Renowned activist Randy Credico says he is facing an investigation into supposed “Russia collusion” because of his contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
By Max Blumenthal
This article was originally published at AlterNet.
The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation has taken an unexpected turn, with investigators homing in on a New York City-based comedian, radio host and renowned civil rights activist named Randy Credico.
Credico received a letter this month from the Committee ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, and Rep. Michael Conaway, the Republican leading the investigation. The lawmakers requested that Credico “participate in a voluntary, transcribed interview at the Committee’s offices” during the first half of December.
Credico informed the House committee through his legal counsel that he would not submit to the voluntary interview. Soon after, his lawyer told him that the committee planned to issue a subpoena.
Credico is among the unlikeliest characters to have surfaced as a player in the ongoing Russiagate drama. For over two decades, he split time as a comedy professional while waging a tireless crusade against the war on drugs. The former host of a radio show on the Pacifica affiliate WBAI, Credico came into the company of high profile dissidents. Today his friends include the transparency activist targeted for arrest and prosecution by the US government: Julian Assange.
The Wikileaks founder was recently accused by CIA Director Mike Pompeo of overseeing a “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has suggested without evidence that Wikileaks collaborated with the Russian government to subvert the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor.
This year, the Trump administration expanded the federal grand jury seeking the arrest of Assange to cover the Wikileaks release of thousands of documents on CIA hacking tools. However, there is no claim so far that grand jury covered the release by Wikileaks of the Democratic National Commitee’s emails in 2016. A United Nations working group ruled that Assange was being arbitrarily detained. It has been seven years since he lost his freedom, and has been confined to a series of small rooms ever since.
According to Credico, he and Assange held “three meetings that were two to three hours each” at the Ecuadoran embassy in London where the online activist has received diplomatic asylum. They took place on September 6, and the 13th and 16th of November of this year. Credico said he traveled to London this November to attend the hearing of Stefania Maurizi, a correspondent from Italy’s La Repubblica who had filed a Freedom of Information request demanding the press’s right to access documents regarding his case. (He showed me a photograph of himself with Maurizi in London to prove his point).
“I was just there to support [Assange] as a wing man,” Credico commented to me. “I don’t agree with him on everything — it’s the fact that he’s a journalist and a publisher and has not put anything out that’s false. I don’t know anything about technology and he didn’t give me any secrets.”
The letter Credico received from the House Intelligence Committee did not specify what it suspected him of doing, stating only that his interview could cover anything within the parameters of “Russian cyber-activities against the 2016 US election, potential links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns, the US government’s response to these Russian active measures, and related leaks of classified information.”
However, Credico is convinced that he is being used to undermine Assange. “This is about chilling Wikileaks and that starts with intimidating anyone who has met with Julian [Assange],” he stated.
Satirist and civil rights crusader
Credico first appeared in the national spotlight in 1984 when he trashed Reagan’s Central American proxy wars during a comedy set on the Tonight Show. A look of severe discomfort could be seen on Johnny Carson’s face when Credico likened Reagan’s neoconservative UN ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick to Eva Braun. Though he was never invited back on the show, the comic’s uncanny impersonations and incendiary political satire won him the admiration of peers like Larry David, Barry Crimmins and Jack Black.
During the 1990s, Credico became outraged about the disproportionate toll the war on drugs was taking on the poor and people of color. He launched a furious crusade against New York State’s draconian Rockefeller Laws, howling outside courthouses across the city about the evils of mass incarceration, cops he branded “slave catchers” and proceedings he denounced as “modern-day slave auctions.” When he wasn’t screaming in the streets, he was behind prison walls, befriending inmates and working the phones to get reporters interested in their cases.
The New Yorker’s Jennifer Gonnerman estimated that Credico had “generated more than a hundred news stories, largely by inviting reporters to his events and introducing them to the families of inmates.” Crediting him for helping force the New York legislature to rewrite the Rockefeller drug laws in 2004, Gonnerman branded Credico, “The Man Who Screamed So Loud the Drug Laws Changed.”
