Ramaswamy Pledges to Pardon Anti-American Julian Assange — The Question Is Why?

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has been the surprise — so far, at least — of the 2024 GOP field. As the 38-year-old multimillionaire entrepreneur has seemingly come out of nowhere and continues to garner national news, he's also made a number of curious statements and pledges.

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In one example of the latter, Ramaswamy said in early August he'd consider pardoning Biden family members if he becomes president. Puzzling, to say the least.

And on Thursday, Ramaswamy tweeted that he'd pardon Julian Assange, of all people, on his first day in office. Moreover, Ramaswamy's logic was downright bizarre. 

I will pardon Julian Assange on Jan 20, 2025. It is downright shameful that President Obama commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the fashionably transgender government employee who *leaked* to Assange, while Assange himself still sits in a foreign prison in exile. We will restore *one* standard of the rule of law in America — regardless of your race, sexuality, or political viewpoints.

OK hold the bus, young Vivek. 

This is flawed logic to the max. Does Ramaswamy really believe that Obama's disgraceful commutation of Bradley ("Chelsea") Manning's prison sentence is a legitimate reason to pardon Assange? Let's revisit:

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The U.S. government in 2019 indicted Assange, an Australian citizen, on 18 federal espionage charges. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, published hundreds of thousands of American classified files that he had received from Manning, then an intelligence analyst. The government has long argued that Assange and Manning's actions put lives at risk.

Assange, who holed up for seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape Swedish sexual assault charges, is now in a U.K. prison on separate charges as British courts litigate whether to extradite him to the United States.

The WikiLeaks founder has publicly attacked [the] "U.S. empire" and echoed left-wing radical Noam Chomsky, one of Assange's strongest supporters and a longtime hater of America and Israel.

What Was Ramaswamy Thinking?

How on earth did Ramaswamy believe his presidential campaign would benefit from pledging to pardon Assange? While a minuscule percentage of America-hating Americans might cheer the pledge, they wouldn't vote for any Republican presidential candidate if their lives depended on it. And how could Ramaswamy not know that far more potential supporters might be turned away by his pledge?

Incidentally, conservative political cartoonist Michael Ramirez's August 31 effort, while not related to Ramaswamy's Assange pledge, makes the relevant point.

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Incidentally, this wasn't what I'd call Ramaswamy's first misstep. 

In June, Ramaswamy said he was open to the idea of cutting off all U.S. aid to Israel. And in mid-August, he said he'd wean Israel off U.S. aid — then told the Washington Free Beacon that he would continue aid to Israel if his Middle East plan is unsuccessful.

Here's what Ramaswamy told podcaster Russell Brand that started the whole thing:

Now, as that relates to Israel, my view is, I asked the question, there's no North Star commitment to any one country other than the United States of America. So, what advances American interests? I actually do think our relationship with Israel has advanced American interests. I come out on the side of that. Here's what I want to see happen, though. I want to negotiate – I'm a dealmaker, OK? 

I want to negotiate now Abraham Accords 2.0, get Saudi [Arabia], Oman, Qatar, Indonesia in there, get Israel on its own two feet, and I believe in standing by commitments that we've already made, so our commitments have, I think — $38 billion in aid, military support, etc., going in through 2028 — I want to get Israel to the place where it is negotiated back into the infrastructure of the rest of the Middle East.

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Admirable — but naive, in my not-so-humble opinion.

The Bottom Line

One can debate the issue of whether — or how — Israel will ever be allowed to live in peace in the Middle East. One can debate whether U.S. aid to Israel should continue in perpetuity. 

One can also debate whether Julian Assange should be pardoned. But here's the salient point of my article: I don't for the life of me see what Ramaswamy hopes to gain from making such comments. 

Between the disastrous Biden presidency and the Republican Party's own dilemma, perhaps Vivek Ramaswamy would be better served by avoiding controversial issues that won't sit well at all with what should be his target audience. 

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