Donald Trump’s presidency could be derailed by a possible prolonged congressional committee investigation into whether or not Russian hackers aided him in winning the election.
The powerful US congressional system is the same process that brought down Richard Nixon in 1974 and its inquiry does not bode well for the man many have long described as the “Kremlin’s candidate”.
The strategic leaking of tens of thousands of emails, including those of Democratic campaign chairman John Podesta, bedevilled Hillary Clinton’s run for president and is believed to have been a decisive factor in Mr Trump’s win.
It was the first time that WikiLeaks, formerly obsessed with transparency in government, played a decisive role in the outcome of an election.
Mr Trump has made so many enemies within his own party – and made such strikingly pro-Russian appointments – that there are many who would be happy to see him impeached, US political experts have told The New Daily.
And Australia’s Julian Assange is at the heart of the imbroglio.
The animosity between Mrs Clinton and Mr Assange is well known. WikiLeaks released 250,000 documents during her period as secretary of state, which exposed shocking military misconduct in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Can’t we just drone this guy?” Mrs Clinton is reported to have asked, while Mr Assange said “she [Mrs Clinton] shouldn‘t be allowed near a gun shop, much less an army”.
Election expert, University of Melbourne researcher James Cahill, told The New Daily that strongly pro-Russian appointments have heightened questions around the influence of Moscow in the US election.
Secretary of state nominee, ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, received Russia’s Order of Friendship Medal in 2013 from Vladimir Putin and is known to be a friend of the Russian President.
Mr Trump’s choice for national security adviser, retired army general Michael Flynn, also has extensive Russian connections.
“These appointments tie in very poorly with the idea that Russians favoured the Republicans,” Mr Cahill said. “During the US election, WikiLeaks not merely went in and hacked and gathered information, it benefited one side of politics.”
Mr Cahill said with serious concerns among traditional Republicans over these Russian connections, Mr Trump could well fall foul of a US congressional committee, which has similar powers to a royal commission.
“Trump insulted John McCain, who is a proud man, during the election campaign,” he said. “He might well see it as his final patriotic duty to pursue the question of whether the Russians made Trump president. Trump should be very concerned about this. Not to comply with such a committee is in itself an offence.”
The CIA has released a report claiming that Russia interfered in the US election to help Mr Trump win, a claim the President-elect dismissed as ‘ridiculous‘.
Intelligence operatives from multiple agencies found connections between the Kremlin and WikiLeaks, but WikiLeaks founder Assange has denied Russia was the source of the leaks.
One of America’s most senior security figures, former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morrel, said: “A foreign government messing around in our elections is an existential threat to our way of life. This is the political equivalent of 9/11.”
Russian expert with Sydney University, Professor Graeme Gill, told The New Daily that while the CIA claimed the Russians were behind the hacking of Clinton officials, they had not produced the evidence and the FBI did not support the claim.
“They have been able to trace back some of the servers which have been used to transmit the material and those servers are located in Russia,” Prof Gill said. “But that doesn’t prove that the Russian government did it, as opposed to individual hackers.”
Academic Director at the National Security College in Canberra, Dr Matthew Sussex, told The New Daily the Russians were most likely involved and the role of WikiLeaks in the US elections was a far cry from the organisation’s original idealism.
WikiLeaks has gone from the darling of the old left to the darling of the old right.
“WikiLeaks have become a source or outlet of various intelligence agencies. Something that began as exposing government practices is now an instrument for other governments.
“I was asked, when WikiLeaks first came on the scene, if it was a game-changer. I replied, ‘Not really, it will be co-opted into a different bunch of agendas’. And that’s what’s happened.”