Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race is probably bad news for Edward Snowden if he was hoping for a chance to leave Russia for a warmer climate or a more open political environment. Trump, in his typically over-the-top blustery manner has more than once called the man who exposed the NSA’s massive program for monitoring the electronic communications of Americans and even of the leaders of our purported foreign allies, a “spy” who should be “executed.”
But his election should be good news for Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks. It was the Wikileaks disclosure of hacked copies of Hilllary Clinton’s secret speeches to the country’s big banks, and of the emails to and from Clinton campaign chair John Pedesta, describing among other things her campaign’s, and the Democratic National Committee’s sabotage of Bernie Sanders’ insurgent primary campaign, which almost certainly handed the presidency to Trump. (In one leaked email, Hillary Clinton asks if Assange could be “droned.”)
Snowden is fine and safe living in asylum in Russia, but Assange has for four years been trapped in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, which is really just a large apartment in a ritzy section of the city. There London Metropolitan Police stand guard round the clock ready to grab him if he tries to leave. Assange is being sought by an Ahab-like right-wing Swedish prosecutor with links to US intelligence for questioning about a trumped up pair of dodgy “rape” complaints long since debunked and withdrawn by two Swedish women, but because of the continued extradition demand from Sweden and a British arrest warrant issued on orders of a complicit right-wing British government, he is trapped. His understandable fear is that, with a sealed warrant for his arrest on espionage charges which is being held at the ready by the US Justice Department, the whole Swedish case is really about getting him delivered to Sweden, from which country he could be extradited to the US. (Assange has offered to voluntarily go to Sweden to be questioned by prosecutors if the Swedish government would promise not to extradite him to the US, but the Swedish government has refused such a guarantee, making the whole scheme apparent.)
Clearly, what Trump should do is announce that he intends to have his Justice Department drop all charges against Assange and Wikileaks.
Trump claims he wants, in his first 100 days as president, to “clean out the swamp” in Washington, DC. If he’s serious about that Herculean, and immensely popular task, he should reverse the Obama policy of, for the past eight years, vigorously prosecuting and jailing government whistleblowers. President Obama’s administration has been the most secretive and the most aggressive prosecutor of whistleblowing of any administration in history, and that Nixonian obsession with secrecy has been one of the primary reasons for the endemic corruption in the nation’s capital.
But even if Trump is not serious about rooting out government and political corruption, he still owes it to Assange to stop the US government’s hounding of him publishing leaked government documents, given how his own campaign benefited from some of those very leaks.
If the new president-elect really does want to be the “president of all Americans,” and wants to try and win over the majority of US citizens who polls show don’t trust him and didn’t vote for him (Trump, like G. W. Bush, lost the popular vote, remember), a good place to start would be to end the hounding of Julian Assange.