- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2019

President Trump declined to comment on his administration’s prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange when asked Friday by a reporter from Mr. Assange’s native Australia.

Mr. Trump was pressed about the federal government’s criminal case against Mr. Assange while meeting at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“You praised WikiLeaks continuously during the election campaign. Is it right the United States is prosecuting its Australian founder, Julian Assange?” asked Brett Mason, a correspondent for Australia’s SBS News.

“Well, you know, that’s a question I haven’t heard in a long time. I’ll leave that to you to determine,” Mr. Trump replied.

Mr. Trump referenced WikiLeaks more than 100 times while campaigning for the White House in 2016, regularly lauding the website for publishing stolen material damaging to his opponent in the race, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Assange was anything but rewarded by the Trump administration after Mr. Trump took office, however. He was arrested in London at the request of U.S. authorities in April and subsequently charged by the Department of Justice with 18 criminal counts related to WikiLeaks publishing other sensitive material several years earlier.

He remains jailed pending the results of an extradition hearing set to start in February 2020, and he faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life imprisoned if sent to the U.S. and convicted.

“I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing,” Mr. Trump said shortly following Mr. Assange’s arrest. “I’ve been seeing what’s happened with Assange and that will be a determination, I would imagine, mostly by the attorney general, who’s doing an excellent job. So, he’ll be making a determination. I know nothing really about him.”

WikiLeaks had no immediate comment to the president’s latest remarks.

Mr. Assange, 48, was born in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. He sought asylum inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 and lived there for roughly seven years prior to being punted in April and promptly arrested.

Jennifer Robinson, Mr. Assange’s longtime attorney, previously urged both Mr. Morrison and his foreign minister, Marise Payne, to raise concerns about the prosecution during a meeting with a visiting U.S. delegation last month.

Mr. Morrison did not mention Mr. Assange while taking questions from reporters, and his office did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

The Justice Department has charged Mr. Assange in connection with soliciting and publishing classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents. He has argued he acted as a journalist and is fighting extradition.

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