Despite the flurry of reporting from the mainstream press suggesting that WikiLeaks and its publisher conspired with foreign actors to ‘interfere’ in the 2016 US presidential elections, unredacted pages of the Mueller Report revealed that officials never found sufficient evidence to even charge Julian Assange.
Unredacted portions of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election reveal that the former FBI director had “insufficient” evidence to bring charges against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for being part of any conspiracy, either with Donald Trump’s campaign or the Russian state.
This finding, which was only revealed on the eve of the US presidential election on 2 November 2020 (following a freedom of information lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy Information Center), went largely unreported; notwithstanding the fact that Assange’s reputation has suffered extensively following the repeated accusation that he ‘helped get Trump elected’.
Report into Alleged Russian Election Interference Couldn’t Find Evidence to Prove Conspiracy With WikiLeaks
Mueller’s office “did not develop sufficient admissible evidence that WikiLeaks knew of—or even was willfully blind to” any alleged hacking by foreign state actors, Russian or otherwise, according to the report.
The new material includes an explanation of Special Counsel Mueller’s decision not to charge Roger Stone, Julian Assange, or Wikileaks with “computer-intrusion conspiracy” offenses. pic.twitter.com/4hoE9e5TN5
— EPIC (@EPICprivacy) November 2, 2020
This decision was reached despite the incredibly expansive powers that the US government has to successfully convict people of participating in alleged conspiracies, regardless of whether they participated in the original formulation of an alleged conspiracy or even if they were ignorant of all of the players involved.
Mueller concludes his difficulties in establishing a prima facia case against Assange and WikiLeaks thusly:
“The absence of evidence as to knowledge, in short, would both hinder the government’s ability to prove conspiracy liability and also potentially provide a First Amendment defense. Therefore, the Office [of the Special Counsel] did not seek charges against WikiLeaks, Assange, or Stone for participating in the computer-intrusion conspiracy alleged in Count One of the Netyksho indictment [that was filed against 12 Russian GRU officers for alleged hacking offences]”.
Mueller also cites “constitutional issues” as providing a barrier to prosecuting WikiLeaks. The First Amendment to the US Constitution, “protects a party’s publication of illegally intercepted communications on a matter of public concern, even when the publishing parties knew or had reason to know of the intercepts’ unlawful origin”, Mueller explains.
“Assuming that no coordination with the [Trump] Campaign occurred, a criminal prosecution of overseas actors [such as WikiLeaks] providing non-express-advocacy information to American listeners would likely be difficult”, Mueller adds.
Assange and WikiLeaks have also consistently maintained that the DNC emails were not provided to it by any state actor ever since allegations that they came from Russia first emerged in 2016.
Claims of an Assange-Trump-Russia Conspiracy Persist
Yet, to date, allegations of an Assange-Trump-Russia conspiracy remain a narrative pushed by many. Many liberals, particularly in the US, who may have otherwise supported Assange have soured on the WikiLeaks publisher following nearly four years of a non-stop media barrage of unsubstantiated claims and innuendo directed towards him. The unsubstantiated conspiracy allegations appear to have successfully aided in garnering support for the US government’s prosecution of the award-winning journalist and opposition to a possible pardon being granted to him by President Trump. This, despite the fact that none of the charges against Assange have anything to do with the 2016 US general election.
As recently as 8 January 2021, Ryan Singel, a Fellow at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, criticised those who warned that Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s recent decision in Assange’s extradition case posed a direct threat to freedom of the press. “Jesus, y’all still not realized that Assange is a sociopath who worked with Russian hackers to elect Trump”, Singel, himself a former editor and journalist, wrote on Twitter.
It’s also claim that found its way across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom.
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) April 23, 2017
A deal offered by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (apparently on behalf of Trump) continues to be misreported as an offer for Assange to lie about Russian involvement in the DNC leaks, rather than for him to reveal the actual source of the leaks as his own lawyer Jen Robinson has testified.
Rep. Schiff, we also have Rohrabacher’s confirmation that he took a bribe to Julian Assange from Donald Trump that he’d receive a pardon if he scrubbed any email that referred to Russia’s interference in our election from Wiki. I don’t think we can wait for November for relief.
— Woodswoman (@MadamZolar) February 21, 2020
Evidence of Russian State Involvement in DNC Leaks is Greatly Lacking
Furthermore, although the Mueller Report also alleges that there is evidence that members of Russia’s military intelligence service (referred to as the GRU in the Mueller Report) were involved in a hack and theft of the Democratic National Committee emails, this claim was undermined by key testimony given to a 2017 US House of Representatives hearing into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Shawn Henry, the CEO of computer security firm Crowdstrike, explained that he did not have any actual evidence that emails were remotely hacked from the DNC servers.
Additionally, technologists such as former NSA whistleblower Bill Binney have challenged the notion that it would be possible to hack materials from the DNC without the NSA having evidence to substantiate it, given the fact that the spy agency vacuums up nearly all digital communications in and out of the US. Binney also says that experiments he has conducted with others establishes that the documents in question were downloaded locally and not hacked from a distance.
Mainstream Media Reporting on Mueller’s Findings Remains Underwhelming
These newly unredacted pages have yet to receive the same level of discussion or dissemination across the mainstream press. This is especially the case when compared to widespread and sustained repetition of alleged 2016 election ‘interference’ conspiracy by a supposed WikiLeaks/Trump/Russia nexus. Although no evidence has been presented to substantiate those claims, the shear scale of the repetition of said conspiracy has worked to both delegitimise the transparency organisation – which thus far has a perfect track record of publishing truthful information – and its publisher Assange.
The findings of the report may also explain why none of the current charges levied against Assange by the Department of Justice have anything to do with the alleged hack of the DNC servers in 2016, and are instead focused on his role in obtaining and publishing classified documents revealing war crimes and other criminality and malfeasance from 2009 to 2011.
Assange remains incarcerated at Belmarsh prison, despite the judge refusing to grant his extradition on health grounds and his “substantial” risk of suicide were he to be sent to the United States. Judge Baraitser ruled that because the US government is appealing her decision, she thinks that Assange remains a flight risk. The defence are believed to be preparing a possible appeal of her decision to refusal bail to the High Court.