Vice President Mike Pence discussed the situation surrounding WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange during a meeting Thursday with Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno in Quito, a White House official said afterwards — heeding calls from Democrats wary of Mr. Assange staying shielded more than six years since seeking refuge inside Ecuador’s London embassy.
“The vice president raised the issue of Mr. Assange. It was a constructive conversation. They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward,” a White House official said in a statement issued following Thursday’s meeting with Mr. Moreno, The Washington Examiner first reported.
Ten senators, all Democrats, wrote Mr. Pence a day earlier urging him to press Mr. Moreno about the WikiLeaks publisher during his trip abroad Thursday.
Led by Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the letter to Mr. Pence said it was “imperative that you raise U.S. concerns with President Moreno about Ecuador’s continued support for Mr. Assange at a time when WikiLeaks continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes globally.”
Representatives for neither Mr. Menendez nor Mr. Assange immediately returned messages seeking comment on the meeting.
Ecuador’s foreign minister, Jose Valencia, said Friday that the situation involving Mr. Assange’s refugee status does not involve the United States, AFP reported.
“Ecuador and the United Kingdom, and of course Mr. Assange as a person who is currently staying, on asylum, at our embassy” will decide the next steps, said Mr. Valencia. “It does not enter, therefore, on an agenda with the United States.”
Mr. Assange, 46, entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in June 2012 amid fears of being extradited to the U.S. and prosecuted for publishing classified documents through WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website he helped launch six years earlier. He was subsequently granted asylum by Mr. Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa, but has refrained from exiting the embassy in light of an outstanding arrest warrant issued by British authorities after he entered.
The Department of Justice began investigating WikiLeaks in 2010 following its publication of classified military and diplomatic documents, and the website has hardly refrained from leaking secrets in the years since. WikiLeaks notably published internal Democratic Party emails and stolen CIA documents in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Mr. Assange has not publicly been charged by U.S. prosecutors.