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Is the Biden Administration Working on Deal to Drop Assange Charges?

April 14—President Sleepy Joe Biden’s offhand comment April 10 to a reporter’s request for a response to a recent vote in the Australian parliament that calls on the United States to drop espionage charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has fueled new speculation that such a deal may indeed be in the works. Biden’s response was “We are considering it.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, responding to a reporter’s follow-up question on the President’s remarks, would not say anything beyond what the President had “shared” the day before, and referred other comment to the Justice Department, which later declined to comment.

However, sources close to the White House report that Biden may be doing more than considering it. They indicate that the President now views the Assange case as a problem for his re-election campaign. Many of his supporters, especially those who might call themselves progressives, have been calling for an end to what are unprecedented espionage charges against Assange, who published leaked classified documents in WikiLeaks, stating that they represent an attack on freedom of the press. Lawyers for Assange, who is being held in the high security HM Prison Belmarsh near London while a British court decides on his challenge of U.S. efforts to extradite him, maintain that he cannot be prosecuted for revealing criminal acts undertaken by the government. If he should lose this challenge, Assange could be placed on trial right in the middle of the presidential election race. “If they pursue this case,” said a U.S. based source with connections to the Democratic Party, “it will cost Biden votes.”

This and other sources report that the Justice Department has indeed be working on a deal that would drop the espionage charges, which carry a severe sentence, for a lesser charge of mishandling classified documents, to which the publisher would plead guilty and be released for time already served.

The Wall Street Journal, no friend of either justice or Assange, leaked reports of this last month, in what many believed was an attempt to sabotage the deal.

At the time, both the Justice Department and lawyers for Assange denied that any talks had taken place on a “deal,” but other sources reported that the denials were a formality, so as not to prejudice the British court’s decision.

“It looks like things could be moving in the right direction,” Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, who often serves as his spokesman, told the BBC April 11: “Really, Joe Biden should have dropped it from Day One.”

A source indicated that any deal might wait on the British court decision, which may come this month.

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