With Monday’s Electoral College vote seemingly sealing Donald Trump’s fate as a one-term president, it has become all but certain that Democrat Joe Biden will be inaugurated as President of the United States come Jan. 20. However, President Trump appears to be in no mood to settle for lame-duck status in the waning days of his administration, and instead may rock the boat in more than one surprising way.
Among the actions Trump is rumored to be considering is the possibility that he will officially pardon Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is accused of obtaining and publishing secret diplomatic and military documents.
In recent days, social media has been rife with speculation over a possible presidential pardon for Assange, who is currently being incarcerated at the maximum-security HM Prison Belmarsh in London. The journalist is apparently suffering in “atrocious” conditions and is being held in solitary confinement after a coronavirus outbreak in the prison, according to his partner Stella Morris.
“He’s in atrocious circumstances,” Morris told Sky News earlier this week.
“The prison is a dangerous place, suicides and murders are commonplace, he is surrounded by very serious criminals, one in five are convicted of murder,” she added, noting that there has also been an outbreak of the deadly disease in Julian’s wing.
On January 4, a judge will rule on whether to extradite the controversial whistleblower to the United States.
Talk about whether Trump would pardon Assange spiked on Monday after Pastor Mark Burns, who is believed to have had access to Trump in the past, tweeted that Trump would pardon the WikiLeaks founder. However, the televangelist later tweeted that the claim was “inadvertent” and based on a “faulty source,” adding: “please disregard!”
The Trump administration hasn’t yet offered any comments about any possible Assange pardon, although his supporters have eagerly speculated that he might pardon both the WikiLeaks founder and former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is now living in Russia.
Earlier this month, Snowden tweeted an appeal to the outgoing president, writing: “Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency during your time in office, please: free Julian Assange. You alone can save his life.”
The United States formally charged Assange for conspiring to leak classified materials a month following his arrest by British authorities in 2019, when Ecuadorean officials withdrew the asylum status that allowed him to find shelter for nearly seven years at the South American country’s London embassy.
Assange faces an 18-count indictment from Washington, which accuses him of violating the Espionage Act and seeking to recruit high-profile hacker groups including LulzSec and “Anonymous” to carry out hacks on his behalf while stealing sensitive files that would later be published on WikiLeaks.
Assange faces a prison term of 175 years in the United States if he is found guilty of publishing the secret intelligence and military documents. Some analysts even fear that he could face the death penalty or commit suicide if he is extradited to the U.S.
President-elect Biden has also called Assange a “high-tech terrorist.”
In November, Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii requested that Trump pardon both Assange and Snowden.
Australian MP George Christensen has also requested that the president pardon Assange, noting that his fellow Australian compatriot should be freed so that Trump can “poke the deep state in the eye” and “stand up for free speech.”
“I mean Hillary Clinton hates his guts, obviously, for exposing who the real Hillary was, and you’ve had a war on Assange by the Democrats and the deep state,” Christensen added.
Assange’s defenders claim that he is simply being sought due to his role in the release of scandalous information implicating Washington in a range of horrible crimes, including major war crimes and violations of international law.
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