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Key Trump surrogates once led fight vs. WikiLeaks and Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during news conference in Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2014

JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Trump cast doubt on Twitter Wednesday about the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was behind the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. In doing so, Mr. Trump appeared to side with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who asserts Russia didn’t give his group the hacked Democratic emails that shook up the 2016 election.

But back in 2010, when WikiLeaks first came to prominence after the massive leak by Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, several people who are now notable Trump surrogates led the charge against the organization and its controversial leader. They called Assange, among other things, a “handmaiden of terror” and “enemy combatant” with “blood on his hands.”

Those surrogates include Rep. Peter King, of New York, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. 

Even Mr. Trump himself weighed in on Assange in 2010, saying, “I think it’s disgraceful. I think there should be like death penalty or something,” in video uncovered by shown on CNN’s KFile on Wednesday.

“This person should be pursued,” King declared in a November 2010 Fox News interview. “Assange is absolutely guilty. He does have blood on his hands. And the fact is that there should be much more outrage.”

“They are aiding and abetting terrorist organizations. They are providing the weapons to terrorist organizations, giving them information which they can use to kill Americans,” King said of WikiLeaks, adding, “Because they are accessories to a terrorist organization, we should declare them a terrorist organization.”

In December that same year, Rep. King introduced a bill targeting WikiLeaks.

“I consider Mr. Assange a handmaiden of terror. And he definitely has blood on his hands as far as I’m concerned,” said former CIA Director James Woolsey, now a Trump national security adviser and media surrogate, in a November 2010 MSNBC interview.

Contrast that to his response Wednesday when asked about Mr. Trump’s citing of Julian Assange. “I don’t know what Julian Assange knows,” Woolsey said. “This really ought to be a situation in which we get at the facts and understand them before we start making judgments, it seems to me.”  

Another vocal Trump surrogate, Gingrich, commented on the issue seven years ago. “Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism,” he said in a December 2010 Fox interview. He concluded that Assange “should be treated as an enemy combatant. WikiLeaks should be closed down permanently and decisively.”

Palin once condemned Assange in 2010 as an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands” after WikiLeaks published leaked emails of hers.

But she did a complete 180 Tuesday, telling Assange she’s sorry, tweeting,”To Julian Assange: I apologize.”

Elaborating in a Facebook post, Palin wrote, “I apologize for condemning Assange when he published my infamous (and proven noncontroversial, relatively boring) emails years ago,” and thanked him for exposing Democrats.