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    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, May 19, 2017

    Assange Masterminded 2016 Clinton Leaks from Ecuadorian Embassy, Report Claims

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    On Monday, CNN published a report based on “exclusive documents”, said to have been obtained by the media outlet, claiming that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange worked with alleged Russian hackers and other intelligence officials in a bid to damage Hillary Clinton’s reputation and ruin her 2016 presidential run.

    The documents are said to have originated from security companies conducting surveillance on Assange on behalf of Ecuadorian officials. The cited documents were not published by CNN.

    According to the report, Assange - who sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to escape rape charges in Sweden - enjoyed the cooperation and support of Ecuadoran senior officials, including then-foreign minister Ricardo Patino, granting Assange powers that rivaled that of an ambassador. 

    The Ecuadorian officials claim, according to the alleged documents, that Assange abused those powers, claiming that he could fire embassy staff, including the ambassador.

    Embassy Visitors

    The documents cited by CNN allege that Assange used these powers to force embassy staff to install better Internet infrastructure, have numerous non-diplomatic visits, grant his WikiLeaks colleagues immunity from searches and even delete visitor names from embassy logs.

    The report alleges that Assange, despite his powers, occasionally conducted meetings in women’s bathrooms, in order to escape surveillance.

    According to documents CNN claims to have in its possession, in June 2016, the Ecuadorian embassy in London turned into a beehive of operations against Clinton, the Democratic candidate, as the WikiLeaks founder had some 75 visits, including those with Russian nationals, who, of course, had “Kremlin ties,” according to the US news outlet. 

    One visitor is named “Yana Maximova”, and no other information on her is provided. Another is Nikolai Bogachikhin, RT’s London division head. In 2012, Julian Assange hosted a TV show on RT.

    At the time, WikiLeaks allegedly established contact with “online personas” that US Special Counsel Robert Mueller believes are Russian hackers on the Military Intelligence Directorate payroll. Following the alleged contact, Assange demanded that the embassy beef up his Internet connection, CNN says.

    However, the Mueller report says that not only Russian nationals were involved in the scheme. According to documents cited by CNN, Assange met with German hacker Andrew Müller-Maguhn at least 12 times before the 2016 US elections, sometimes accompanied by Bernd Fix, another German national.

    The surveillance footage, which CNN says was provided by security companies, show a man wearing a balaclava, a large backpack and shades enter the embassy on July 18, handing - presumably - a flash drive to an embassy guard. On the same day, WikiLeaks allegedly informed the purported Russian hackers that they had received information and were preparing to release it soon. The visit caused security companies to raise red flags, but the guard kept his job, the report says. The actual footage is not included in the report.

    “It's not clear if these incidents are related, and the contents of the package delivered to the embassy are unknown,” the CNN report says.

    Clinton Emails

    According to CNN, data released by WikiLeaks turned the Democratic Party into a “chaotic mess,” as thousands of Clinton emails revealed how the Democratic National Committee conspired to undermine Bernie Sanders in favor of Clinton. Later leaks of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta also revealed potentially embarrassing details on the Democratic nominee, including transcripts of her closed-door Wall Street speeches, which are believed by some to have buried her chances of winning.

    The CNN report says that shortly after the publication of the Clinton emails, US officials rolled out an ultimatum to Ecuador demanding that the nation cut Assange’s ability to influence the elections. In October 2016, Assange was subsequently cut off from the Web and from his phone. On October 18, Assange overrode a visit ban issued by then-Ambassador Carlos Abad Ortiz, resulting in two WikiLeaks staffers who had been granted with search immunity, to remove a box containing approximately 100 hard drives from the embassy in the middle of the night. This late-night visit also made security companies raise alarms to Ecuador, the CNN report says.

    According to CNN, US intelligence agencies “have said from the very beginning” that WikiLeaks received the stolen emails from the Russian government. 

    “But the suspects are all living safely in Russia, so the US will likely never publicly produce a smoking gun or prove in court that Russia worked with WikiLeaks,” the report acknowledges.

    Russia and Assange Deny Collusion

    Russia has denied involvement in the Assange case, with a Russian Embassy in London spokesperson dismissing the allegations and accusations as “insinuations”.

    "UK media issued many reports on yesterday's arrest of Assange. Some articles even called the WikiLeaks founder a ‘puppet of the Kremlin’. We are not surprised at such statements,” the spokesperson said in April.

    An Australian national, Assange repeatedly denied he worked for Russia and that the source of his leaks was neither “the Russian government” nor “a state party.”

    This year, Ecuador voided Assange’s immunity, and UK police removed him from the premises. He is now serving a one-year sentence in a UK prison for skipping bail, and actively fighting extradition to the US where it is thought he could stand trial for treason.

    Washington has not accused Assange for crimes related to 2016 events. Instead, he is wanted in the US for his 2010 publication of intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning’s leaked diplomatic cables and war logs. If extradited to Washington, he could face a minimum of five years in prison. 

    Following his arrest in April, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the "hand of ‘democracy' is squeezing the throat of freedom".

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed hope that Assange’s rights would be respected after his arrest, while the Russian First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, described the arrest of Assange as "a blow to media freedom".

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