's private e-mail server while she was secretary of state. internal wikileaks correspondence said the purpose of creating the archive was "because it's useful and will annoy hillary" and because "we want to be seen as a resource or player in the u.s. election." male: you've been taking an interest, i understand, in the whole issue of the e-mails she sent, using her private server. do you have any of the undisclosed e-mails? julian: well, taking interes i think, is putting it mildly. we have published 32,000 of them and some analysis. we have upcoming leaks in relation to hillary clinton which is great we actually have wikileaks has a very big year ahead. male: but some of the ones that have not yet come into the public domain, you are planning to put out? julian: we have e-mails relating to hillary clinton, which are
pending publication. that is correct. ♪♪♪ michael: in moscow, the russians had begun their own campaign to undermine hillary clinton. the russian military intelligence ancy, the g, established a secret cyber operations unit. in april 2016, the hackers attacked the democratic national committee and stole tens of thousands of e-mails. scott: i have to hand it to the gru, russian military intelligence, which eventually was quite clearly identified as the organization that hacked into the--hillary clinton's campaign and into the democratic national committee, stole all these e-mails, and the russian government was named as sort of the prime suspect. michael: the russians established a website called dc leaks to begin publishing the e-mails, and in an attempt to
cover their tracks, created a new online persona called guccifer 2.0. scott: up on the web pops this blog never heard of before from somebody calling himself guccifer 2.0, this sort of antic voice in english saying, eventually saying, "i'm a romanian hacker," but a big message he wanted to convey from the very beginning from that first day was "i hacked the dnc," and they point at the russian state, "ha-ha-ha, actually, it wasn't that hard. i'm just a lone hacker, and i did it myself." so guccifer 2.0 seemed very eager to point the finger away from the russian government. that was a big theme, but it was a brilliant move, as it turned out, of course, the gru had created guccifer 2.0, and this was sort of a fig leaf for russian intelligence.
♪♪♪ michael: wikileaks wanted whatever guccifer had. correspondence revealed in the u.s. indictment of the russian hackers, shows that on june 22, wikileaks sent guccifer a private message on twitter: "send any new material here for us to review, and it will have a much higher impact than what you're doing." ♪♪♪ scott: wikileaks was there for them. it was a huge boon to distribute those e-mails through wikileaks, which had a, sort of, established audience in the millions around the world. ♪♪♪ michael: two weeks later, wikileaks sent another message to guccifer: "if you have anything hillary-related, we want it in the next two days preferably because the democratic national convention is approaching." soon after, guccifer sent wikileaks an encrypted file.
♪♪♪ neera tanden: so, the dnc e-mails were hacked. the dnc e-mails go public right before the democratic convention at a time to create the maximum pain. michael: was the cventiontaken e timing of the release of those e-mails? kristi: i'm sure it was because journalists have taken into csideration timing of their release of the information or stories, and any journalist who will be denying the fact that they want to maximize the impact of their story either telling a lie or, well, basically being dishonest because everjournalist wants to maximize the impact of the story, and timing comes into play. michael: wikileaks' release of the stolen e-mails threw the democratic national convention into uproar. male newscaster: it's a major embarrassment for democrats on
the eve of their nominating convention. newscaster: just when hillary clinton was hoping to put the whole notion of an e-mail controversy behind her. newscaster: a wikileaks e-mail dump suggests bernie sanders may have been right. the primary system was rigged against him. michael: the convention was supposed to be hillary clinton's springboard into the presidency, but the e-mails showed the dnc had favored clinton over bernie sanders all along. the revelations outraged sanders' supporters. female: and we should not allow hillary clinton to win this election. neera: people were chanting, "lock her up," yelling, creating staged demonstrations on the floor. it was, you know, a fair amount of maelstrom. michael: neera tanden was a policy director for the clinton campaign and one of the top-raing democrats whose e-mails were leaked. neera: people could see the level of emotional intensity created by ts leak, and it was accomplishing the ends that the
russians had, which is to undermine hillary clinton, to undermine the democratic party, to help trump, to help the republican party. michael: while in washington, it was now widely accepted that the russians had been behind the dnc hack. assange refused to be drawn on his source. chuck todd: it is helpful to know that, if a foreign government is involved, isn't that crucial information to civilians? julian: i think that is an interesting question. the difficulty that wikileaks has, of course, is that we can't, you know, go around speculating on who our sources are. that would be irresponsible. chuck: well, you can speculate. you knowhe answer. well, mr. assange, you say you can't go around speculating. do you not know the answer? julian: we don't give any material away as to who our sources are. michael: instead, assange chose to cast more shadows.
