- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2018

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange received praise Wednesday from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, during an interview in which the congressman recalled their meeting last summer inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

“He’s a very honorable man,” Mr. Rohrabacher, 70, told CNN.

“Deep staters believe that he’s a bad guy and an evil person,” the congressman continued. “I don’t.”

Mr. Assange, 46, was granted asylum from Ecuador in 2012 in lieu of being extradited abroad and potentially charged by U.S. prosecutors in connection with publishing classified documents released through his WikiLeaks website. Mr. Assange risks being arrested if he leaves the Ecuadorean Embassy, however, and has remained on the property ever since.

Mr. Rohrabacher visited Mr. Assange at the embassy last August, in turn becoming the first known lawmaker to meet with the WikiLeaks publisher since he entered the building over five years earlier.

The congressman conceded that WikiLeaks has repeatedly published information “damaging to our national security,” CNN reported Wednesday, but he insisted that Mr. Assange’s impact has been beneficial overall.

“I think he’s had a good positive influence on our country and the world by making information available that was not available,” Mr. Rohrabacher told CNN.

The congressman’s opinion of Mr. Assange differs drastically from others in Washington, D.C., where the WikiLeaks publisher has repeatedly come under fire in the years since the website began publishing classified U.S. State and Defense Department documents in 2010.

While President Trump praised WikiLeaks on the campaign trail for releasing documents in 2016 damaging to his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, his administration has sung a different tune since Mr. Trump took office last January, however. Mike Pompeo, Mr. Trump’s former CIA director-turned-secretary of state, has repeatedly labeled WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, said last year that arresting Mr. Assange remains a “priority” for his Justice Department.

Mr. Rohrabacher’s admiration for Mr. Assange nonetheless echoed remarks made earlier this month by another Republican, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“I appreciate that he’s all about freedom,” Mrs. Palin said recently about the WikiLeaks chief. “He wants people to have information, and that’s power. We need that.”

Mr. Assange did not immediately comment on the CNN report. His access to the internet and reporters was severed more than a month ago in response to his social media activity, according to Ecuador.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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