Last week I told you there was buzz in intelligence community circles that the FBI could begin making arrests in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal as soon as this week (link). Today the Trump administration announced it’s seeking the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Much as I love saying “I told you so,” this is almost certainly not the arrest to which I was referring. Instead this is Trump trying a head-fake in the face of what I was referring to.
Here’s the giveaway that today’s move on Assange isn’t part of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation: it was announced by Trump’s own closest allies, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and CIA Director Mike Pompeo (source: CNN). This is a last ditch attempt on the part of the Trump administration to essentially say ‘Hey, we can’t possibly have been conspiring with WikiLeaks to rig the election, because here we are trying to arrest the leader of WikiLeaks.’
It’s an odd card to play, considering Trump and Pompeo spent the election publicly praising WikiLeaks for its election meddling. The arrest announcement also means Trump is tacitly acknowledging that WikiLeaks did in fact try to rig the election in his favor; Trump now appears to be trying to cling to the more narrow claim that he and his campaign simply weren’t in on that rigging. That’ll be a tough sell, as his campaign adviser Roger Stone had admitted to having been in contact with both WikiLeaks and the Russian government hacker who stole the info and fed it to WikiLeaks. It’s also a dangerous game for Trump to turn Assange into an enemy.
WikiLeaks never released any Trump campaign emails or secrets during the election – but it surely has them and has been holding onto them as insurance. Will it spill the beans now that Trump is trying to have Assange arrested? Considering that Ecuador is already refusing to extradite Assange over his sexual assault charges in Sweden, there’s no indication that Ecuador will now give him up to the United States. The Trump administration knows as much. Is this merely an intentionally empty gesture? If so, it’s a last ditch one. And it tells you that Trump knows the FBI is closing in fast. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report