WikiLeaks' Julian Assange on Trump vs. Clinton and Releasing DNC Emails That Ousted Debbie Wasserman Schultz
As the Democratic National Convention is opening today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, amid massive party turmoil, the DNC chair, Florida Congressmember Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has resigned following the email leak. The emails also reveal a close relationship between mainstream media outlets and the DNC.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: The Democratic National Convention is opening today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, amid massive party turmoil. Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has resigned following the release of nearly 20,000 emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders. The emails were released Friday by WikiLeaks. In one email, DNC Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall suggested someone ask Sanders about his religion ahead of the Kentucky and West Virginia contests. Brad Marshall wrote, quote, "It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist," unquote. In another email, Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver a, quote, "Damn liar."
AMY GOODMAN: A third email shows National Press Secretary Mark Paustenbach writing, quote, "Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess," unquote. Multiple emails show the DNC complaining about MSNBC coverage of the party and of Communications Director Luis Miranda once writing, quote, "F***ing Joe claiming the system is rigged, party against him, we need to complain to their producer," unquote, referring to Joe Scarborough. Other emails suggest the DNC was gathering information on Sanders’ events and that a super PAC was paying people to counter Sanders supporters online. On Sunday, Bernie Sanders reacted to the emails during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I told you a long time ago that the—that the DNC was not running a fair operation, that they were supporting Secretary Clinton. So what I suggested to be true six months ago turns out, in fact, to be true. I’m not shocked, but I am disappointed. ... What I also said many months ago is that, for a variety of reasons, Debbie Wasserman Schultz should not be chair of the DNC. And I think these emails reiterate that reason why she should not be chair. I think she should resign, period. And I think we need a new chair who is going to lead us in a very different direction.
AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks has not revealed the source of the leaked emails, although in June a hacker using the name Guccifer 2.0 claimed responsibility for the hacking into the DNC’s computer network. On Sunday, however, Clinton’s campaign manager claimed the emails were leaked, quote, "by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump," unquote. We go now to London for an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy for more than four years. He was granted political asylum by Ecuador, but he fears if he attempts to go to Ecuador, if he attempts to step foot outside the Ecuadorean Embassy, that he will be arrested by British police and ultimately extradited to the United States to face, well, it’s believed, possibly treason charges for the documents WikiLeaks has released. Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this email—these emails, these 20,000 emails you have released?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, it’s quite remarkable what has happened the last few days. I think this is a quite a classical release, showing the benefit of producing pristine data sets, presenting them before the public, where there’s equal access to all journalists and to interested members of the public to mine through them and have them in a citable form where they can then be used to prop up certain criticisms or political arguments. Often it’s the case that we have to do a lot of exploration and marketing of the material we publish ourselves to get a big political impact for it. But in this case, we knew, because of the pending DNC, because of the degree of interest in the U.S. election, we didn’t need to establish partnerships with The New York Times or The Washington Post. In fact, that might be counterproductive, because they are partisans of one group or another. Rather, we took the data set, analyzed it, verified it, made it in a presentable, searchable form, presented it for all journalists and the public to mine. And that’s exactly what has happened.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: And, Julian, your reaction to the announced resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz shortly after the release of these emails?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, I mean, that’s interesting. We have seen that with a lot of other publications. I guess there’s a question: What does that mean for the U.S. Democratic Party? It is important for there to be examples of accountability. The resignation was an example of that. Now, of course, Hillary Clinton has tried to immediately produce a counter-example by putting out a statement, within hours, saying that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a great friend, and she’s incorporating her into her campaign, she’s going to be pushing for her re-election to the Congress. So that’s a very interesting signaling by Hillary Clinton that if you act in a corrupt way that benefits Hillary Clinton, you will be taken care of. Why does she need to put that out? Certainly, it’s not a signal that helps with the public at all. It’s not a signal that helps with unity at the DNC, at the convention. It’s a signal to Hillary Clinton partisans to keep on going on, you’ll be taken care of. But it’s a very destructive signal for a future presidency, because it’s—effectively, it’s expanding the Overton window of corruption. It doesn’t really matter what you do, how you behave; as long as that is going to benefit Hillary Clinton, you’ll be protected.