Few issues have been able to draw such a broad coalition of support as the political persecution of Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange.
Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson is the latest in a long line of public figures pushing for a last-minute pardon for Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange. In a TV interview with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on “Good Morning Britain” earlier today, the Canadian-American actress claimed that she was in the president’s ear, and that, “It would be a perfect way” for Trump to go out. “I hope he makes that decision because I think that will add a positive to his legacy,” she added, appealing directly to the president’s emotions.
“He’s not a [threat], he’s a very mild mannered, funny sweet man with two children,” she said of Assange. It is unclear how much leverage Anderson has with the mercurial president, although she did attend his birthday party at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City some years ago.
One man who certainly does have Trump’s ear is Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. Last week, he invited political comedian Jimmy Dore to make his pitch to the president (who is said to be an avid viewer of Carlson’s show). Discussing Trump’s recent social media ban, Dore pleaded,
This would be a great way for Donald Trump to stick the thumb back in the eye of these people, is to pardon Julian Assange. If he knows what’s good for freedom of speech and freedom of the press, he should pardon Julian Assange.”
“I totally agree,” Carlson responded, “partly because you convinced me through the force of your argument.”
Far from being celebrated, Dore was condemned by other progressive figures for legitimizing Carlson. “Tucker isn’t a dummy. He knows that investing in a ‘leftist’ who is driving a wedge in the left is good for his far-right agenda. It also helps when all that ‘leftist’ does is attack Democrats and ignore fascism. Perfect guest for his ends!” remarked Emma Vigeland, co-host of The Majority Report. Author and journalist Noah Berlatsky agreed, describing what he saw as a “red brown crossover,” and suggesting that Dore was helping recruit new audiences for Carlson.
A number of Nobel laureates, including Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire and Guatemalan human rights campaigner Rigoberta Menchú, have urged Trump to “put a defining stamp” on his political career by pardoning the Australian publisher. They have been joined by musicians such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. “Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency during your time in office, please: free Julian Assange. You alone can save his life,” the latter tweeted.
Trump has already pardoned more than 100 people in the last weeks. However, many of them were war criminals rather than free speech advocates. Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald suggested that the chances of a pardon for Snowden or Assange in his final 48 hours in office were “definitely less than 50% but substantially greater than zero,” beseeching anyone with power or influence to push the movement forward: “now is the time to do everything possible to use it for good,” he wrote.
Assange might simply be able to buy his pardon if he is rich enough. Former CIA officer and whistleblower John Kiriakou alleges that an associate of Rudi Guliani recently told him that he could secure a pardon for a $2 million bribe. Kiriakou rejected the offer.
Assange is currently still incarcerated in Belmarsh Prison in London, despite a British court earlier this month throwing out the case against him. He faces up to 175 years in a U.S. prison if the prosecution’s appeal is successful. He has been either imprisoned or confined to a small apartment in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost eight years. Perhaps the most explosive of Wikileaks’ revelations was the “Collateral Murder” murder video, which showed images of an American attack helicopter attack on central Baghdad from July 2007. The video shows American personnel massacring at least a dozen Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in cold blood.
In 2016, Wikileaks also published the Podesta emails; communications between many of Hillary Clinton’s top aides. The emails revealed corruption within the highest echelons of the Democratic Party and many have alleged their publication helped tipped the balance in favor of a Trump victory. While it was publishing damaging information about his opponent, Trump was elated with the organization. “I love Wikileaks,” he often said on the campaign trail. However, once he was ensconced in the White House, the 74-year-old became incredibly forgetful. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing,” he told a reporter in 2019 when asked for his opinion on the Assange case. Anderson is among the many trying to jog his memory at the last moment.
Feature photo | Julian Assange gives the thumbs up as he is whisked away in a police van en route to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Henry Nicholls | Reuters
Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.