During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump couldn’t help being happy with Julian Assange and Wikileaks. It seemed as though the leaking organization was strongly in the pro-Trump camp. Wikileaks first released documents found on the DNC server, and later provided the world with John Podesta’s emails. Perhaps that wasn’t enough to stay in the President’s good favor for long.
Donald Trump, October 10, 2016: “This just came out. WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks!” pic.twitter.com/KWP7X2aLiN
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 21, 2017
According to The Independent, President Trump said “it’s OK with me” if the Justice Department pursues charges against Julian Assange. This is a far cry from his statements made on the campaign trail like, “I love Wikileaks”.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters that the U.S. is going to ramp up efforts to charge Assange. “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of,” said Sessions.
This news from Sessions comes on the heels of CIA Director Mike Pompeo denoucing Assange and Wikileaks, as well as Edward Snowden, in his first press conference. In his conference, Pompeo said, “Wikileaks walks like a hostile intelligence service, and talks like a hostile intelligence service.”
What exactly Wikileaks has done isn’t quite known. The organization publishes classified information, but does not actively collect it themselves. Assange and Wikileaks are like much of the press who, upon being given leaked information, merely confirm its authenticity and then reveal it.
For some time Wikileaks has operated under the protection of the First Amendment and freedom of the press. It is unclear whether prosecuting Assange would set new precedent when it comes to the press revealing information about the U.S. government. For instance, if the New York Times published the same information Wikileaks did, would NYT owner, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, be charged with a crime?
For now, Assange appears to be safe in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been held up for nearly five years. However, as The Mint Press pointed out in 2015, the CIA has been increasingly involved in attempting to overthrow Ecuador’s political establishment. This could mean the U.S. will put more pressure on Ecuador in order to get at Assange in the future. Assange’s only hope is that Ecuador stands its ground.