WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is considering appearing before the US Senate intelligence committee to discuss allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, reports The Week.
The news comes after WikiLeaks posted an image of a formal request letter signed by the committee’s chairman, North Carolina Senator, Richard Burr,
In response, Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said “the inquiry has asked for him to appear in person at a mutually agreeable time and place. We are seriously considering the offer but must ensure Mr Assange’s protection is guaranteed.”
The intelligence panel won’t verify whether the request is real, “but if it is, and Assange officially agrees to be interviewed about possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, it would be a big deal” says Vox.
Business Insider UK says Assange and WikiLeaks “played a key role in the interference of the 2016 campaign by nefarious Russian actors”.
WikiLeaks disseminated hacked emails from top Clinton campaign adviser John Podesta, as well as hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.
These were later revealed to have come from an online personae calling itself Guccifer2.0, a fictitious entity created by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.
The release of the emails “also seemed strategically timed” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias has noted: “The DNC emails disrupted efforts to create a show of unity between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the beginning of the Democratic National Convention, while the Podesta emails were released right after the infamous Access Hollywood tape.”
Nor was that the sum total of WikiLeaks’ involvement in the 2016 election.
Longtime Trump political fixer Roger Stone claimed to have been in touch with WikiLeaks in the summer of 2016, while according to The Atlantic, Assange also exchanged secret correspondence with Donald Trump Jr.
Assange, who’s wanted on charges of rape and has avoided extradition by hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, has always denied his organization worked with Russia.
In January 2017 he told Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “Our source is not the Russian government”.
Despite this, WikiLeaks was apparently cited, though not by name, in last month’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, who were accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
CNN says “the indictment suggested Assange and WikiLeaks were a conduit for Russian intelligence in distributing hacked Democratic Party emails in 2016”.
This should come as no surprise, says Vox, given “WikiLeaks’ ties to Russia have long been known, even before the last presidential race”.
According to a lengthy New Yorker profile, “WikiLeaks internally understood the damage that contemporaneous suspicion that Guccifer2.0 was Russian intelligence could pose to its reputation, and debated responses”.
All this raises the question of what Assange could reveal if he did choose to give evidence, but “his presence in the embassy means that the Senate’s requested interview is packed with geopolitical and legal complications—like much about WikiLeaks circa 2018”, says the Daily Beast.