Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: the Ecuadorian embassy is hours if not days from handing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over to the UK government, which will arrest him, and then presumably extradite him to the United States for criminal trial. We’ve heard this claim a number of times over the past months, and it’s never turned out to be true. So is there reason to believe that tonight’s latest iteration of the same old story will play out any differently? Let’s take a look at what we know.
First, it helps to know the source of the story. This time around it’s coming from WikiLeaks itself, which tweeted “A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within “hours to days” using the #INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext–and that it already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest.
Second, thanks to a redaction mistake in a federal court filing a few months ago, we know that Assange has apparently already been criminally charged in the United States. What we don’t know is whether the Department of Justice is seeking Assange’s extradition. If Donald Trump’s new puppet William Barr is making the decision, would he want to bring a guy here who may have inside knowledge of the Trump-Russia election plot? On the other hand, we saw proof in court last week that at least some of Mueller’s ongoing investigations are still being actively carried out by the federal prosecutors who inherited Mueller’s cases, and that Mueller’s grand jury is still intact – so Barr may not be injecting himself into all of these kinds of decisions.
Based on what WikiLeaks has turned out to be – little more than a mouthpiece for Russia these days – the group obviously can’t be taken at its word. For that matter, no one even knows who’s running WikiLeaks these days, let alone who has control of its Twitter account. What motivation would WikiLeaks have for making up a story like this? We don’t know. There is one thing to keep in mind, however.
In the past forty-eight hours we’ve seen House Democrats suddenly start making aggressive moves across the board when it comes to Donald Trump’s various scandals. Something does seem to be afoot here. Could the House Democrats have convinced Ecuador to turn over Assange to the UK, so they can pressure Barr into bringing Assange here? Possibly. Or perhaps WikiLeaks is merely crying wolf. The claim is that Assange will be arrested within hours or days, so it looks like we’ll find out soon, one way or the other.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report