Independent presidential candidate Ross Perot speaks at the University of South Florida 31 October 1992 in Tampa, FL. Perot said members of Congress should have their ears enlarged so they can hear the needs of the people. US elections will be held 03 November 1992. (Photo credit should read PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Third party candidates can have huge impact
02:01 - Source: CNN

CNN will host Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka for a live town hall event at 9 p.m. ET on August 17.

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Both Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, dismissed concerns raised by the WikiLeaks disclosures

Assange also addressed the convention

Washington CNN  — 

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein hailed Julian Assange as a hero Saturday, saying the WikiLeaks founder’s disclosure of Democratic National Committee emails exposed the American electorate to important information.

Stein’s comments to CNN were made shortly before she was named the progressive party’s official 2016 presidential nominee, with human rights activist Ajamu Baraka tapped as her running mate.

“Any time that we have efforts to bring information to the American people, to the world, is something worth supporting,” Baraka said in a separate interview with CNN.

Last month, WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 emails that appeared to show the committee favoring presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over progressive challenger Bernie Sanders – an admired figure among many Green Party supporters – during the primary season. The disclosure led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the ouster of several top DNC officials.

WikiLeaks walks back Assange claim on hacking Trump tax returns

The suspicion that Russia could have been behind the hacking has raised concerns of a foreign state or actor meddling in the US presidential election. But both Stein and Baraka dismissed those anxieties.

“This is routine,” said Stein, who added that there was “no question” Assange is a hero. “This is what state departments do to one another.”

Added Baraka: “I’m concerned that people are more concerned with the source than the revelations.” He said the focus on Russia was a “diversionary” tactic.

Assange, who has been granted asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London amid sexual assault allegations, also addressed the Green Party’s convention on Saturday via satellite, telling supporters at the University of Houston that being told one has to vote for Clinton because the only alternative is Donald Trump is “a form of extortion.”

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Julian Assange responds to Hillary Clinton
06:09 - Source: CNN

As Assange was introduced, Stein, along with many in the audience, waved their arms in the air and wiggled their fingers, an expression of approval by progressive protesters.

‘Revolutionary’ home

The convention came at a focal point for the Green Party, which has received renewed attention following Clinton’s victory in the Democratic primary and the vocal protests of many hardline Sanders supporters.

Sanders wholeheartedly endorsed Clinton last month and has pledged to do everything he can to get her elected. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times published Friday morning entitled “I support Hillary Clinton. So should everyone who voted for me,” Sanders went as far as calling Clinton’s campaign a continuation of his “revolution.”

Stein, however, has repeatedly pledged to be the “revolutionary” home for disaffected Sanders supporters.

Her steady criticism of Clinton reached new heights when she joined the protests outside of the Democratic National Convention last month, and her campaign has recently launched ads telling voters they shouldn’t feel compelled to vote for Clinton as the “lesser evil.”

But so far, those who backed Sanders haven’t signaled that they’ll flee the Democratic Party in November. A CNN/ORC poll taken after the Democratic convention found Democrats and independents who said they would have preferred Sanders to Clinton going 69% for Clinton, 13% for Stein, 10% for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and 3% for Trump.

Overall, the poll found Stein netting 5% of the vote. Still, Stein – who garnered just .36% of the popular vote as the Green Party’s nominee in 2012 – pointed to her current polling as an indication of “which way the wind is blowing” and said that as she gained more exposure, “all bets are off.”

Stein said since Sanders endorsed Clinton, the floodgates have opened for her campaign. They have received enough funds to purchase television spots at a level she said they never had before.

“We’re now a party with a fundraising base,” Stein said. “Suddenly, we have access to bigger things.”

Unconventional convention speakers

Amid technical difficulties, Assange summarized the DNC leaks and their fallout as well as alleged corruption within the DNC and the media. He also warned about the rising influence of Silicon Valley titans such as Google and cast their goals as dystopian.

“(They have) a very strange, quasi-religious vision of the future,” Assange said. “This vision of the singularity … It’s very disturbing what they believe in Silicon Valley. They believe they can create a massive artificial intelligence more powerful than any human being.”

Assange warned of too much overlapping power between a Clinton White House, the Pentagon and Google.

“This triangle is extremely worrying,” he said, urging Green Party supporters, as well as those of Johnson and Sanders, to build lasting movements against this kind of collusion.

Outside of Assange’s appearance via satellite, the convention saw many in-person speakers take the stage touting the party’s liberal policy positions and appealing to Sanders supporters.

Most prominent among the speakers was scholar and activist Cornel West. He served as one of Sanders’ representatives on the Democratic platform committee, but he has since offered his support of the Green Party.

Speaking at the convention Saturday, West gave a rousing speech about the “issues of integrity” ranging from human rights abroad to the history of the civil rights movement in the US, citing W.E.B. duBois in particular.

“We live in an age of mendacity and criminality,” West said. “The truth means cutting against the grain.”

In that theme, he commended Assange with his signature passion.

“That’s what we love about Julian. He’s not perfect,” West said. “That brother is honest. He’s willing to disclose the truth about the American empire.”