Six leading Democrats signed a letter released Wednesday seeking details on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent meeting with Ecuador’s foreign minister with respect to the situation surrounding WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
“We write to request that the State Department immediately brief Congress on your November 26 meeting with Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter dated Tuesday. “While the State Department has been unwilling to confirm the details publicly, we remain deeply interested in knowing whether you discussed the future of Julian Assange’s presence in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in your meeting with Foreign Minister Valencia.”
“While we understand that Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno inherited from his predecessor the challenges posed by Julian Assange’s presence at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, it is imperative that this situation be resolved swiftly. We trust that you will remain in close contact with Foreign Minister Valencia on this matter,” they added
The letter was signed by the Senate minority leader, Charles E. Schumer of New York; Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip; Sen. Robert Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Rep. Eliot L. Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
The State Department has received the letter and will respond appropriately, a spokesperson told The Washington Times.
WikiLeaks did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Sent on the heels of a contentious and uncorroborated article published by The Guardian newspaper last month, the letter also asked Mr. Pompeo whether his Ecuadorian counterpart confirmed that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former election campaign chairman, visited Mr. Assange as reported.
“We need to know when Julian Assange’s hiding at the Ecuadorian embassy will finally end and who he might have met with while there,” Mr. Durbin said on Twitter. “The American people deserve answers to interference in the 2016 election, including the Trump Administration’s efforts to hold those responsible accountable, such as WikiLeaks.”
WikiLeaks and Mr. Manafort have both denied allegations contained in The Guardian’s article and have threatened to sue the newspaper for libel.
A 47-year-old Australian native, Mr. Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 and was granted asylum within weeks by Mr. Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa. British authorities have vowed to arrest him upon exiting, however, and the risk of being subsequently extradited to the U.S. and prosecuted for his role in releasing classified documents has discouraged him from leaving during the last 6.5 years — an “inherited problem” that has caused “more than a nuisance” for Quito, Ecuador’s current president said previously.
British authorities have promised not to extradite Mr. Assange to any country where he would face the death penalty, Mr. Moreno said last week, but lawyers for the WikiLeaks publisher WikiLeaks have asked that the possibility of being sent to the U.S. is eliminated entirely.
The Department of Justice has investigated WikiLeaks since at least 2010 when the website began publishing classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents, though attorneys for the government argued in federal court as recently as Tuesday against disclosing whether Mr. Assange is the target of a criminal probe.
Prosecutors have set their sights on his alleged sources, however. In 2018, the Justice Department has filed criminals charges against a dozen Russian nationals and a former CIA coder accused of supplying WikiLeaks with stolen Democratic documents and classified hacking tools, respectively.