‘I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mr. Assange’s tweets,’ President Obama said during his final press conference.
Is Julian Assange coming to the US? Probably not.
“I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mr. Assange’s tweets, so that wasn’t a consideration” in deciding to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, President Obama said today during his final press conference in office.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual misconduct charges. In January, WikiLeaks—the site he founded—tweeted that “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.”
On Tuesday, President Obama did just that, commuting Manning’s sentence to time served. She will be released in May after serving seven years in a military prison. She was sentenced to 35 years in 2013 for stealing documents from a classified Defense Department network and submitting them to WikiLeaks, which published the information.
Today, Obama defended the decision, arguing that Manning served her time.
“The notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished… I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served,” the president said. “It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made sense to commute and not pardon her sentence.
“I feel very comfortable that justice has been served,” Obama added.
As for Assange, it does not look like the president will use his remaining time in office to get on the line with the exiled WikiLeaks founder. “I refer you to the Department of Justice” on that issue, he said today.
The DOJ has been investigating WikiLeaks over Iraq War data dumps.
For his part, Assange no longer appears ready to jump on a plane to the US:
Assange is still happy to come to the US provided all his rights are guarenteed despite White House now saying Manning was not quid-quo-pro.
— WikiLeaks (@WikiLeaks) January 18, 2017
Assange’s lawyer tells The Telegraph that Assange wanted the president to grant Manning clemency and release her immediately rather than commuting the sentence and releasing her in May.
As The Telegraph notes, the US has not requested extradition, but Assange believes it could happen if he makes his way to Sweden.