by Taylor Hudak
With the 2020 United States presidential election quickly approaching, the American people had their first introduction to the democratic candidates the evenings of June 26 and June 27.
The candidates were divided into two groups, and on each night, ten of 20 democratic White House hopefuls graced the Knight Hall stage in Miami for the first round of debates.
The first question was posed to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, perhaps due to her rankings in the polls at the time. But interestingly, she was also offered the final word leaving many to speculate Sen. Warren is set to become the main stream media’s new Hillary Clinton.
But what happened during the two hours in between is more telling. Despite important issues including healthcare, Iran and the tax code being thoroughly addressed, First Amendment advocates were all but pleased when the moderators failed to address the state of the free press, free speech and moreover, the case of Julian Assange.
Julian’s supporters were discouraged that the candidates were not given the opportunity to provide their perspective on an issue they care about deeply. And for this reason, Action 4 Assange decided to research various quotes and statements made by the candidates about Assange, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks. We listed the candidates in alphabetic order by last name and included the links to where we retrieved this information. We strongly encourage you to visit the links to view the full material and decide for yourself what these candidates’ statements suggest about their stance on the first amendment and the Julian Assange case.
SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET
(2018) According to the World Socialist Web Site, Michael Bennet was one of 10 Democratic sens. who signed a letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence demanding that the Trump Administration call upon the Ecuadorian government to revoke Assange’s asylum and expel him from the embassy.
The letter may be found here.
The article can be found here.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
(2010) In an interview with ABC News (Australia), Biden was asked on Meet The Press if the United States should do something to stop Mr. Assange. Biden said:
“We’re looking at that right now. The Justice Department is taking a look at that and I’m not going to comment on that process.”
When asked if Assange is a criminal, Biden said:
“If he conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the US military, that’s fundamentally different than if somebody drops on your lap—here David, you’re a press person, here is classified material.”
When asked if this case is more like the pentagon papers or a high-tech terrorist, Biden said:
“I would argue that it’s closer to being a high-tech terrorist than the pentagon papers.”
The full video can be found here.
*Action for Assange notes that one’s status as a journalist does not provide him or her with additional free speech or publishing protections under the first amendment as Joe Biden suggests.
SENATOR COREY BOOKER
(2016) From Press for Truth—A Reporter asked Sen. Booker what he thought of the WikiLeaks revelations suggesting that the 2016 primary election was rigged in favor of then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Booker said:
“Well, the WikiLeaks are awful and it was unfortunate and I’m glad that the DNC chair (inaudible) stepped aside.”
Find the full video here.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG
(2019) In an interview with CBS radio, Mayor Buttigieg was asked about Chelsea Manning being imprisoned again for refusing to testify before a grand jury. Buttigieg said:
“As somebody who was tasked with handling sensitive information, information that could get people killed I took an oath and made promises that I would handle it responsibly. And when you’re involved in divulging classified information that can harm American troops overseas that is not something to be taken lightly.”
When asked about former President Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence, Buttigieg said:
“I’m troubled by that.”
The radio host goes on to ask Buttigieg, “Is Edward Snowden a hero or a villain to you?” Buttigieg said:
“When you are trusted with classified information you have made a promise, and if you are not comfortable safe-guarding information that could get Americans killed, then you shouldn’t be in that profession. I certainly agree that we have learned things about abuses and one way or another that needed to come out. But in my view, the way for that to come out is through congressional oversight not through a breach of classified information”
The full article and radio interview can be found here.
*Action 4 Assange notes that there is no evidence to suggest that anyone was harmed due to the material leaked by Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden or any of the information published on WikiLeaks website like Mayor Buttigieg suggested.
FORMER HUD SECRETARY JULIAN CASTRO
(Action 4 Assange was unable to find any statements by Castro on Julian Assange or WikiLeaks. If you do find any material, leave a comment with the source link and we may add the information)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO
(2016) From Politico
Concerning the release of the Podesta emails, Mayor de Blasio said:
“And I think it creates a very, very troubling dynamic where there is no privacy of any kind anymore”
Find the entire article here.
FORMER REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DELANEY
(April 11, 2019) According to a press release on candidate Delaney’s campaign website, the following is posted:
“Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States and tried for the charge that he allegedly assisted in hacking into government systems. Journalists are free to publish information that they receive but they are not free to participate in obtaining information illegally. This is the central question in the Assange case. The U.S. government has alleged that Assange assisted in hacking critical and confidential government information and in doing so, endangered the national security interests of the U.S. citizens and the identity of U.S. intelligence assets.”
This excerpt can be found on Delaney’s campaign website here.
