The Trumpist swoon for Assange was more abrupt, corresponding to WikiLeaks dumping the Democratic documents during the summer of 2016. Hannity started having Assange on his show in the fall. “Part of me, in the beginning, was conflicted about you,” he told Assange in September, in what Matt Wilstein noted was an understatement. He was back on Hannity’s radio show in December. By the time he appeared this week on Hannity’s TV show, the host was gushing, “I believe every word he says, to be perfectly honest.” Hannity claims his change of heart came because WikiLeaks had gotten nothing wrong and gotten no one killed.
But the abrupt volte-face corresponds too neatly with Assange’s shift to aiding Trump, as well as his vocal insistence that WikiLeaks did not obtain its documents from Russia, which undermines any claims that the hacks were conducted by the Kremlin to hurt Clinton and help Trump—which would, of course, be damaging to Trump. If it seems too harsh to ascribe nakedly partisan motives to Hannity, keep in mind that he has happily declared himself “not a journalist.”
Over the weekend, the president-elect promised a revelation about the hacks on Tuesday or Wednesday, and that time came and went without any news—though on Hannity’s program, Assange repeated what he has said before, which is that Russia was not WikiLeaks’ source. Nonetheless, Trump tweeted in praise of the interview, only to complain the next day that “The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange - wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people to make up their own minds as to the truth”— as though he were a simple news aggregator, rather than the president-elect of the United States approvingly quoting Assange.
Many elected Republicans, as well as conservative pundits, however, remain just as negative on Assange as ever. On Thursday, Senator Ted Cruz said, “I think Assange has done enormous damage to our national security. I would not be praising him under any circumstances.”
One other peculiar political realignment that has emerged from the controversy over WikiLeaks is the sudden affection of Democrats for the intelligence community. The intelligence community has chafed at attempts at oversight, and when the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted to produce a report on torture committed by the CIA, the agency repeatedly tried to stymie its efforts. The CIA snooped on Senate staffers and attempted to get them criminally prosecuted, and Director John Brennan was eventually forced to apologize. During the Bush administration, Democrats assailed the intelligence community for suggestions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Yet on Thursday, a succession of Democratic senators lined up to voice their support and praise for intelligence agents being attacked by Trump. Nor is this a phenomenon limited to elected officials—an NBC News poll finds that the CIA’s net favorability among Democrats has risen from -4 percent two years to 32 percent today.