By: +David Herron; Date: April 18, 2019
As we noted in the arrest of Julian Assange, he is charged with a single offense by the US Government. Namely, he provided help to then-Bradley Manning (now-Chelsea Manning) to break into US Government computers in order to steal documents.
It is not illegal for a journalist -- Assange and Wikileaks like to call themselves journalists -- to publish material that was illegally gotten. Where it becomes illegal is if the journalist aids in committing the crime that got that material.
Assange could have been charged with other actions related to the Russia-helps-Trump-Campaign case. There has been reported from several sources what appears to have been a conspiracy between the Trump Campaign, the Russian Government, and Wikileaks to release emails stolen from the Clinton campaign in order to cause damage and tilt the election to Trump.
It's not that the US Government is waiting before laying other charges on Assange. In order to extradite Assange from the United Kingdom, the rules are that all charges against the person must be revealed so that the country holding the extraditee can assess whether to allow the extradition. The UK, like most countries, will not allow extradition to a country that will torture or execute people. The USA, especially under Trump, will do torture and/or execution. This rule means that the single charge the US has filed against Assange is the only charge the USA will be able to use in a court trial, because of extradition rules.
The reported conspiracy between Russia, Wikileaks, and Trump Campaign
Russian intelligence services (among other things) broke into email services run by the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic Party, and stole emails. They waited for Trump to announce at a campaign rally -- "Russia I hope you're listening" and said something about hoping they had some of Clinton's emails. That day is when Russia broken into Clinton Campaign servers and stole emails, according to an indictment filed by the Mueller Investigation.
An effort was made to get those emails to Wikileaks, and to schedule their release for the maximum impact upon the Clinton Campaign. The timing was coordinated between Wikileaks, the Trump Campaign, and Russian Intelligence.
Folks in the Trump Campaign, or loosely associated (meaning Roger Stone), were involved with coordinating the timing.
The Mueller Report
Almost a month ago, the Mueller Investigation finished their report and handed it to Attorney General William Barr. Barr put the report through a redaction process, but almost immediately released a summary (that he now claims was not a summary) that essentially cleared the Trump Campaign. Today Barr held a Press Conference about the report - Mueller was not present - the report was not released at this Press Conference - and in the press conference again cleared the Trump Campaign of wrongdoing.
Further, Barr said that he met with Trump's personal lawyers who had a chance to review the report.
Further, it's been reported that during the George H.W. Bush Administration, that Barr took similar steps in another case. Namely that Barr wrote a memo summarizing an investigatory report, the memo cleared someone of wrong-doing, but several years later when the report and the memo were released to the public it was clear that Barr's summary of that report did not have any relation to the report, did not accurately describe the report, and seemed to have been more of a coverup.
An NY Times article describing the press conference said:
In his news conference on Thursday morning, Mr. Barr at times sounded like a defense lawyer, making no criticism of the president and instead offering an understanding interpretation of actions that Mr. Trump’s critics have said amounted to obstruction of justice.
In addressing obstruction, Mr. Barr said the president had no corrupt intent and that his actions seen as impeding the investigation were a result of being understandably “frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks.”
The critical statement by Barr is:
“The special counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts. Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. Here too, the special counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.”
Here's where we get to the single charge against Assange. If the US Government were to charge Assange in the Russia-Trump-Clinton case, then it would open the Trump Campaign and President Trump to charges in that case as well.
But because the Attorney General insists that Assange did not participate in the hacking, then there was not an illegal conspiracy.