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Julian Assange: Russian government not source of leaked DNC and Podesta emails - WikiLeaks editor contradicts CIA claims in new interview

WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has again denied that emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta were hacked and leaked to his organisation by the Russian government.

In an interview with Sean Hannity he was asked: "So in other words, let me be clear...Russia did not give you the Podesta documents or anything from the DNC?"

The Australian founder of the whistleblowing website, who has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over four years, responded: "That's correct."

Assange said: "We’re unhappy that we felt that we needed to even say that it wasn’t a state party. Normally, we say nothing at all.

"We have ... a strong interest in protecting our sources, and so we never say anything about them, never ruling anyone in or anyone out.

"And so here, in order to prevent a distraction attack against our publications, we’ve had to come out and say ‘no, it’s not a state party. Stop trying to distract in that way and pay attention to the content of the publication," he told Hannity.

Assange also revealed that WikiLeaks received "about three pages of information to do with the [Republican National Committee] and Donald Trump [during the campaign], but it was already public somewhere else."

Last week Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, who is a close associate of Assange, dismissed the CIA's claims that Russia was the source of the emails as "bulls***".

The accounts by Murray and Assange directly contradict the story advanced by the CIA.

On Friday the Washington Post reported on a 'secret assessment' by the CIA, which concluded that Russian intelligence hacked the Democratic National Committee's servers and that of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, specifically to help Trump win the presidency.

Mr Murray said: "I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it's an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.

“If what the CIA are saying is true, and the CIA’s statement refers to people who are known to be linked to the Russian state, they would have arrested someone if it was someone inside the United States.

“America has not been shy about arresting whistleblowers and it’s not been shy about extraditing hackers. They plainly have no knowledge whatsoever.”

He then revealed to that he had flown to Washington DC for a secret hand-off with one of the sources in September.

He said that he met an intermediary in a wooded area near a US university to retrieve a package.

The Kremlin has also rejected the hacking accusations while Assange has also previously said the leaks were not linked to Russia.

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The claims also drew a rebuke from Trump’s transition team, which said in a statement: "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

Meanwhile US President-elect Donald Trump called the CIA's assessment "ridiculous".

“Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.

Mr Trump rejected the CIA's conclusion that Russia tried to interfere with the presidential election and blamed "very embarrassed" Democrats for the public release of the assessment. The Washington Post first reported the CIA finding on Friday.

"It's ridiculous," Mr Trump said of the CIA's assessment. He added, however, that he does not necessarily oppose President Barack Obama's order for a review of campaign-season hacking. "If you're going to do that, I think you should not just say 'Russia'. You should say other countries also, and maybe other individuals."

The White House has said the probe would focus on any breaches by other countries, and past elections.

Intelligence assessments

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which oversees the 17 agency-strong US intelligence community, has not embraced the CIA's assessment, sources have told Reuters.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose standards require it to make cases that can stand up in court, also declined to accept the CIA's analysis.

In an angry letter sent to ODNI chief  James Clapper on Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he was “dismayed” that the top US intelligence official had not informed the panel of the CIA's analysis and the difference between its judgment and the FBI’s assessment, Reuters reported.

"ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can't prove intent," one of the officials told the news agency. "Of course they can't, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.”

The ODNI was formed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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'Thin reed'

“[It was] a thin reed upon which to base an analytical judgment,” another official said in response to the speculation. He stressed that the “judgment based on the fact that Russian entities hacked both Democrats and Republicans and only the Democratic information was leaked.”

Republican Senator John McCain said on Monday there was "no information" that Russian hacking of US political organisations was aimed at influencing the election.

"It's obvious that the Russians hacked into our campaigns," McCain said told Reuters.

"But there is no information that they were intending to affect the outcome of our election and that's why we need a congressional investigation."

Daily briefings

Mr Trump has said that he is not interested in getting daily intelligence briefings - an unprecedented rejection of the nation's massive and sophisticated intelligence apparatus.

The president-elect's remarks come as key congressional Republicans joined Democrats in demanding a bi-partisan investigation into the Kremlin's activities and questioned consideration of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson - who has close business ties with Moscow - as head of the State Department.

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Asked whether he is rejecting valuable intelligence on Fox News Sunday, Mr Trump was defiant.

"I get it when I need it," he said of the top-secret briefings sessions, adding that he is leaving it up to the briefers to decide when a development represents a "change" big enough to notify him. "I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years."

The CIA said it has concluded with "high confidence" that Russia sought to influence the US election on behalf of Mr Trump. The finding alarmed legislators, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman McCain who said he planned to put senator Lindsay Graham, a staunch critic of Mr Trump, in charge of investigating the claim.

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He said: "The Russians didn't tell Clinton to ignore Wisconsin and Michigan," two states she was expected to win that went instead for Mr Trump.

"She lost the election because her ideas were bad. She didn't fit the electorate. She ignored states that she shouldn't have and Donald Trump was the change agent," Mr Priebus said. Mr Trump's win, he added, "had nothing to do with the Russians".

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