This week we learned, thanks to an errant court filing that may not have been intentional in nature, that the United States federal government has already criminally charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Whether Robert Mueller ends up succeeding in extraditing Assange or not, the big question floating around has been why Assange was indicted and charged before Mueller’s upcoming big Trump-Russia moves. There’s a highly plausible legal reason for this.
Earlier this year we saw Mueller and his prosecutorial allies indict several Russian nationals, and even a few Russian entities, for their role in trying to alter the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. These are people who will never be extradited or put on trial, so why bother? On one level it was a warning shot about meddling in the 2018 elections. But it also served another purpose. By charging the Russian hackers with certain felonies, it laid the legal groundwork for indicting certain Americans for conspiracy to commit those same crimes. In other words, if any given Trump campaign adviser (or, ahem, Trump family member) knew that the Russians were hacking the election while they were doing it, those individuals can be charged accordingly.
This brings us back to Julian Assange. He’s been accused – along with a whole lot of other things – of having taken stolen Democratic Party emails from Russian hackers and feeding them to members of the Trump campaign, and then releasing them publicly. We don’t know what charges Assange has been hit with. But let’s say, hypothetically, that it’s espionage. This would allow Mueller to then indict anyone in league with him – including Trump advisers – for conspiracy to commit espionage.
Again, we don’t know what Julian Assange has been charged with, only that he’s already been charged. But it’s a safe bet that the Feds have done this at least partly to lay the groundwork for indicting Donald Trump’s people with conspiracy to commit those same crimes. The Feds may have also gotten the Assange ball rolling early in order to begin working on the extradition process before everything hits the fan this month.
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