Trump Should Pardon Assange, Keep Him From the ‘Hands of the Deep State’
If extradited and convicted, Assange faces a maximum sentence of 175 years for the “crime” of publishing.
As one of his last acts as President, Donald Trump could impart one final gift for the Deep State he has spent the last four years railing against: he could pardon Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. That is what Stella Morris, the fiancée of Australian citizen Julian Assange, suggested Wednesday night after a formal request for Assange’s pardon was filed with the White House this week.
“Show mercy” on Assange and pardon him, Morris said, and keep the Wikileaks founder from “falling into the hands of the Deep State.”
“Essentially once [Assange] gets to the U.S. he will be in the hands of the Deep State,” she told Fox News host Tucker Carlson Wednesday night. “That’s why I pleaded with the President to show the mercy the Deep State will not show Julian if he is extradited.”
Currently, Assange is in very poor health in prison in the United Kingdom. A U.K. judge will rule on January 4, 2021 whether Assange should be extradited to the U.S. where he would face charges under the Espionage Act for his publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 175 years for the “crime” of publishing.
The government alleges that Assange risked American lives by releasing hundreds of thousands of U.S. intelligence documents, including the publication of the rules of engagement in Iraq. The legal case does not involve Assange’s publication of the Democratic Party emails.
No evidence has ever surfaced to prove that Wikileaks’ publications actually caused the deaths of Americans serving overseas. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2010 that such claims were “significantly overwrought.”
“Everyone agrees this is a terrible case” with profound impact on journalists and freedom of speech if the Trump administration continues forward with it, said Morris. “It is the end of the First Amendment,” she went on, if Assange is extradited and tried. Assange has argued that his prosecution is “politically motivated” because he published information damaging to the United States and did not cooperate with Donald Trump’s government.
According to Assange’s lawyers, Trump offered to pardon Assange in August 2017 if he would publicly state that Russia was not involved in leaking the DNC emails. The message was delivered to Assange via Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who subsequently said he made the offer on his own initiative, and the White House had not endorsed it.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson echoed Morris’ concerns Wednesday. Carlson is said to have an outsized influence on Trump’s thinking; he has even been described as having a “mind-meld” with the president. Assange is “effectively a journalist,” said Carlson, and Morris made a “powerful case” on his behalf.
“Julian doesn’t face a fair trial in the U.S. He will be tried in Alexandria, Virginia where the jury pool will be composed of the people who live in Virginia who have a preponderance of people who work for security contractors and the Deep State,” said Morris.
One of WikiLeaks’ most famous video releases, titled “Collateral Murder,” showed U.S. military personnel in an Apache helicopter mowing down 11 people, including two journalists, on 12 July 2007 in Iraq. Then-Baghdad bureau chief Dean Yates said the U.S. military repeatedly lied to him about the incident, until Assange released the video in April 2010.
“What he did was 100 percent an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the U.S. military lied … The US knows how embarrassing Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military—they know that there’s potential war crimes on that tape,” said Yates.
Assange also published documents obtained by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was tried, convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017 after she had served seven years. She was subsequently jailed again for her refusal to testify against Assange.
Assange revealed details of horrifying atrocities and war crimes committed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also published documents outlining the torture inflicted on prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.
“Prior to 2016, when WikiLeaks published authentic, incriminating docs about Hillary & DNC, it was a media consensus that prosecuting Assange would be a grave threat to press freedom,” wrote The Intercept founder Glenn Greenwald on Twitter.
Over 160 current and former world leaders, lawmakers and diplomats, including the president of Argentina and two former presidents of Brazil, have sent an open letter to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking that Assange’s extradition be halted, NBC News reports. In addition to detailing several legal reasons why Assange shouldn’t be extradited, the letter claims he wouldn’t receive a fair trial in the U.S. and that he would “be exposed to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
An independent UN rights expert alleged Assange was suffering significant “psychological torture” and abuse in the London prison where he was being held over a year ago.
“The number of signatories the letter received demonstrates the growing opposition around the world to U.S. efforts to extradite and prosecute Assange, and the political nature of this case,” Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, told NBC News.
U.S. presidents typically issue several pardons before they depart office.
A tweet three days ago by Pastor Mark Burns announcing Trump would pardon Assange gained over 46,000 likes in less than an hour, sending the Twitterverse into a tizzy. Burns tweeted about an hour and a half later that people should “disregard” his comment because he had a “faulty source.”
While Trump famously declared at a campaign rally in 2016 that he loved WikiLeaks, he said subsequently he knew nothing about Wikileaks.
There are also rumors that Trump may pardon Edward Snowden, which Greenwald suggested would be a huge victory for Trump against the three-letter agencies—the CIA, FBI and NSA—and their abuses. Sens. Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, as well as Reps. Matt Gaetz and Tulsi Gabbard, have endorsed a pardon for Snowden.
“The only ones angry would be [former CIA Director John] Brennan, [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper, [former FBI Director Jim] Comey and [Obama’s National Security advisor] Susan Rice,” wrote Greenwald.