It is not yet clear whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will follow through on his promise to accept extradition to the U.S. once whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence is commuted, though he did take to Twitter to express his support for her.
“Your courage & determination made the impossible possible,” Assange tweeted, after thanking “everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency.”
Manning was granted clemency by the Obama administration on Tuesday, along with 208 other prisoners. She will be freed on May 17, as opposed to the year 2045 – the original sentence doled out under the Espionage Act. Five days before that, however, WikiLeaks had tweeted that Assange would turn himself in if Manning’s sentence was commuted.
The United States has been investigating WikiLeaks since 2016. Assange himself has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 and is fighting extradition to Sweden over what he says are trumped-up rape charges.
Assange has claimed in the past that the Swedish extradition efforts are a ploy to then have him transferred to the U.S., where he faces possible espionage charges.
In his Twitter statement, Assange urged the U.S. government to “immediately end” its war on “whistleblowers and publishers, such as WikiLeaks and myself,” but made no reference to his promise.
Though his lawyer, Melinda Taylor, later confirmed that “everything he has said he’s standing by,” she clarified that U.S.authorities had not yet confirmed or denied whether they had sent an extradition request yet. The U.K. also refuses to affirm or deny it.
This is “not the same thing as there being no extradition request,” Taylor explained.
The Obama administration has worked tirelessly to demonize Assange and WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing publication he began and used to publish thousands of classified state documents Manning handed over.
On Tuesday, John Kirby, U.S State Department spokesman, admitted that Washington considered WikiLeaks a “problem.”
“You can safely assume that on many levels here at the State Department, and I would venture to say across the interagency, there are constant ongoing discussions about...the harm that continues to come from the information that this organization gets and then publishes,” he said, RT reported.
For his part, President-elect Donald Trump, who assumes the presidency on Jan. 20, has expressed skepticism of Russia’s alleged collusion with WikiLeaks to spy on and discredit Hillary Clinton during the recent presidential campaign. Those comments have angered Washington, which has urged Trump to clearly choose sides.
That’s because the current administration remains adamant that the “Russian apparatus sought to call into question legitimacy and stability of our democracy,” as Josh Earnest, White House spokesman said Tuesday, according to RT.
“On the other side, you’ve got WikiLeaks and the Russians. And the incoming administration is going to have to decide which side they are going to come down on.”