WASHINGTON >> President Barack Obama’s decision Tuesday to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence brought fresh attention to another figure involved in the Army leaker’s case: Julian Assange.
On Twitter last week, Assange’s anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks posted, “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.”
The tweet garnered little attention at the time, but quickly resurfaced on Twitter after Obama announced he would commute Manning’s 35-year prison sentence. Manning leaked scores of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. Obama’s move will release her in May, nearly three decades early.
But what will it mean, if anything, for Assange?
Assange has been holed up for more than four years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has refused to meet prosecutors in Sweden, where he remains wanted on an allegation of rape, fearing he would be extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges if he leaves the embassy.
But the Justice Department has never announced any indictment of Assange, and it’s not clear that any charges have been brought under seal. It wasn’t immediately clear what case WikiLeaks and Assange were referring to in the tweet.
The Justice Department, in refusing to turn over investigative documents sought by Manning under the Freedom of Information Act, has acknowledged in court records that the FBI is continuing to investigate the publication of national security information on WikiLeaks arising from Manning’s disclosures.
Separately, the FBI is also investigating Russian meddling through hacking in the U.S. presidential election. Hacked emails from top Democratic officials and Hillary Clinton campaign officials were posted on WikiLeaks in the final weeks of the presidential race.
In a statement Tuesday, a lawyer for Assange said Assange welcomed the Manning commutation and believed she never should have been prosecuted. The statement did not address whether Assange intended to come to the U.S.
“For many months, I have asked the DOJ to clarify Mr. Assange’s status. I hope it will soon,” Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, said in the statement. “The Department of Justice should not pursue any charges against Mr. Assange based on his publication of truthful information and should close its criminal investigation of him immediately.”