REPRESENTATIVE TULSI GABBARD
(June 5, 2019) Rep. Gabbard posted a video on Twitter in support of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Gabbard said:
“Charging Assange under the espionage act will have a serious chilling effect on our most fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Every American, certainly every journalist, must strongly condemn this anti-Democratic act by the Trump Administration.”
Find the full video here.
(May 15, 2019) In an interview with Joe Rogan (posted on Newsweek’s website), Rogan asked Rep. Gabbard what she would do about Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.
Rep. Gabbard said she would drop the charges and pardon Snowden.
“There is not an actual channel for whistleblowers like them to bring forward information that exposes egregious abuses of our constitutional rights and liberties period.”
(Published on July 10, 2019) In an interview with journalist Dack Rouleau of overwritten.org, Rouleau asks Rep. Gabbard why it is important to defend Assange, Gabbard says:
“What we’re really defending is freedom of speech and freedom of the press… if we don’t stand up for those freedoms and in this case, the freedom of the press, when they are under attack and when they are at peril, then each of us whether as journalists or as everyday Americans, are also facing that threat of having our own personal freedom undermined because really what’s happening with Julian Assange, as well as Chelsea Manning, Snowden and others is the government taking a position that if you are pushing transparency, if you’re putting out information that the government deems will make them look bad or that they don’t like, then they will use the force of law to come after you and make an example of you. And try to prevent anyone else from doing the same. And whether you agree or disagree with what Julian Assange has done or if he’s a good guy or bad guy or whatever these are all irrelevant points because really what we’re talking about is freedom of the press and what’s happening to Julian Assange will very well happen to any other journalist, whether with new media or with main stream media or with any American for that matter who speaks up and speaks out on the truth, our government is showing that if you do that there will be consequences and that’s very dangerous.”
The Newsweek article including the Joe Rogan segment can be found here.
Rep. Gabbard’s full interview with Joe Rogan can be found here.
Rep. Gabbard’s full interview with Back Rouleau can be found here.
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND
(2010) According to Senator Gillibrand’s government website, she called on then-President Obama to crack down on “cyber-criminals” following a cyber-attack on MasterCard, Visa and PayPal.
Her full letter to Obama can be found here.
REPRESENTATIVE KAMALA HARRIS
(Action 4 Assange was unable to find any statements by Rep. Harris on Julian Assange or WikiLeaks. If you do find any material, leave a comment with the source link and we may add the information)
GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER
(2019) In an interview with Sirius XM’s Olivier Knox, Gov. John Hickenlooper said:
“Well the first amendment is one of the most sacred rights we have in the country. But that being said we have clear laws that are designed to protect the employees of our government when they’re working in foreign countries. Oftentimes they are in very dangerous situations that can be compromised easily if information is leaked.”
“But I think the country needs to see you know someone like Mr. Assange… let’s get the facts and see exactly what the decisions he made and what were the sacrifices, and what was he trying to get done? And what were the sacrifices made on that behalf?”
The video clip may be found here.
GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE
(Action 4 Assange was unable to find any statements by Gov. Inslee on Julian Assange or WikiLeaks. If you do find any material, leave a comment with the source link and we may add the information)
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR
(2010) In a radio interview with WCCO’s Chad Hartman, Sen. Klobuchar calls for a tough punishment on WikiLeaks following the release of the State Department Cables.
(out of respect for Chelsea Manning, Action 4 Assange chose to use the correct pronoun in reference to Manning)
In reference to the leak, Klobuchar said:
“I think it’s an enormous story and it’s more than a story it’s actually an enormous security risk.”
“It really undermines our efforts to work with other countries Secretary of State Clinton just went on noting that, and that it really tears at the fabric of our government when this kind of thing happens. And that’s what I’m concerned about, and that we have to make sure that the person who appears to be the original leaker here– this Private Manning who’s down the food chain here. First of all, why did she have access to all this information first of all I think that’s something we’re going to have to push but then obviously holding her responsible.”
(about Chelsea Manning) “A lot of people believe she could get a prison term for the rest of her life, and I think that would be appropriate.”
“The other piece of this is what responsibility, legal responsibility, WikiLeaks has with their website. If there’s any way we can push that to say that you can’t put illegally obtained documents up on your website, and I think that’s worth it.”
“If we can show that the material on there was stolen that website can actually be taken down. What you do with something like WikiLeaks which has vast amount of material that’s legal and then they put on things that are illegal I mean that’s where were going to have to strike the balance and make sure that security isn’t jeopardized but this is devastating to our national security.”
The full article and radio interview can be found here.
FORMER CONGRESSMAN BETO O’ROURKE
(May 30, 2019) Interview with a reporter from Citizen Source found on Medium.
