Sydney/Washington: Hillary Clinton on Monday accused WikiLeaks of working with Russia to deflect attention away from an infamous tape of Donald Trump bragging about groping women in the run-up to the US presidential election.
The former secretary of state’s devastating election loss to Trump remains raw and she again lashed out at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his alleged role in damaging her candidacy.
“Assange has become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator,” she said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In the interview with the ABC’s Four Corners programme, to air on Monday night, Clinton alleges that Assange cooperated with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to disrupt the US election and damage her campaign for president.
“WikiLeaks is unfortunately now practically a fully-owned subsidiary of Russian intelligence.”
The US intelligence community concluded Putin ordered an influence campaign to discredit Clinton and had a “clear preference” for Trump in last year’s poll.
Clinton used the bombshell Trump tape as an example of how WikiLeaks allegedly tried to deflect attention away from a bad news story, resurrecting the incident in the wake of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace over his treatment of women.
In the 2005 videotape, which surfaced in October last year, Trump brags about being able to get away with groping women.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he said. “Grab them by the [expletive]. You can do anything,” Trump added.
Trump said the comments were “locker room banter”. Several women subsequently accused him of sexual misconduct, which he denounced as lies.
Within hours of the tape emerging, WikiLeaks published more than 2,000 hacked emails from the personal account of Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta, which she said blunted its impact.
“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,” she said, referring to the Trump recording.
“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.”
Clinton claimed WikiLeaks’ actions were motivated by Assange’s personal dislike of her.
“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 Defence Department,” she said.
“Our intelligence community and other observers of Russia and Putin have said he held a grudge against me because as secretary of state, I stood up against some of his actions, his authoritarianism,” Clinton told the ABC.
“But it’s much bigger than that. He wants to destabilise democracy, he wants to undermine America, he wants to go after the Atlantic alliance, and we consider Australia an extension of that.”
“If he’s such a martyr of free speech, why doesn’t WikiLeaks ever publish anything coming out of Russia? You don’t see damaging, negative information coming out about the Kremlin on WikiLeaks,” Clinton added.
Australian Assange, who has spent five years inside the Ecuador embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges, has denied Russia was the source behind the leaked documents.
Clinton is promoting her election memoir, What Happened, in which she details her thoughts on her unsuccessful campaign for president.
In September she told David Remnick from the New Yorker that she believed the Australian founder of WikiLeaks may be “on the payroll of the Kremlin” .
“I think he is part nihilist, part anarchist, part exhibitionist, part opportunist, who is either actually on the payroll of the Kremlin or in some way supporting their propaganda objectives, because of his resentment toward the United States, toward Europe,” she said.
“He’s like a lot of the voices that we’re hearing now, which are expressing appreciation for the macho authoritarianism of a Putin. And they claim to be acting in furtherance of transparency, except they never go after the Kremlin or people on that side of the political ledger.”
Assange has denied the emails came from the Russian government or any other “state parties”.
In response to Clinton’s comments, Assange said on Twitter there was “something wrong with Hillary Clinton”.
“It is not just her constant lying,” he wrote. “It is not just that she throws off menacing glares and seethes thwarted entitlement.
“Something much darker rides along with it. A cold creepiness rarely seen.”