- Following the arrest of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in London, top Democrats have renewed calls for him to face questions over the publication of emails stolen from DNC servers in 2016.
- Hillary Clinton on Thursday said that Assange should "answer for what he’s done," while top Democrat Mark Warner said Assange conspired with Russia to "undermine the West."
- It is unclear though whether Assange will be questioned over the DNC hack, as he currently faces extradition to the US for allegedly helping Chelsea Manning access defence department computers.
- Among the issues probed by special counsel Robert Mueller was contact between the Trump campaign and Assange, but found no evidence sufficient for collusion charges.
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Senior Democrats on Thursday accused WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange of being a puppet for Russian intelligence, but questions remain over whether he will face interrogation by investigators in the US over WikiLeaks’ 2016 publication of thousands of DNC emails hacked by Russians.
After news broke of Assange’s arrest in London on Thursday, major Democratic figures took to news networks and social media to denounce Wikileaks, which published thousands of stolen emails weeks before the 2016 presidential election in what US intelligence agencies have concluded was a bid to damage the candidacy of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"Whatever Julian Assange’s intentions were for WikiLeaks, what he’s become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to weaken the West and undermine American security," Mark Warner, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate’s intelligence committee, tweeted.
"I hope British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves."
At an appearance at a public event on Thursday, former secretary of state Clinton said that Assange should "answer for what he has done, at least as it has been charged."
And Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in an interview on CNN’s News Day hailed the arrest as "great for the American people."
"We’re going to extradite him. It will be really good to get him back on United States soil. So now he’s our property and we can get the facts and truth from him," said the West Virginia Democrat.
Suspicion has long lingered over WikiLeaks’ acquisition of the DNC emails in 2016, the nature of its ties to the Russian intelligence backed hackers who stole them, and how much senior officials within Donald Trump’s presidential campaign knew about the source of the stolen emails, and WikiLeaks’ plans to release them.
The trove of emails published by Wikileaks were stolen by hacking collective Guccifer 2.0 — which US intelligence agencies have concluded was a front for Russian military intelligence agency the GRU.
Among the targets of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian collusion was Roger Stone, a former adviser to the president who communicated with Guccifer and Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign.
Stone was charged by Mueller’s prosecutors in December for obstruction, false statements and witness tampering, but was not charged with offences relating to colluding with Russia. He has denied the accusations against him.
Court documents submitted by Mueller’s prosecutors revealed that the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also communicated with Assange during the campaign.
Charges filed against Assange by US prosecutors Thursday though relate to WikiLeaks 2010 publication of thousands of US diplomatic cables leaked by former defense analyst Chelsea Manning, with Assange accused by US prosecutors on Thursday of helping Manning access department of defence computers to steal the secret documents.
Debate is focusing on whether US prosecutors will seek information from Assange on his role in the DNC leaks, with experts claiming that his publication of the stolen emails was not illegal, and thus criminal charges are unlikely.
Mueller’s report was submitted to the attorney general in March, and a redacted version is set to be released next week.
It is unknown if the report will provide fresh information on the interactions between WikiLeaks, Trump campaign surrogates and Russian intelligence in 2016, or whether the details will be considered too sensitive for public release by Attorney General William Barr.
Mueller filed no charges against Assange, but did indict Russians alleged to have been involved in the hack.
Democrats though this week reiterated their demand that Barr provide them with the report in full, and are adamant that Assange should be held to account for allegedly conspiring with the Kremlin to undermine their candidate.
"Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held to account for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government," tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday.
- US asks to extradite Julian Assange over leaked state secrets after he was arrested and forcibly removed from Ecuador’s London embassy
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