White House denies involvement in Julian Assange deal

News & Politics

Julian Assange, 52, will likely soon return to his native Australia as a free man, but not because of President Joe Biden, a White House spokesperson said.

Court papers released Monday night revealed that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent more than a decade either holed up at an embassy or locked away in prison, had finally reached a plea deal with U.S. officials. In 2010, Assange had coordinated with Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to release information about U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘There’s nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration and we want him brought home to Australia.’

A few years later, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but President Obama commuted his sentence before leaving office in 2017. Meanwhile, Assange languished at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault.

The statute of limitations on the sexual assault allegations — which Assange always denied — eventually expired, but Ecuador withdrew its offer of asylum in 2019, the same year the Trump administration indicted Assange in connection with the disclosure of U.S. military information. Assange then attempted to take refuge at the embassy but was arrested by British police and thrown in jail for skipping bail, the AP reported.

He then remained behind bars for five more years until reaching the deal with U.S. officials.

On Monday night, Assange reportedly flew from London to Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth. He is expected to appear in a U.S. federal court in Saipan on Wednesday, when he will likely plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information and receive a sentence of time served.

Assange is then expected to return to his family in Australia, where leaders are almost assuredly celebrating this sudden turn of events. Earlier this year, the Australian House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to urge the U.K. and U.S. governments to let Assange return home.

“Regardless of the views that people have about Mr. Assange’s activities, the case has dragged on for too long,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at the time. “There’s nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration and we want him brought home to Australia.”

As the U.S federal government secured a conviction and Assange will likely soon have his freedom, both sides can credibly claim victory in this case. However, the Biden administration is not taking any credit for it.

“This was an independent decision made by the Department of Justice, and there was no White House involvement in the plea deal decision,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

The New York Post sought comment on the subject from the DOJ but did not receive a response. The outlet also cited a source who “said they were unaware of what if any role Biden may have played in the final resolution of the case.”

Back in April, Biden told reporters that he was “considering” bringing Assange’s case to a conclusion but did not comment further.

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