US President Donald Trump said that he didn’t know “much” about Julian Assange when reporters outside the White House asked him whether the whistle-blower should go free and the Justice Department should drop the case against him.
“I don’t know anything about him, really. I don’t know much about him. I really don’t,” Trump said.
President Trump is asked, “Should Julian Assange go free?”— Andrew Blake (@apblake) 20 November 2018
Trump: “I don’t know anything about him. Really. I don’t know much about him. I really don’t.” pic.twitter.com/3RT12rAaB9
The president’s comment came shortly after media reports suggested that the US Department of Justice was preparing to indict the WikiLeaks founder. The discovery was accidental: CNBC shed light on a filing by prosecutors working on a separate unrelated sex-crimes case that contains references to Assange.
The prosecutors reportedly wrote that the complaint “would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” and that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”
A spokesman for the US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia clarified in a statement to NBC News that the filing “was made in error,” and that it was “not the intended name for this filing.”
Donald Trump declared his “love” for WikiLeaks on multiple occasions while running for office, comparing the whistleblowing website to a “treasure trove.”
Julian Assange, whose website leaked thousands of classified documents related to US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid prosecution by Swedish authorities in a sex assault case.
Even though the case against him was dropped, the whistle-blower never leaves the diplomatic premises, where he has been granted asylum, over concern that he could be arrested by UK authorities and extradited to the United States, where he is wanted for leaking sensitive documents.
Last month, media speculated that Ecuador had imposed new rules on Assange, banning him from making political statements, restricting visits, communications and medical attention regulations.