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Top Republicans Clash With Trump Over Russia, WikiLeaks

In his line of work, Julian Assange doesn't make many friends among the powerful.

In 2010, fresh off WikiLeak's release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs -- and a quarter of a million U.S. diplomatic cables -- The New Yorker called him "an elusive mastermind," praising him as an ascetic "media insurgent" who had spoken truth to power.

In 2013, a Vanity Fair story described his simple living conditions as that of a refugee in London's Ecuadorian embassy. The piece credited Assange for "working in an impressive number of spheres" despite the restrictions on his physical movement and argued that he's become a political martyr of sorts, determined to expose corruption.

At that time, America's right despised the WikiLeaks founder, while the left made him its darling.

Then came 2016 and WikiLeaks ' role in the presidential election -- and suddenly, the left's love affair with Assange was over. Instead of reclusive mastermind and journalist of the future, Assange was at best persona non grata, and at worst blamed for doing more than any other person or organization to bring down Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democrats on election day.

Despite ample praise from President-elect Donald Trump and Assange's role in the election, some powerful Republicans haven't warmed to him -- and now some are saying they don't believe Assange's assertion that WikiLeaks did not receive information on Clinton and the Democrats from the Russian government.

Those statements put GOP leaders at odds with President-elect Donald Trump, who has been effusive in his praise for Assange and has referenced him in several recent tweets.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, didn't mince words when asked about Assange on Jan. 4.

“He leaks," Ryan said, according to The Washington Times. "He steals data and compromises national security."

Appearing on conservative Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Ryan described Assange as "a sycophant for Russia."

The newest round of criticism directed at Assange came after he conducted a radio interview with Sean Hannity. In that interview, Assange drew a line between the documents that WikiLeaks received and the documents sent to media organizations like The Hill and Gawker, allegedly from a hacker who calls himself "Guccifer 2.0".

Assange said the Guccifer documents which were sent to media outlets could have come from Russia, but broke his organization's own policy against discussing its sources when he said WikiLeaks ' source was not from Russia.

Sen. Tom Cotton, part of the Select Committee on Intelligence, echoed Ryan's words during an appearance on MSNBC.

"I have a lot more faith in our intelligence officers serving around the world, very smart and experienced analysts that we have here in the nation's capital, than I do in people like Julian Assange," the Arkansas Republican said, reports The Hill.

But Cotton blamed President Barack Obama for alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 race.

"That's to be expected from Russia. That's what they do," Cotton said. "And one reason they felt emboldened that they could do that for the last eight years is because Barack Obama has not just been weak on Russia, but he's even tried to stop people like me and other members of Congress in drawing a firmer line on them."

While Republicans like Ryan and Cotton criticize Assange, Trump has continued to praise the WikiLeaks founder.

"Julian Assange said 'a 14 year old could have hacked [Clinton campaign chairman John] Podesta' - why was DNC so careless?" Trump wrote. "Also said Russians did not give him the info!"

Sources: The Washington Times, The Hill, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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