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it’s very interesting, because Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine appeared together, as Mike Pence and Donald Trump did the week before, on 60 Minutes. And Hillary Clinton distanced herself from all these emails and the DNC, saying, "These people didn’t work for me." And yet immediately upon the forced resignation of Deborah Wasserman Schultz, she said she’s a good friend, and immediately hired her. But, Julian, I was wondering if you can say, from your point of view, what do you think are the most significant emails that have been released, that you have released?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, actually, I think the most significant ones haven’t been reported on, although The Washington Post late last night and McClatchy did a first initial stab at it. And this is the spreadsheets that we released covering the financial affairs of the DNC. Those are very rich documents. There’s one spreadsheet called "Spreadsheet of All Things," and it includes all the major U.S.—all the major DNC donors, where the donations were brought in, who they are, identifiers, the total amounts they’ve donated, how much at a noted or particular event, whether that event was being pushed by the president or by someone else. That effectively maps out the influence structure in the United States for the Democratic Party, but more broadly, because the—with few exceptions, billionaires in the United States make sure they donate to both parties. That’s going to provide a scaffold for future investigative journalism about influence within the United States, in general.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: Julian, on that issue, clearly, a lot of the emails talk about the actual amounts of money that were being offered to donors for the opportunity to—I mean, asked of donors for the opportunity to sit at different events next to President Obama, especially, the use of President Obama as a fundraiser. Now, most people in the political world will consider this business as usual, but the actual mechanics of how this operates and the degree to which the DNC coordinates with the president, his marketability, is—I don’t think has ever been revealed in this detail. Would you agree?
JULIAN ASSANGE: That’s right. And it’s not just that the president holds fundraisers. That’s nothing new. But rather, what you get for each donation of a particular sort. There’s even a phrase used in one of the emails of, quote, "pay to play." So, yeah, I think it’s extremely interesting. There’s emails back and forth also between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC. So, you see quite elaborate structures of money being funneled to state Democratic Party officers and then teleported back, seemingly to get up certain stats, maybe to evade certain campaign funding restrictions. In relation to what has become the most significant political discussion as a result of the publication, which is that the DNC higher-ups, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were clearly against Bernie Sanders and trying to subvert his campaign in a whole raft of ways, that’s true. That’s the—the atmosphere that is revealed by hundreds of emails is that it’s perfectly acceptable to produce trenchant internal criticisms of Bernie Sanders and discuss ways to undermine his campaign. So, whether that’s calling up the president of MSNBC—Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the president of MSNBC to haul Morning Joe into line, which it subsequently has done. I noticed this morning, Morning Joe actually discussed it themselves, trying to shore up their own presentation of, you know, a TV program that can’t be pushed around. But, in fact, they did not mention the call to the president. That was something that is still unspeakable. And it was a 180-degree flip in that coverage. And you see other, you know, quite naked conspiracies against Bernie Sanders. While there’s been some discussion, for example, about—that there was a plan to use—to expose Bernie Sanders as an atheist, as opposed to being a religious Jew, and to use that against him in the South to undermine his support there. There was an instruction by the head of communications, Luis Miranda, to take an anti-Bernie Sanders story, that had appeared in the press, and spread that around without attribution, not leaving their fingerprints on it. And that was an instruction made to staff. So, it wasn’t just, you know, a plan that may or may not have been carried out. This was an instruction that was pushed to DNC staff to covertly get out into the media anti-Bernie Sanders stories. Another thing that—
AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, Hillary—
JULIAN ASSANGE: Another aspect that is—
AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, cited experts saying that the DNC emails were leaked by the Russians in an attempt to help Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Mook was speaking to CNN. This is what he said.
