SYDNEY — Hillary Clinton on Monday accused WikiLeaks of working with Russia to deflect attention from an infamous tape of Donald Trump bragging about groping women in the run-up to last year’s US presidential election.
The former secretary of state’s 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.
“WikiLeaks is unfortunately now practically a fully-owned subsidiary of Russian intelligence.”
The US intelligence community concluded that Putin ordered an influence campaign to discredit Clinton and had a “clear preference” for Trump in the election.
Clinton used the bombshell Trump tape as an example of how WikiLeaks allegedly tried to deflect attention 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 bragged 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 pussy. 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.”
Reacting on Twitter, Assange attacked Clinton as “creepy.”
“There’s something wrong with Hillary Clinton. It is not just her constant lying. It is not just that she throws off menacing glares and seethes thwarted entitlement,” the Australian tweeted with a link to the ABC interview.
“Watch closely. Something much darker rides along with it. A cold creepiness rarely seen.”
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 Defense Department,” she said.
“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.
Assange has spent five years inside the Ecuador embassy in London amid fears that he will be arrested if he leaves, extradited to the United States and put on trial for WikiLeaks publishing leaked secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.
Swedish prosecutors initially wanted Assange extradited to face allegations of sexual assault, but they dropped their investigation into him in May 2017. However, he still faces arrest by British police for violating the terms of his 2012 probation.
Assange has denied Russia was the source behind the leaked documents.