- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A WikiLeaks figure is claiming that he received leaked Clinton campaign emails from “disgusted” Democratic whistleblowers, while the White House continued to blame Russian hackers Wednesday for meddling in the election and asserted that Donald Trump was “obviously aware” of Moscow’s efforts on his behalf.

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and a close associate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said in the report by the Dailymail.com that he flew to Washington in September for a secret delivery from one of the email sources.

He said he received a package in a wooded area near American University.

“Neither of [the leaks] came from the Russians,” Mr. Murray told Dailymail.com. “The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks.”

WikiLeaks published thousands of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, providing a steady stream of negative news coverage of Mrs. Clinton during the final weeks of the campaign. Mr. Murray said the leakers were motivated by “disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders.”

The Daily Mail report noted that Mr. Murray was removed from his diplomatic post amid allegations of misconduct.

The White House said Wednesday that Donald Trump was “obviously aware” of Russian hacking in the U.S. election to benefit his campaign, and suggested that the administration didn’t retaliate against Moscow because the U.S. has more to lose in an all-out cyber war.

Referring to Mr. Trump’s suggestion last summer that Moscow should locate missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the Republican might have viewed Russia’s cyber attacks as helpful to his presidential campaign.

“There was ample evidence that was known long before the election, and in most cases long before October, about the Trump campaign in Russia, everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent,” Mr. Earnest said. “It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent’s campaign.”

Mr. Trump has openly rejected the idea that Russia was behind the attacks or that the cyberintrusions were intended to help him win the election.

The Democratic National Committee, essentially an arm of the Obama White House, compounded the friction Wednesday by accusing Mr. Trump of giving Russia “an early holiday gift that smells like a payoff” with the nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of State. It predicted Mr. Tillerson will be too cozy in his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s rather easy to connect the dots,” the DNC said. “Russia meddled in the U.S. election in order to benefit Trump, and now he’s repaying Vladimir Putin by nominating ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.”

It was the latest broadside by the White House and its allies against the president-elect in an increasingly tense transition debate over the impact of the cyber intrusions, which mainly targeted Democrats such as John Podesta, who was Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman. Mr. Trump has questioned the CIA’s assessment that Russia was behind the cyberattacks, and accuses the administration of trying to delegitimize his election.

Departing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid compared the alleged Russian hacking to the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

“I think this is as big a deal as Watergate, as 9/11,” he said.

Democrats in hindsight have accused the administration of failing to warn the public about Russia’s alleged hacking as early as last May, when private assessments pinned the blame on Moscow. In October, the administration released a statement from Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper that identified Russia as the culprit.

The White House said Wednesday that Mr. Obama waited until October to raise concerns about Russia’s invovlvement because he didn’t want to appear to be playing politics with the issue.

“It would have been inappropriate for White House figures, including the president of the United States, to be rushing the intelligence community to expedite their analysis of this situation, because we were concerned about the negative impact it was having on the president’s preferred candidate in the presidential election,” Mr. Earnest said.

The president’s spokesman also said the administration tried to get bipartisan cooperation from Congress in the fall to warn state election officials about Russian interference in the election, but top Republicans balked.

“Leader [Mitch] McConnell and Speaker [Paul] Ryan did not readily agree to it,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “We didn’t get the kind of prompt cooperation we would have liked.”

The administration eventually did issue warnings to state elections officials, and said there was no evidence of ramped-up Russian interference via the Internet on Election Day.

The White House still won’t say to this day whether the U.S. has retaliated against what it describes as Russian efforts to influence the election of Donald Trump.

“It merits a proportional response. I am not in a position to confirm whether we have initiated it or not,” Mr. Earnest said.

He said “the United States is particularly vulnerable” to cyber attacks because it relies more on the Internet more than other countries.

“Given the interconnected nature of our society and our economy, the United States is in a unique position vis-à-vis the rest of the world, because we rely on 21st century communications technology for just about everything, in a way that lots of other societies and economies and countries don’t,” he said.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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