The Trump administration has laid the groundwork for clearing the biggest obstacle keeping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (shown) from leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Assange has been in exile there since August 2012 and has feared leaving, since the U.S. government has considered him a criminal suspect for his role in publishing classified documents detailing sometimes criminal actions by U.S. federal departments and agents.
In a tweet last week, WikiLeaks pointed out that the U.S. government has “decided to close its eight year long grand jury proceedings against @WikiLeaks (expanded in 2017 to cover our series on the CIA).” The WikiLeaks tweet was a reference to a statement made by State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert during a press conference on January 2. Speaking about Iran, Nauert said, “We support a freedom of the press. When a nation clamps down on social media, we ask the question, ‘What are you afraid of?’ What are you afraid of? We support the people of Iran, and we support their voices being heard.”
After the press conference, the official Department of State Twitter account tweeted Nauert’s quote. WkiLeaks retweeted it and drew the inference that the message — while directed at the government of Iran — was applicable to a shift in the policy of the United States as a result of the election of Donald Trump and that that shift was the reason why the eight-year-long grand jury proceedings have been closed.
Even more promising to Assange’s plight is the fact that President Trump’s lawyers have filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia arguing that Assange’s publication of the DNC and John Podesta e-mails was protected by the First Amendment even if the e-mails were stolen.
While that motion is specifically geared toward Assange’s publication of the DNC and Podesta e-mails, it recognizes WikiLeaks as a valid media organization protected by the First Amendment. WikiLeaks has not always been seen in that light by the powers-that-be in the U.S. government.