Tags: Trump Administration | Democrats 2016 | Hackers | internet | Trump | Clinton | October

WikiLeaks: Assange Joking About 'Working On' Trump Tax Hack

Image: WikiLeaks: Assange Joking About 'Working On' Trump Tax Hack

Julian Assange (Getty Images/Carl Court)

By    |   Saturday, 06 Aug 2016 12:34 PM

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Friday night created some ripples among political watchers when he told HBO's Bill Maher that "we're working on" hacking into and releasing Donald Trump's tax returns, but by Saturday afternoon, he changed his tune, saying he was only joking with Maher.

Assange, calling into Bill Maher's HBO program from London, smirked when Maher asked him if there are plans to hack into the tax returns, which Trump has said will not be released until after audits are completed, and didn't give any more of an indication when or if Trump's financial information could be made public. The audience on the comedy show laughed when he made his comments.

And on Saturday, WikiLeaks tweeted: 

Meanwhile, Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes, who has been hired as a CNN commentator, said Saturday morning — before WikiLeaks tweeted its claim that Assange was joking — that she did not necessarily see Assange's comments about hacking into Trump's tax returns as the attack coming specifically against the GOP nominee.

"It wouldn't necessarily be hacking into Donald Trump, it would be hacking into the IRS," Hughes said in a segment during the "CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield" program. "That right there does cause concern."

Also, she said that she has her doubts that Assange was the one "responsible for these attacks."

"He's just the one that's releasing them, through WikiLeaks," Hughes said. "So, I think there was a lot of concern there."

However, last month, WikiLeaks stunned the Democratic National Committee by releasing nearly 20,000 of its internal emails, including several that showed committee officials were working to advance Clinton's campaign over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"[DNC] Communications Director Luis Miranda, who has resigned just three days ago, instructed his staff — an instruction, not a discussion, an instruction — to pump out, in 'an unattributable matter,' statements in an article saying that Bernie Sanders supporters were engaged in acts of violence," Assange told Maher. "So, this is the DNC demonizing in a covert manner, through its chain of command … a Democrat, saying that a Democrat was conducting violence when you have the same allegations against the Trump campaign, thereby watering down the critique against the Trump campaign."

The release of the DNC emails forced out Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and this week interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile fired Miranda, CEO Amy Dacey, and chief financial officer Brad Marshall in a shakeup just a few months before the November election, reports Politico.  

Security experts are pushing the Obama administration to take swift action against the DNC hacking incident if it turns out Russia was involved, which the Clinton campaign has alleged, but typically it takes months or years to mount an official response or punishment. Should faster action come, the response could take place just weeks before the November election and could create an October dilemma for the candidates just from that happening alone.

Further, the United States has not taken action against Russia for evidence of other hackers linked to President Vladimir Putin's administration who have been able to intrude into computer systems in the White House itself, as well as the State Department and the Pentagon, Politico reports.

Friday night, Assange was cagy about linking Russia with the hack into the DNC's servers.

"It looks like you’re working with a bad actor — Russia — and putting your thumb on the scale to basically f*** with the one person who stands in the way of us being ruled by Donald Trump," Maher told him.

"Our materials, the materials that we release, are pristine," answered Assange, while not responding to the Russian part of the question. "We’re really good at this. We have a 10-year perfect record of never having got it wrong in relation to the integrity of what we release."

He pointed out that there has not been any allegation, even from Schultz or the DNC, that the material that was released was not true.

"What there is, is a conflation between our publications — the DNC leaks — and an extensive variety of hacks of the DNC, and frankly other organizations over the last two years, possibly by state actors, that wasn’t at all surprising," said Assange.

Meanwhile, Clinton supporters are concerned that there could be a repeat of further damaging material, and maintain that Putin is behind the effort to help Trump, who has praised Putin as a great leader and who has raised the issue of the United States continuing to follow its defense commitments with NATO countries.

Moscow denies being connected with the DNC leaks, but many security experts do not believe that to be the case.

"If in fact you could definitively or strongly develop a case for attribution against Russia, that in fact the Russians should be confronted with it and we should confront them publicly with it,"former Obama administration National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said, reports Politico.

A bipartisan group of 31 security and counterterrorism experts have also urged Obama to take prompt action to deter foreign companies from launching cyber attacks.

"This is not a partisan issue," wrote experts from the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, which includes Bush Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former CIA directors Michael Hayden and William Webster. "Our president should be chosen by American citizens, not by foreign adversaries or interests.”

The group also warned that hackers may try to "salt the files they release with plausible forgeries" to make the released information even more damaging as the election approaches.

Hughes agreed that there could indeed be an October surprise, which really would not come as a surprise, pointing back to the race between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

"Carter was up by eight points just two weeks shy of the November election then, and things obviously flipped, as obviously Ronald Reagan was able to be elected in 1980," she said. "October is actually a very, very important month. I agree with you on the debates with it. But once again, it depends what's in these e-mails. We've already heard that Hillary Clinton emails, specifically, will be released. So the question is right now,when you have three staffers from the DNC resign this week, three more senior staffers, what exactly is going to be in these next round of e-mails that are from Hillary Clinton?"

Clinton supporter Tharon Johnson, also on the program, responded that Trump missed his chance to come out and be "presidential and statesmanlike" on the issue of the emails.
"Every time he has an opportunity to really connect with independents, he blows it," he said.

None of the Democrats interviewed by Politico would say what kind of other materials could be released, after cyberattacks not only hit the DNC servers but also those of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Clinton campaign itself.

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Hackers could hand either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump a dreaded October surprise, with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange saying Friday night that we're working on hacking into and releasing Donald Trump's tax returns.Assange, calling into Bill Maher's HBO program...
Hackers, internet, Trump, Clinton, October, surprise
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2016-34-06
Saturday, 06 Aug 2016 12:34 PM
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