A reporter asked former Rep. O’Rourke about Julian Assange. O’Rourke said:
“I want to make sure that we don’t do anything that chills the ability to hold people in positions of public trust accountable to make sure that the public and the press have the facts to make informed decisions. Those are my values without commenting on a specific case.”
The full video and article can be found here.
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS
(2019) According to an article from The Intercept, Sen. Sanders said in a tweet (about the indictments against Assange):
“Let me be clear: it is a disturbing attack on the First Amendment for the Trump administration to decide who is or is not a reporter for the purposes of a criminal prosecution”
The full article may be found here.
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL
(2019) According to a CNN video posted on Breitbart to accompany an article, Rep. Swalwell said to a CNN anchor:
“It will be heartening to see Mr. Assange be brought to justice, and I also want to respect the role of journalists and distinguish him from a journalist. He works with state actors to obtain our country and other countries intelligence information and interfere in elections. So I have no sympathy for Mr. Assange with respect to what he did.”
(about President Trump) Rep. Swalwell said:
“He (Trump) doesn’t commend the British for working with us to extradite Mr. Assange.”
The interview and article can be found here.
*Action 4 Assange notes that during the interview Rep. Swalwell mentioned that the people want to know if Mr. Assange met with Paul Manafort, however this is proven false. The Guardian’s Luke Harding published a fake story that Assange met with Manafort—this never happened. Secondly, note that one’s status as a journalist does not determine his or her level of free speech and/or publishing protections under the first amendment like Rep. Swalwell suggested. (Additionally, it is not up to the United States government to determine who is and is not a journalist.)
Rep. Swalwell dropped out of the race.
CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN
(Action 4 Assange was unable to find any statements by Rep. Ryan on Julian Assange or WikiLeaks. If you do find any material, leave a comment with the source link, and we may add the information)
SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN
(2019) According to an article from The Washington Times, Sen. Warren said:
“Assange is a bad actor who has harmed U.S. national security—and he should be held accountable”
“But Trump should not be using this case as a pretext to wage war on the First Amendment and go after the free press who hold the powerful accountable everyday.”
The full article can be found here.
(2019) In an interview with Jimmy Dore on The Jimmy Dore Show, he asks Williamson her stance on Assange, she said:
“I go back and forth. I have a lot of ambivalence on the Julian Assange issue. Early on I saw him as any whistleblower and that he’s very important and the role he was playing and the function he was serving and I was very much aware of the fact that the system suppresses the whistleblower.”
“In this last election it’s not as clear to me. Like who are you working for Julian? You’re just going down on that campaign and not the other campaign so I don’t know I see both sides (inaudible).”
“The Julian Assange thing for many of us is a little not as black and white as you see it to be.”
Jimmy Dore then asked her:
“Well the Obama Administration’s Justice Department declined to prosecute him and The Washington Post editorial just a few years ago said the same thing—so what would you say the difference between Julian Assange publishing war crimes by the United States released by Chelsea Manning and the difference between Daniel Ellsberg and The Washington Post printing the pentagon papers—they’re both publishers, correct?”
“I didn’t think there was any difference until this last thing happened with the election. Now that you’re saying that about the election and that’s where I’m still in process. Before this election, I saw no difference. Until this election and what happened with the election with Hillary Clinton I saw it exactly the same as Daniel Ellsberg.”
The full video and interview can be found here.
(Aug. 25, 2019) During a campaign event in New Market, NH, journalist Dack Rouleau asks Williamson to clarify her position on Julian Assange. Williamson says,
“I’m tilting in the direction of if you’re going to stand for whistleblowers, you stand for whistleblowers. And I have to within myself, I have to discern, where is it Marianne that you just don’t like his personality, you know, because his personality is not an issue here. So there is a dangerous shutting down, and this was even true during the Obama Administration, there’s a dangerous shutting down of the whistleblowers. I realize that. And he’s a whistleblower.”
The full video footage can be found here.
*Action 4 Assange notes that the main stream media, most notably CNN, MSNBC, The Guardian and The NY Times, are responsible for disseminating false information regarding Assange’s personality in an attempt to discredit him and destroy his character. Furthermore, Christine Assange, mother of Julian Assange, posted on Twitter that it is not common for people to obsess over editor’s personalities like this– Action 4 Assange agrees.
(2019) In a video Action 4 Assange found on YouTube published by user Dack Rouleau, Yang was asked what he thought about Julian Assange. Yang said:
“I think Julian Assange should stand trial. I’m generally pro-whistleblower and like pro-people trying to call out bad behaviors. But in that particular case he did disclose information that had really no useful purpose except for potential damage to our infrastructure (inaudible). So ya I think he should stand trial.”
The video can be found here.
*Action 4 Assange notes that there is no evidence to support Yang’s claim that WikiLeaks’ publications have or may have damaged infrastructure.