Former president Rafael Correa acknowledged Tuesday that Julian Assange interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and probably helped elect President Donald Trump. Correa denied, however, that Ecuador’s government was an accomplice in the election meddling and said it suspended Assange’s internet privileges when it became aware his activities.
In two interviews on Tuesday, Correa said he regretted the role Assange played in the U.S. election while he was living in Ecuador’s London embassy under a grant of political asylum. “What happened was a violation of our principals of not interfering in the affairs of countries that are friends of Ecuador, such as the U.S.”
Correa’s comments came in response to a Monday article by CNN that Assange used the Ecuadorian embassy as a “command center” for WikiLeaks operations, including meddling in the U.S. election by disseminating emails stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic party.
“Some of the information in the article is true but much of it is not,” Correa said. “It is nonsense that Assange controlled the embassy. He was a guest and lived under our rules and it is unfortunate that he did not follow all of them.”
Correa said he was unaware of the extent of Russian involvement in Assange’s work to undermine the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. “He was allowed to have visitors at the embassy and I understand that many of them were Russians but was not aware of their business since we were not eavesdropping on his conversation,” he said.
About Assange’s impact on the election, Correa said he personally wanted to see Trump defeated. “I was much closer to Hillary Clinton than Trump,” he said. “I know Hillary and I admire her. I was a student in the U.S. doing my doctorate when Bill Clinton was president. Trump is an enemy of migrants so why the hell would I support him? None of this makes sense.”
Correa said he allowed Assange to pursue his WikiLeaks work at the embassy under the assurance that its focus was on providing truthful information. “Of course we found out that his attacks were only on Clinton and not on Trump so they were not telling the entire truth,” he said. “We were not going to allow this and when we found out we ended his internet access.”
In his interview with CNN, Correa defended his decision to grant asylum to Assange, saying he was protecting freedom of speech and basic human rights. “I have no regrets about that decision given [Assange’s] extreme circumstances.”
Correa attacked his successor, President Lenin Moreno, for turning Assange over to British police in April. “It was a cowardly act and a crime against humanity that we will never forget.”