Embedded in the first volume of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative report is a little-publicized but interesting glimpse of the political thinking of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The text provides background for the first posting in March 2016 of 30,000 private U.S. documents hacked by Russians and routed to WikiLeaks, thus roiling the presidential campaign.
As one who for years targeted U.S. foreign interventions, the incarcerated Assange is considered a leftist. But his role as a "transparency" activist has a different cast now, with liberals denouncing him as a "useful idiot" who helped Donald Trump and others whom Assange might call enemies of his enemies.
"Well before the first release of stolen documents," Mueller states, Assange "privately expressed opposition to candidate [Hillary] Clinton."
In November 2015 Assange wrote to associates in a Twitter group chat: "We believe it would be much better for GOP to win … Dems + Media + liberals would then form a block to rein in their worst qualities."
On the other hand, he continued, "With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities" and "dems+media+neoliberals will be mute … She's a bright, well-connected, sadistic sociopath."
As of that writing, Trump's victory in the race for the nomination remained months away, so Assange seemed to be talking about a generic Republican contender.
Assange said Republicans would generate a lot of opposition, "including through dumb moves, but while Clinton will do the same thing, she would co-opt the liberal opposition and GOP opposition.
"Hence Hillary has greater freedom to start wars and has the will to do so," he theorized.
As footnoted on page 45, Assange warned two months later against Clinton using "hawkish liberal-interventionist appointees" for empire-building.
Through an online intermediary, officers of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU proposed an alliance with Assange's website. They offered Clinton emails and financial documents. In June 2016, WikiLeaks told the intermediary, a cutout called "Guccifer 2.0": "We want it in the next two days prefable (sic) because the [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after."
Also, WikiLeaks sent a direct message on Twitter to Guccifer, obtained by Mueller that said, "We think Trump has only a 25 percent chance of winning against hillary. so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting."
Email leaks showed the Democratic National Committee tilting toward Clinton, which surprised nobody following the campaign but incited backlash from the Bernie Sanders backers.
Nowadays, of course, Assange is less focused on leaks and more on trying to fight criminal charges.
An Australian, the eccentric Assange claimed political asylum in London's Ecuadorian embassy seven years ago. He was avoiding extradition to Sweden over a rape allegation. On April 11, when authorities pulled him out of the building he shouted "U.K.: Resist this attempt by the Trump administration."
Last month, the U.S. Justice Department indicted him under the World War I-era Espionage Act. Assange was hit with 16 counts of receiving or disclosing material leaked by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning a decade ago. The time frame for his cases remains hazy while he is held in the U.K.