Credico’s efforts to expose the drug war’s injustices culminated in Tulia, Texas, where a corrupt undercover narcotics officer had railroaded some 10 percent of the town’s African American population into lengthy jail sentences for drug crimes they did not commit. Credico’s agitation resulted in a wave of national media attention and in 2003, the full acquittal of the 38 prisoners with sentences up to 90 years. His efforts were honored by the NAACP and became the subject of several documentaries, including “60 Spins Around the Sun,” an award winning biographical chronicle financed by Jack Black.
In 2009, Credico quit his job as the director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice and launched a long-shot senate campaign against Chuck Schumer, slamming the omnipotent Democratic senator for his role in mandatory minimum sentencing and pro-death penalty legislation. “You have to take a look at his record,” Credico said of Schumer at the time. “And that’s a really racist position as far as I am concerned. Yes, it is about race.”
In the end, Credico won one percent of the vote. But he soldiered on, running for mayor in 2013, then the governor’s office a year later. All along, he was dogged by drug and alcohol addiction, which he has been public about. His penchant for drunken late-night tirades began to alienate his allies and even led him to contemplate suicide. An intervention in 2014 by his friend, the comedian Crimmins, pulled Credico back from from the brink and helped him kick his self-destructive habits.
Meetings with Assange, conspiratorial rumors
Credico’s sobriety coincided with intensive advocacy for the community of national security whistleblowers that emerged after 9/11 to expose secret government torture, assassination and mass surveillance programs. In August 2015, he hosted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for an interview on “Live on the Fly, his former show at the Pacifica radio affiliate, WBAI. Several interviews followed over the coming months, including a series, “Assange: Countdown to Freedom,” that featured high-profile whistleblowers like Thomas Drake and Jesslyn Raddack advocating for Assange’s release.
“I had to build an audience at a moribund station and I got 65 percent of the traffic,” Credico remarked. “I had a popular international show because it was tweeted out by Wikileaks and Anonymous Scandinavia and I got a huge international following.”
The relationship with Assange eventually developed into a series of meetings at the Ecuadoran embassy in London. These encounters fueled online rumors accusing Credico of serving as a courier between the notoriously Machiavellian former Trump campaign advisor, Roger Stone, and Assange.
This September, Stone testified before the House Intelligence Committee, which sought to scrutinize his claim to have communicated with the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0, his contacts with Wikileaks, and a tweet that seemed to suggest he had advance knowledge of the release of the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Before the committee, Stone angrily denied having colluded with the Russian government and claimed that all of his contacts with Assange were conducted through “an intermediary.”
For his part, Credico freely acknowledged that Stone had been a guest on his WBAI show and the two had cooperated on a few oddball political initiatives over the years. But he contended that “Roger Stone is just a whipping post for the committee but the one they’re after is Assange because they want to quiet him.”
“They’re looking for a way to do in Assange,” Credico emphasized, “and I’m the only American in the press that has visited him outside of a reporter from the New Yorker, and he’s not going to talk to anyone else.”
Credico also insisted that despite his well-known dislike for Hillary Clinton, he would not have lifted a finger to help the Trump campaign: “I hate Trump. He’s got ethnic cleansing going on with the deportation of Haitians and Latin Americans and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions is the worst nightmare I’ve ever seen.”
Asked if he would comply with the House Intelligence Committee, Credico sounded a defiant tone. “I’m a journalist with a radio show and there’s nothing [the committee] can elicit out of me because I’m covered by the First Amendment. And everything I’ve talked to Assange about has been on the show, and everything else is in my fucking notes. Would any journalist give them their notes?”
With his “interview” just days away, Credico exuded confidence. “I’ve worked strip joints in Florida filled with Marines that wanted to kill me for attacking their war in Grenada,” the former comedian remarked. “Congress is no problem. I’ve worked much tougher rooms than that.”