he implied the source might have been a young dnc staffer called seth rich, who'd been murdered in a suspected late-night robbery. julian: there's a 27-year-old who works for the dnc, who was shot in the back, murdered, just two weeks ago, for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in washington. eelco bosch van rosenthal: that was just a robbery, i believe, wasn't it? julian: no, there's no finding, so-- eelco: what are you suggesting, what are you suggesting? julian: i'm suggesting that our sources take risks, and they become concerned to see things occurring like that. eelco: but was he one of your sources then? i mean-- julian: we don't comment on who our sources are. eelco:hen why make the suggestion about a young guy being shot in the streets of washington? scott: i mean, he was all but naming seth rich as his source,
and i saw that as completely underhanded and really kind of cruel to seth rich's family. think he was justrying to protect his own reputation by refuting, usinseth rich to refute the idea that he'd become a sort of witting tool of the russian state. ♪♪♪ michael: wikileaks was a perfect weapon for a presidential candidate seeking political advantage. the possibility that assange might have even more damaging information on clinton was tantalizing, but it also presented a potential opportunity for a circus of shady political operatives hoping to be noticed by the trump campaign. ♪♪♪ michael: chief amongst those shady characters was roger stone, a former trump adviser and veteran
republican operative. in 2016, he was keen to jump on the wikileaks bandwagon to bolster trump. scott: roger stone is sort of a legendary character in american politics, who goes all the way back to richard nixon and has been sort of synonymous with political dirty tricks, you know, goinway, way back. and so it was perhaps not surprising to learn that he was also a, kind of, buddy of donald trump and, you know, sort of surfaced in the trump campaign as a fervent supporter of donald trump d, you know, ready to do whatever it took to get trump elected. ♪♪♪ michael: stone was arrested in an fbi raid earlier this year. he is currently facing chaes, including witness tampering and
giving false statements in connection with the investigation into ssian interference. the arges rete to his attempt to work with wikileaks during the campaign. scott: there's this question of whether was roger stone somehow inside, and stone said, "no," he had a friend who knew julian assange, and, you know, there's been more public information from robert mueller's investigation and other sources, and, certainly, it suggests that roger stone, you know, wasn't working with russian intelligence, that it was probably more like, you know, what one would predict from roger stone's entire career which was he was sort of an opportunist, and he saw an opportunity to sort of promote trump and promote himself at the same time and became part of the process of, you know, building an audience for him, building suspense about these dumps of e-mails hacked by the russians
and, you know, essentially designed to undermine clinton's campaign. ♪♪♪ michael: according to the indictment of stone, in july 2016, a senior trump campaign official was directed to contact stone to find out what else wikileaks had on the clinton campaign. stone then asked a contact to go to the ecuadorian embassy to get the "pending wikileaks e-mails. they deal with the clinton foundation, allegedly." roger stone: i actually have communicated with assange. i believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the clinton foundation, but there's no telling what the october surprise may be. female: knows a lot about hillary clinton-- michael: stone soon changed his story and instead said he had a back-channel to assange. roger: no, i have not spoken to mr. assange. i have not met with mr. assange, and i never said i had.
i said we communicated through an intermediary, somebody who is a mutual friend. michael: the friend and intermediary he referred to was randy credico. credico is a fringe radio host, who had once interviewed julian assange. randy credico: i'm a political satirist, impressionist, and they call me a satirist activist. michael: randy credico is now preparing to be the star witness in the trial of roger stone. male: randy, we just got this set of documents. i need you to take a look at 'em to review 'em, read 'em. get back to me. let me know what you think about what's in there. randy: this is gonna take me forever. look how much stuff-- male: it won't take you forever. it's not that much, it's just a little. randy: it's like reading "war and peace." look at all of this. male: it's e-mails and text messages.
