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The soiling of Julian Assange

In 2016, Trump professed ‘love’ for WikiLeaks. Where is that love now?

April 12, 2019

7:54 PM

12 April 2019

7:54 PM

Here’s an intense irony for you. The journalistic activity for which Julian Assange has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia led to the exposure of blatant American war crimes and official deceit in Iraq: the very war Donald J. Trump vociferously decried during his successful presidential campaign. Over and over again in 2016, Trump lamented ‘Iraqi kids blown to pieces’ and pilloried Hillary Clinton for backing the invasion. And yet now, by seeking the extradition and prosecution of Assange on charges that stem directly from the revelation of those crimes, Trump has chosen to shunt all this aside and do the bidding of his besmirched GOP predecessor, George W. Bush.

Democrats and liberals who have locked arms with the most authoritarian elements of the Trump administration to cheerlead Assange’s arrest might want to pretend as though this has something to do with Robert Mueller or ‘collusion.’ And while the timing is indeed suspect, at least ostensibly the indictment has nothing to do with Trump-Russia. The only events cited are Assange’s journalistic interactions with Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning in 2010, which led to the publication of a vast quantity of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, as well as State Department cables and Guantanamo Bay records. The corruptions, crimes, and deceits exposed by this monumental series of revelations are too capacious to list. (Here, feel free to refresh your memory.)

Democrats, still smarting from the epic letdown that was Mueller’s finding of ‘no collusion’ last month, have every incentive to conflate WikiLeaks’s actions during the 2016 election – for which no charges have been brought – with its actions during 2010, which have finally led to an indictment after nine years.

The nine-year gap – long after Manning had been charged, found guilty, and released from prison – suggests that there is something ulterior going on here. The offenses outlined in the indictment are on extraordinarily weak legal footing. Part of the criminal ‘conspiracy,’ prosecutors allege, is that Assange sought to protect Manning as a source and encouraged her to provide government records in the public interest. This is standard journalistic practice. And it is now being criminalized by the Trump DoJ, while liberals celebrate from the sidelines – eager to join hands with the likes of Mike Pompeo and Lindsey Graham. You could not get a more sinister confluence of political fraudsters.

They – meaning most Democrats – will never get over their grudge against Assange for having dared to expose the corruption of America’s ruling party in 2016, which they believed help deprive their beloved Hillary of her rightful ascension to the presidential throne. Once again, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is among the few exceptions.

The DNC and Podesta email releases, now distilled reductively into the term ‘Russian interference,’ contained multitudinous newsworthy revelations, as evidenced by the fact that virtually the entire US media reported on them. (Here, feel free to refresh your memory on this as well.) But for no reason other than pure partisan score-settling, elite liberals are willing to toss aside any consideration for the dire First Amendment implications of Assange’s arrest and cry out with joy that this man they regard as innately evil has finally been ensnared by the punitive might of the American carceral state.

Trump supporters and Trump himself also look downright foolish. It takes about two seconds to Google all the instances in which Trump glowingly touted WikiLeaks on the 2016 campaign trail. ‘I love WikiLeaks!’ he famously proclaimed on October 10, 2016 in Wilkes-Barre, Penn.

Presumably this expression of ‘love’ was indication that Trump viewed WikiLeaks as providing a public service. If not, perhaps some intrepid reporter can ask precisely what his ‘love’ entailed. He can pretend all he wants now that he’s totally oblivious to WikiLeaks, but it was Trump himself who relayed that he was contemporaneously reading the Podesta emails in October 2016, and reveling in all their newsworthiness. If he wanted, he could obviously intercede and prevent any unjust prosecution of Assange. Trump has certainly seen fit to complain publicly about all matter of other inconvenient Justice Department activity, especially as it pertained to him or his family members and associates. But now he’s acting as though he’s never heard of WikiLeaks, which is just pitiful: not a soul believes it, even his most ardent supporters.

Sean Hannity became one of Assange’s biggest fans in 2016 and 2017, effusively lavishing him with praise and even visiting him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for an exclusive interview.  One wonders whether Hannity, who reportedly speaks to his best buddy Trump every night before bedtime, will counsel a different course on this matter. There’s also the question of whether Trump’s most vehement online advocates, who largely have become stalwart defenders of WikiLeaks, will put their money where their mouth is and condition their continued support on Assange not being depredated by the American prison system.

Assange accomplished more in 2010 alone than any of his preening media antagonists will in their entire lifetime, combined. Your feelings about him as a person do not matter. He could be the scummiest human on the face of Earth, and it would not detract from the fact that he has brought revelatory information to public that would otherwise have been concealed. He has shone light on some of the most powerful political factions not just in the US, but around the world. This will remain true regardless of whether Trump capitulates to the ‘Deep State’ and goes along with this utterly chilling, free speech-undermining prosecution.

I personally have supported Assange since I started in journalism, nine years ago, not because I had any special affinity for the man himself (although the radical transparency philosophy he espoused was definitely compelling). My support was based on the fact that Assange had devised a novel way to hold powerful figures to account, whose nefarious conduct would otherwise go unexamined but for the methods he pioneered. As thanks, he was holed up in a tiny embassy for nearly seven years – until yesterday, when they hauled him out ignominiously to face charges in what will likely turn out to be a political show trial. Donald Trump has the ability to stop this, but almost certainly won’t. And that’s all you need to know about him.


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