When I saw yet another headline about pardons this morning I assumed that it was one more story about Barack Obama potentially pardoning Hillary Clinton before he leaves office. This one turned out to have a twist, however. There’s growing speculation (particularly on the other side of the pond) that Donald Trump might consider offering a pardon to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. (Express.co.uk)
The President-elect may decide to stop America’s investigation into the Australian-born WikiLeaks co-founder, which could see him regain his freedom after being holed-up in the South American embassy since June 2012.
Reports are suggesting Mr Assange’s lawyers are preparing to make the plea with Mr Trump.
The Obama administration launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks in 2010, following the publication of documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars provided by whistleblower Private Bradley Manning.
Let’s just kick this off by saying that this story sounds rather insane right out of the gate. First of all, even in the hypothetical event that Trump did offer Assange a pardon, that still doesn’t get him out of the Ecuadorean Embassy. He might have the Americans off of his back, but he’s still facing extradition to Sweden on rape charges. (Some of the earlier charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had expired, but not all of them. The rape charge is apparently good through 2020.) He might breathe a bit easier without the FBI on his tail, but the American President can’t do anything about his situation with Sweden.
Even if we’re to entertain this seriously, what does Trump possibly get out of pardoning Assange? He’s promised to stand up for our military and put America first. Assange was the conduit by which a convicted traitor shared a trove of sensitive military information. He’s nothing short of a criminal in that regard and I find it hard to believe that the new, tough on crime, Make America Safe again president would want to launch a move like that as soon as he’s sworn in.
I have no doubt that Trump appreciates the effect which the mountains of emails showing up at Wikileaks had on his election chances, but that was the sort of collateral damage which could be inflicted on Clinton without Trump having his fingerprints on it except in the most fever swamp minds in the media. He owes Assange nothing and doing him that sort of favor would be a massive political liability. President Elect Trump may be many things, but stupid isn’t one of them.
Unless some of the “sources” cited in these reports care to come out and go on the record, this is one of those stories that I’ll need to see myself before I believe it. And for now, Assange can just continue to haunt the halls of Ecuador’s embassy. But while we’re on the subject, perhaps the new president can have a word with their ambassador once he’s in office. Last time I checked we were giving them tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid. Giving up Assange might make that cash flow a bit more secure in the future.