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Trump sides with Julian Assange over U.S. intelligence agencies

Six years ago, Donald Trump suggested Julian Assange should be killed. Now, Trump trusts Assange more than U.S. intelligence agencies.
Donald Trump speaks during the USA Thank You Tour December 9, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 
As recently as 2010, Donald Trump called Julian Assange's WikiLeaks "disgraceful." He added, in apparent reference to the website's operators, "I think there should be like death penalty or something."Like much of the right, Trump's opinions on Assange have changed quite dramatically.

[O]n Wednesday, Trump continued to cast doubt on intelligence findings as he cited WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange's claim that a "14-year-old kid could have hacked" the emails of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. "Also [Assange] said Russians did not give him the info!" Trump added.

Even for the president-elect, this was an odd tweet. Trump specifically wrote, "Julian Assange said 'a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta' - why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!"Note, for example, that he believes John Podesta's emails were on DNC servers, which isn't even remotely true. Even after all of these months, Trump still doesn't understand the most basic details of the underlying controversy.But more important is the fact that Assange claims that Russia was not WikiLeaks' source for stolen Democratic materials -- a claim U.S. intelligence agencies dispute. Donald Trump, for reasons he hasn't explained, chooses to believe Assange, not the intelligence professionals whom he'll lead in two weeks.We don't have to speculate about how the American agencies, which Trump has repeatedly mocked and publicly taunted, feel about the president-elect's derision. George Little, the former spokesperson for the CIA, said plainly today, "On Jan. 20, we will be less safe."As for the broader picture, what continues to amaze me about Trump is how he chooses to evaluate information on a conceptual level.I'm reminded of something Vox's Ezra Klein wrote in March: "Among the most important tasks the president has is knowing what to believe, whom to listen to, which facts to trust, and which theories to explore. Trump's terrible judgment in this regard is one of the many reasons he's not qualified for the office."The president-elect trusts Alex Jones, but distrusts climate scientists. Trump has faith in supermarket tabloids, but has no use for major American news organizations. He loves Breitbart, but suspects officials at the Bureau of Labor Statistics are part of a conspiracy to hide unemployment news.Given this, it probably shouldn't be too surprising that Trump is eager to accept Assange's claims at face value -- despite wanting to kill Assange six years ago -- since the Wikileaks founder is telling Trump exactly what he wants to hear.