ROBBY MOOK: What’s disturbing to us is that we—experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying that they are—the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump. I don’t think it’s coincidental that these emails were released on the eve our convention here. We also saw last week at the Republican convention that Trump and his allies made changes to the Republican platform to make it more pro-Russian. And we saw him talking about how NATO shouldn’t intervene to defend—necessarily should intervene to defend our Eastern European allies if they’re attacked by Russia. So, I think when you put all this together, it’s a disturbing picture.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Robby Mook citing experts saying the DNC emails were leaked by the Russians. You were the one who released these 20,000 emails, Julian Assange. Where did you get them?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, what’s not in that clip there by Robby is that, just afterwards, he was asked by Jake Tapper, "Who are these experts? Can you name them?" The answer was no, a refusal to name the experts. But we have seen one of the experts, so-called experts, that the Democratic Party is trying to base its incredible conspiracy theory on about WikiLeaks. And that is this—what we jokingly refer to as the NSA dick pic guy. He’s a former National Security Agency agent who started to produce conspiracy theories about us in 2013, when we were involved in the Edward Snowden rescue, as a means to try and undermine the Snowden publications, subsequently embroiled in some amateur pornography scandal. That’s why they don’t want to name their experts, because they are people like this. In relation to sourcing, I can say some things. A, we never reveal our sources, obviously. That’s what we pride ourselves on. And we won’t in this case, either. But no one knows who our source is. It’s simply speculation. It’s, I think, interesting and acceptable to speculate who our sources are. But if we’re talking about the DNC, there’s lots of consultants that have access, lots of programmers. And the DNC has been hacked dozens and dozens of times. Even according to its own reports, it had been hacked extensively over the last few years. And the dates of the emails that we published are significantly after all, or all but one—it’s not clear—of the hacking allegations that the DNC says have occurred.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: Julian, I want to mention something else. In March, you launched a searchable archive for over 30,000 emails and email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state. The 50,547 pages of documents span the time from June 2010 to August 2014; 7,500 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton herself. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the U.S. State Department as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request. Why did you do this, and what’s the importance, from your perspective, of being able to create a searchable base?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, WikiLeaks has become the rebel library of Alexandria. It is the single most significant collection of information that doesn’t exist elsewhere, in a searchable, accessible, citable form, about how modern institutions actually behave. And it’s gone on to set people free from prison, where documents have been used in their court cases; hold the CIA accountable for renditions programs; feed into election cycles, which have resulted in the termination of, in some case—or contributed to the termination of governments, in some cases, taken the heads of intelligence agencies, ministers of defense and so on. So, you know, our civilization can only be as good as our knowledge of what our civilization is. We can’t possibly hope to reform that which we do not understand. So, those Hillary Clinton emails, they connect together with the cables that we have published of Hillary Clinton, creating a rich picture of how Hillary Clinton performs in office, but, more broadly, how the U.S. Department of State operates. So, for example, the disastrous, absolutely disastrous intervention in Libya, the destruction of the Gaddafi government, which led to the occupation of ISIS of large segments of that country, weapons flows going over to Syria, being pushed by Hillary Clinton, into jihadists within Syria, including ISIS, that’s there in those emails. There’s more than 1,700 emails in Hillary Clinton’s collection, that we have released, just about Libya alone.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Julian, we cut you off earlier when you were talking about what you felt were the most significant emails that you have released. Is there any last one that you’d like to mention? And also, do you have any thoughts on Donald Trump? I mean, just before we went to air, a CNN poll came out that says Donald Trump is ahead by 5 percentage points of Hillary Clinton. Now, he did just come off of the Republican convention, but many called it the worst convention in history, so it’s not automatic that he should have had this percentage lead. Of course, though, you have the crisis, the disarray, the Democratic Party is in because of these emails that you’ve released.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, you’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea? Personally, I would prefer neither. Look, I think—you know, we know how politics works in the United States. Whoever—whatever political party gets into government is going to merge with the bureaucracy pretty damn fast. It will be in a position where it has some levers in its hand. And so, as a result, corporate lobbyists will move in to help control those levers. So it doesn’t make much difference in the end. What does make a difference is political accountability, a general deterrence set to stop political organizations behaving in a corrupt manner. That can make a difference, because that changes the perception of what you can do or not do. And so, always—well, almost always, you should choose the principled position, which is to set a disciplinary signal about acting in a corrupt way, and take a philosophical position, which is our institutions can only be as good as our understanding of our institutions.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to—
JULIAN ASSANGE: Now, are you asking—the other—
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, go ahead, Julian.
JULIAN ASSANGE: The other top emails, well, as I said, I think this instruction by Luis Miranda, the head of communications, to go out and covertly spread anti-Bernie Sanders propaganda is a clear instruction combined with a chain of command. It’s not simply expressing a sentiment. It is expressing an instruction within the DNC to subvert the Bernie Sanders campaign.