The suggestion came via a tweet on Sunday afternoon, when the organization responded to Trump stating his desire to partner with Russian president Vladimir Putin on a global cybersecurity enterprise.
Given that WikiLeaks included a backhanded swat at the CIA in the tweet, referencing its leak of thousands of CIA documents earlier this year, it’s probably safe to conclude that the suggestion is simply a troll. But considering how Trump has clashed with American intelligence agencies throughout the early months of his presidency, it’s tough to rule out anything.
Trump’s cybersecurity unit idea was already controversial well before before Assange injected himself into the conversation. Owing to his longstanding public overtures toward Putin and what the Russian government is alleged to have done during the 2016 presidential race, Trump proposing the joint initiative has only increased the scrutiny, especially from his own party on Sunday.
Russia is widely believed to have been responsible for hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta last year, with both the FBI and CIA asserting a “high level of confidence” on the matter.
Both troves of documents were published by WikiLeaks throughout the 2016 campaign with the Podesta emails rationed out on a day-by-day basis to maximize their impact. The disclosures sparked animus among Democrats over the DNC’s treatment of Vermont Sen. and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, inflamed right-wing disdain for the Clinton campaign, and fueled a number of baseless (yet nonetheless viral) conspiracy theories.
For instance, the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which ultimately caused an armed gunman to fire a shot inside of a Washington D.C.-area pizzeria, that theorized that Podesta was involved in occult rituals featuring copious amounts of blood and semen. Notably, the latter theory was stoked directly by the same WikiLeaks Twitter account that pitched Assange to lead Trump’s cybersecurity unit.
Assange probably shouldn’t expect to get a call from the White House about this. CIA director Mike Pompeo recently characterized Assange as a “fraud,” a “narcissist,” and a “coward” while likening WikiLeaks to a “hostile intelligence service.”