WASHINGTON, D.C. – The case that President Trump should pardon Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks is building, bolstered both by WikiLeaks’ continued insistence that the Russian collusion argument is a hoax and by arguments made at the end of December by Donald Trump lawyers in a 2017 case involving Infowars.com Roger Stone.
On New Year’s Day, the Wikileaks Task Force responded forcefully to assertions by Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the leftist Center for American Progress, that the “Russian collusion” argument had no basis in fact.
In a tweet posted Jan. 1, 2018, the WikiLeaks Task Force said unequivocally, “Russia was not @wikileaks source. Deal with it.”
The WikiLeaks Task Force was responding to Tanden’s argument that Donald Trump would not have won the presidency without Russia’s help.
“It was DNC [Democratic National Committee] & MSM [Mainstream Media] who promoted Trump as “pied piper” GOP candidate,” the WikiLeaks Task Force responded. “Own it.”
The WikiLeaks Task Force ended with a strong rebuke to Tanden. “Your giant #nothingburger is still not a logical argument,” the WikiLeaks Task Force insisted. “Stop it.”
Trump’s attorneys argue Assange’s First Amendment right to publish
In a motion filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Dec. 29, 2017, in the case Roy Cockrum vs. Donald J. Trump for President, attorneys for President Trump argued that Julian Assange had a right under the First Amendment to publish the DNC and John Podesta emails, even if the emails were stolen.
The case was orchestrated by Project Democracy, a group run by former attorneys from the Obama administration, arguing that then former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone had conspired with the Russians to publish the DNC and Podesta emails.
In a 32-page motion defending the Trump Campaign, Michael A. Carvin of the Jones Day law firm, attorney of record representing President Trump, argued that the Trump campaign, and by inference Julian Assange at WikiLeaks, could not be held liable under the First Amendment for a disclosure of stolen information if the information published deals with “a matter of public interest” and the speaker was not “involved” in the theft.
In making the argument, Trump’s attorneys relied upon Bartnicki v. Vopper. 532 U.S. 514 (2001), a labor union case in which the Supreme Court ruled a radio station had the right to broadcast a stolen tape of a phone call between the chief union negotiator of a Pennsylvania high school and the chief union negotiator together with the union president.
Technically, Assange has not yet been indicted of any criminal offense in the United States, nor is it clear he has committed any crime. Under the Supreme Court Decisions New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), and in the Pentagon Papers case, New York Times v. U.S. 403 U.S. 713 (1971), a journalist is allowed to accept and publish classified documents provided by other sources.
On Dec. 29, 2017, Assange posted a tweet that referenced an article published by the Guardian on Dec. 14, 2017, citing a United Kingdom tribunal that declared WikiLeaks to be a media organization and a free speech advocate – designations that could carry a legal importance in placing Assange under “free speech” protections both in the UK and in the United States.
While Roger Stone’s case is still pending in the District of Columbia District Court, the opinion submitted by President Trump’s attorneys can be seen to have established the basis for pardoning Assange as a pre-condition of allowing Assange to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London without U.S. federal authorities seeking to arrest him.
Both CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Attorney General sessions have argued that arresting Julian Assange is a priority, even though it is not clear that Assange has violated national security laws – even if it can be shown he published U.S. national security classified documents.