There is currently a drama unfolding in a courtroom across the ocean in Great Britain. It is the extradition trial of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He would be handed over to US authorities if he loses his extradition trial where he is wanted on charges of “endangering national security.” The specifics of the charges are unknown; we do not know if this goes back to the Bradley “Call Me Chelsea” Manning leaks, or if it involves later leaks from an anonymous source that revealed technical abilities of the intelligence community apparatus. Standing in the middle is, of course, WikiLeaks publishing the DNC emails during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Regardless, the possibility of a 175-year prison sentence hangs over the head of Assange.
Assange is a polarizing figure and whether he is seen as a hero or a villain depends on the information being released through his organization, WikiLeaks. With the Manning tranche of leaks, these were items that were embarrassing to the United States and some of our allies involving leaked diplomatic cables and certain actions in Afghanistan and Iraq that some consider “war crimes” (not this author). More disturbing was the release of information describing US electronic intelligence efforts in the war on terrorism. Although likely setting back those efforts when released, the IC’s technical apparatus is smart enough to adjust to those revelations.
As for the DNC email release, Trump should be singing the praises of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. In fact, he did during the 2016 campaign. On the trail, Trump referred to Hillary Clinton as “crooked” and the election as “rigged.” The crookedness part did not only deal with her own specific email problem, the Clinton Foundation and other assorted sundry Clinton scandals. And he made as much reference to a “rigged” general election as he did to the Democrat nomination process where he often cast Bernie Sanders as the victim of that rigging, with Clinton pulling the strings. The WikiLeaks releases pretty much confirmed that observation.
However, the Trump administration is not singing the praises of Assange and WikiLeaks and is instead seeking extradition to this country so he can stand trial under the Espionage Act. There are the obvious legal problems associated with this action. The normal course of action is to prosecute the leaker of classified information, not the publisher of that information. It is why Bradley Manning spent time in Leavenworth after delivering pilfered documents to WikiLeaks.
It could be that Trump is simply trying to make a huge example of the ultimate publisher of classified material. It is no secret that the Trump administration has been plagued by a plethora of leaks from almost Day One of his administration. Obtaining a conviction against Assange and WikiLeaks would send a huge message to legacy media outlets that would publish leaked information. But, this strategy would be rife with pitfalls. There are the obvious First Amendment hurdles to overcome and no guarantee a fair and impartial trial could be conducted, and if it could whether it would result in a conviction.
It must also be considered that Assange is not exactly loved by the Democrats. Hillary Clinton said of him: “I think Assange has become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator. I mean, he’s the tool of Russian intelligence.” In response to the DNC leaks, the leadership of the Democrats and the media did not rebuke the party for obvious bias in favor of Clinton, but flipped the narrative so that Assange and Russia became the focus of criticism. We already know how the Democrats will frame an extradition and trial if it ever comes to pass: Trump is throwing his partner in crime under the bus. Sadly, there are voters and the media who will buy into it, such is TDS these days.
One is left with the impression the potential extradition and charges against Assange are simply a political ploy in the ongoing battle between Trump and Democrats and that Assange is a pawn in that battle. It must be remembered that this is happening against a backdrop of Attorney General Barr investigating the origin of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. Specifically, did the FBI, IC and Democrat Party hatch a scheme to portray Trump as beholden to the will of the Kremlin?
It is easy to forget that there is a Durham investigation right now. The media certainly seldom, if ever, reports on it yet we were privy to every Mueller dud of a bombshell almost weekly. Many pundits believe there is a raging behind-the-scenes battle between Trump and Democrats which explains their continual belief in Russian interference, the endless investigations, the inevitable impeachment part 2, and other efforts by the Democrats. It is a race to destroy Trump before he destroys them.
This where Assange enters the picture. Assuming he is extradited and charged and faces a lengthy prison sentence, he may- or may not- be persuaded to reveal the source of the DNC leaks. It would expose the whole Russiagate nonsense if it can conclusively be proven that the source of those stories was not Russia, but a disgruntled DNC insider. It would exonerate the reputations of so many Trump associates in his campaign and administration. It would blow the Russian interference narrative out of the water. In short, it would shed a light on the biggest scandal in American history. And who better to deliver that blow than the ultimately most effective whistle-blower of modern times- Julian Assange?
Understandably anxious to clear the name of Trump, it is conceivable that the Administration could offer Assange a slap on the wrists in exchange for putting Russiagate to rest. There are two questions remaining, however. The first is whether Assange would agree to such a deal. In 2017, he emphatically stated the source of the DNC leak was not a state actor, and that is all he has said. Does he risk putting his reputation as a “journalist” on the line to save his own neck? Does he even still believe he has a reputation to preserve? This writer is not suggesting a pardon such as that intimated at in that courtroom in England where Trump, through Dana Roshrabacher, is alleged to have offered a pardon in exchange for Assange naming the DNC leaker.
Secondly, one must ask whether such an attempt would be, in effect, weaponizing the prosecution of someone being accused of violating the Espionage Act for political gain. It is becoming more obvious that the Obama administration did just that with Operation Crossfire Hurricane. However, there is a difference. In other words, does the Trump administration do what the Obama administration did?
If they are going after Assange for publishing the electronic intelligence source leaks or the Manning leaks, these clearly had serious national security implications. The DNC release did not. Those leaks were barely a blip on the political radar outside the Beltway. It merely confirmed what most people, including most Democrats, already knew: the DNC was all-in for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The intelligence community survived the electronics leaks and the military survived the Manning leaks. In many ways, they are old history. The effects of the DNC leaks, which were part and parcel of the whole Russian collusion hoax, persist to this day. One can say that the entire Russia hoax was a greater threat to our national security than Bradley Manning ever was because it is an ongoing attempt to overthrow a duly elected President.
If nothing else, it is worth the old college try. Either Trump gets Assange to admit that the source of his leaks came from within the DNC and not Russia, or he can send a strong message to those who would publish leaks that their legal life will be a living Hell. He has the Espionage Act on his side as a wedge between truth and Assange’s “principles.”
Often, the process is the punishment. Just ask George Papadopolous, Carter Page, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, and any other target in the Obama administration’s attempted coup.