Green Party, Stein embrace Assange

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Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein is embracing WikiLeaks and its controversial founder Juilan Assange as she seeks to build support for her left-wing campaign.

Stein has praised the WikiLeaks founder, and the Green Party invited Assange to speak at their 2016 convention in Houston via livestream.

{mosads}She told CNN that Assange was a hero for his work in unearthing emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that showed officials were tilting the scales in the Democratic primary against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton.

“No question,” Stein said when asked whether Assange was a hero by CNN.

She defended Assange from questions about whether he had relied on a Russian intelligence hack to get the DNC emails, saying, “This is what state departments do to one another.”

Stein’s praise of Assange fit into the Green Party’s platform of transparency and privacy as well as her larger strategy of courting Sanders supporters who have disavowed Clinton.

“It is a factor,” said Scott McLarty, a media coordinator for the Green Party, speaking on the party’s attempt to appeal to disillusioned Sanders supporters. “Bernie Sanders supporters are welcome in the Green Party.”

Yet as Stein struggles to get to 15 percent in a major poll — the threshold to be included in this fall’s debates — there are reasons to think the embrace of Assange carries risks as well.

WikiLeaks came under some criticism for the DNC leak, largely because the emails appeared to come from a hack with ties to Russian intelligence.

Assange has not said who his sources are, but his release of the DNC emails has led to accusations that he is seeking to keep Clinton from winning the White House.

Even high-profile transparency advocates like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have faulted the way that WikiLeaks handled the DNC leaks.

“WikiLeaks has said, criticizing us, that they no longer believe in any form of redaction,” Greenwald told Slate just after the leaks from the DNC. “I do not ascribe to that view.”

“Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake,” Snowden tweeted at the organization.

The WikiLeaks Twitter account responded in kind, accusing Snowden of seeking a presidential pardon.

The site has also faced charges of peddling in online conspiracy theories by offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the murder Seth Rich, a young Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot to death in Washington, D.C.

Assange, in an interview with Dutch television station NOS, suggested that Rich was a source for his organization.

Rich’s family has expressly rejected suggestions that his killing is linked to the DNC hack and emails.

“Some are attempting to politicize this horrible tragedy, and in their attempts to do so, are actually causing more harm than good and impeding on the ability for law enforcement to properly do their job,” Rich family spokesman Brad Bauman told Business Insider.

Green Party representative Scott McLarty said that the Green Party had no comment on the matter, saying that it deserves to be investigated if evidence emerges that Rich’s murder was indeed politically motivated.

Yet while Assange has come under criticism, the impact he has had on politics is undeniable.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was forced to resign as chairwoman of the DNC after the leak, as Sanders supporters seized on evidence that the national party had been working against their candidate all along.

Treating Assange as a hero dovetails with Stein’s broader attempt to win over Sanders supporters, particularly those who felt betrayed by his decision to endorse Clinton for president. Stein has called Sanders “one of a long line of true reformers that have been undermined by the Democratic Party.”

A representative from Stein’s campaign offered more general praise for the WikiLeaks founder.

“We’d like to reiterate that Mr. Assange has provided an invaluable service in shedding light on the inner workings of our government where the interests of the rich and powerful far too often take precedence over the needs and interests of average Americans.”

One complicating factor in embracing Assange is the sexual assault charges against him. Two women allege that Assange sexually assaulted them during a trip he made to Stockholm in 2010. Those charges are still pending. 

“I find it weird that [Stein] would characterize someone accused of sexual assault as a hero for anything,” Democratic political strategist Craig Varoga.

“Other than that, it is a naive comment, perhaps with good intentions, that would serve only to legitimize the Russian efforts to destabilize the West and undermine the American political process,” Varoga added.

Assange’s supporters dismiss the sexual assault allegations as a ploy to attack his character and give authorities reason to arrest him.

So far, Stein is struggling in her quest to build support among disaffected Democrats.

She currently sits at roughly 3.3 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics average of major polls. The highest polls show her at 4 percent, 11 percent short of where she would need to be to qualify for the debate stage.

During a CNN town hall on Wednesday night, Stein argued that voters should sign a petition on her website calling on the Commission on Presidential Debates to open up the contest to candidates under the 15 percent threshold.

“So, you know, this is not going to get decided in a court of law,” said Stein during the town hall, referring to her lawsuit against the commission seeking inclusion in the debates.

“I think it will get decided in the court of public opinion. This is about we the people standing up. As Americans, we not only have a right to vote. We have a right to know who we can vote for,” she said.

Tags Bernie Sanders Green Party Hillary Clinton Wikileaks
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