michael: the trial will focus on a series of communications between stone and credico that suggested they both had advanced knowledge of what wikileaks was planning to publish. credico now says he never had contact with assange, and roger stone was all talk. rand i don't think he had a back channel. i mean, you know, if you put a gun to my head and said, "you have to guess correctly. did stone have or not have a back channel? otherwise, we're gonna pull the trigger," i would, if my life is at stake, i'd say, "he never had a back channel, but he was just out there." the guy is a selpromoter. you know, he's in show business. well, maybe he did, but i can't imagine that--why would there need to be a back channel when assange could just go directly to the campaign? he didn't need to have stone in the middle, but stone needed to be in the middle so stone could elevate his profile. ♪♪♪ michael: messages from late 2016 between credico and stone showed they were in regular contact with each other about what wikileaks might have.
credico told stone, assange "has kryptonite on hillary." four weeks later, he said, "hillary's campaign will die this week." michael: people are talking about this "october surprise." how did you know that it was coming? randy: i said on october 1, "it's gonna be a bad week for hillary, based on what i had seen over the previous six weeks, eight weeks, that this is gonna be a bad week for hillary, and her campaign's gonna be finished." but of course, that was hyperbole. michael: on its tenth anniversary, wikileaks was busy preparing r another big data dump. julian: now, on upcoming publications, we hope to be publishing every week for the next ten weeks. now, we have on schedule--and it's a very hard schedule--all the u.s. election-related documents to come out before
november 8. female: do we have any comment on whether the upcoming publications to do with the u.s. elections will destroy clinton or not? julian: there's been a lot of misquoting of me and wikileaks publications. in this particular case, the misquoting has to do with that we intend to harm hillary clinton or that i intend to harm hillary clinton, or i don't like hillary clinton, and all those are false. michael: on october 7, just a month before polling day, the trump campaign was hit with the most consequential and potentially damaging story of the election-- donald: i moved on her like a b-- michael: a secretly recorded conversation trump had several years earlier with the host of a tv show called "access hollywood."
billy bush: sheesh, your girl's hot as s-- donald: you know, i'm automatically attracted to beautiful--i just start kissing them. it's like a magnet. just kiss. i don't even wait. and when you're a star, they let you do it. you can do anything. billy: whatever you want. donald: grab 'em by the p-- you can do anything. ♪♪♪ michael: it could've been a knock-out blow, but less than an hour after the video was published, wikileaks released its next dump of the e-mails hacked from clinton campaign chairman john podesta. hacked from hillary clinton'ss campaign chairman, and they could offer a new perspective on a relationship with wall street. reporter: hillary clinton and her campaign are dealing with a slow drip, drip, drip of revelations about the campaign's internal workings. male reporter: wikileaks posted more than 2,000 additional e-mails from hillary clinton's campaign chair, john podesta. this is the #podestafile, i think, online. hillary: wikileaks, which, in the world in which we find ourselves, promised hidden information, promised some kind
of secret that might be of influence--was a very clever, diabolical response to the "hollywood access" tape, and i've no doubt in my mind that there was some communication, if not coordination, to drop those the first time in response to the "hollywood access" tape. kristinn: that's simply not correct, and there is evidence to counter that. this was being worked in collaboration with other media, and you have to plan ahead. i mean, clearly, the evidence is there that the timing of day was decided the day before, not on that with, you know, not as a quick reaction. donald: this just came out-- michael: the leaks dominated the campaign. donald: wikileaks, i love wikileaks. scott: instead of dumping out all 50,000 e-mails at once, for the entire last month of the campaign, assange dolled them out, you know, day after day after day-- donald: she's crooked, folks. she's crooked as a $3 bill.
scott: so every day, you know, people who were covering that race would look at the latest wikileaks dump, find the juicy stuff, write about it. so, i think it did prevent the clinton campaign from ever, sort of, righting itself. hillary: our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the kremlin, meaning putin and the russian government, are directing the attacks, the hacking on american accounts to influence our election, and wikileaks is part of that as are other sites. ♪♪♪ michael: as the leaks continued, wikileaks contacted trump's son, donald jr., "hey donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. there's many great stories there the press are missing, and we're