Now that President Barack Obama has commuted much of whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence, will Wikileaks founder Julian Assange follow through on his promise to accept extradition to the US?
On Tuesday, Obama announced that he was granting clemency to Manning, along with 208 other people. The former US Army intelligence analyst will be freed on May 17, rather than in 2045 as originally intended by his conviction under the Espionage Act.
Five days before, Wikileaks tweeted that Assange was willing to make a deal if Manning was granted clemency.
If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case https://t.co/MZU30SlfGK
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 12, 2017
President Obama’s action now forces Assange to keep his promise. Assange, via Wikileaks, during the election released thousands of documents, allegedly including the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the chair of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign. U.S. intelligence believes those emails are the product of Russian hacking, directed from the highest levels, which would mean President Vladimir Putin.
Assange now has a choice: submit to the American justice system, with the hope that President Donald Trump will offer him a pardon should he need it, or remain a fugitive inside the embassy of Ecuador in London.
Wikileaks has posted tweets since the news broke that Manning’s sentence was commuted, but no word from Assange on keeping his promise.
Assange: "Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning's clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible."
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 17, 2017
Assange would face charges surrounding what is believed to be his publishing of the Wikileaks documents, the same documents Chelsea Manning was convicted of providing to Wikileaks. He would no doubt also be subject to investigation into his role in Wikileaks’ publishing hacked emails believed to have been provided to Wikileaks via Russian hacking.
That investigation might lead to U.S. intelligence agencies learning more about Russian hacking, and just how extensive it was – and just how far Russia went into helping Donald Trump win the White House. Trump conceivably could halt that investigation, but should he try, those actions might also be illegal.