Julian Assange’s lengthy stay at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London came to an end on Thursday morning, as British police entered the building and placed him under arrest. Assange initially sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid criminal charges in Sweden. While there, he continued to run the organization he founded, WikiLeaks, including its involvement in the 2016 election.
It’s not yet clear precisely what happens next, though he will apparently face extradition to the United States. He’s been on the radar of American authorities for years, since publishing a series of documents related to the war in Afghanistan and a cache of diplomatic cables in 2010. The Obama administration explored indicting Assange several years ago but didn’t do so.
Late last year, an unsealed court filing that included Assange’s name inadvertently revealed that he had been indicted. That indictment was made public on Thursday and focuses on Assange’s alleged role in helping Chelsea Manning access some of the material released in 2010.
It’s possible, though, that Assange could face further charges — including charges relating to the 2016 campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the election results.
WikiLeaks published material stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, in July and October of 2016. That material is believed to have been stolen by hackers working for Russia’s intelligence service, thrusting WikiLeaks into the center of the discussion about the interference effort and the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into possible coordination between Russia and President Trump’s presidential campaign.
We know that Mueller’s investigation didn’t “establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government,” per a letter released by Attorney General William P. Barr last month. We don’t know, though, what Mueller found about WikiLeaks and its interactions with the campaign. So it’s worth walking through what we know about WikiLeaks’s efforts, what we believe to be the case — and what we still don’t know.
We know that WikiLeaks published the stolen material in two sets. The first, documents from the DNC, was published in late July, shortly before the Democratic convention began in Philadelphia. The second, the Podesta emails, was published over the course of October. That dump began on Oct. 7 — shortly after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape.
We believe from Mueller’s indictments and contemporaneous reporting that the material was stolen by Russian hackers, who began releasing information in June 2016 through a website called DCLeaks and through a persona called “Guccifer 2.0.”
We believe from Mueller’s indictment that WikiLeaks reached out to Guccifer on June 22 and offered to host any future material.
We believe from Mueller’s indictment that the Russian hackers sent WikiLeaks a file containing stolen material in mid-July.
We don’t know if that transfer included both the material stolen from the DNC and from Podesta. If it was only the former, there would necessarily have been another point of contact later in the campaign.
We know that Assange bragged in a TV interview about having possession of information incriminating Clinton in mid-June, before the stolen DNC material was released publicly. His description of that material, though, included information that was made public in January.
We know that Trump’s associate Roger Stone told associates at some point in the spring of 2016 that he’d been in contact with Assange and had learned that Assange had emails that would be problematic for Clinton and Podesta.
We know that Podesta’s email account had already been accessed by late March.
We don’t know if Stone ever had any direct connection to Assange. In July, he reached out to conservative writer Jerome Corsi to make contact with WikiLeaks and Assange and, in August, sought to contact the group through radio host Randy Credico, who’d interviewed Assange. Both Corsi and Credico indicated to Stone that they’d had communication with Assange or the group.
We believe that Stone’s claim that he had dinner with Assange that year was likely a joke, as Stone has claimed. The logistics of such a thing, given Assange’s residence at the embassy, would make it very tricky.
We know that internal WikiLeaks messages from August 2016 published after the election by The Intercept include denials that Stone had been in contact with the group — a denial also made publicly.
We know that Stone and WikiLeaks exchanged messages over Twitter in October which suggest that there had not been any contact between the two before.
We believe from Mueller’s indictment of Stone that Stone was tasked by a senior campaign official — who was working at the behest of someone else — to find out what other information WikiLeaks might have after the releases began on July 22, 2016. Stone reaches out to Corsi for more information.
We don’t know if Stone told Trump about that document release prior to it happening. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified before Congress that Stone gave Trump a heads-up on an imminent release on July 18 or 19.
We know that the effects of the DNC document releases were significant. They muddied the first few days of the Democratic convention and spurred the resignation of then-DNC Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
We know that Stone later predicted more WikiLeaks releases. Those increased as October approached, with Credico suggesting that a dump was imminent. In August, Stone had claimed that “it will soon the [sic] Podesta’s time in the barrel,” which was later used to suggest he knew about the October releases of Podesta’s email.
We know that Stone and Guccifer were also in contact, after Stone wrote a piece for Breitbart suggesting (apparently incorrectly) that Guccifer wasn’t linked to Russia. They exchange intermittent messages through late August and into early September, though none of those that have been published are particularly detailed.
We don’t know if Corsi’s claim that Stone asked him to pressure WikiLeaks to release the Podesta emails in response to the “Access Hollywood” tape on Oct. 7 are true, though it seems unlikely that WikiLeaks would have accepted such direction.
We know that WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr. were in contact over Twitter beginning in late September. After WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a message about an anti-Trump site linking the candidate to Putin, Trump Jr. passed it to other campaign officials. After the Podesta emails starting coming out, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a link to the documents to share. Shortly after that message, the candidate tweeted out his support for the group.
Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!
We know that Trump should have been happy. The constant stream of leaks resulted in ongoing coverage of their contents.
We know that in January of last year, Stone suggested to Credico that he’d been working to get Trump to pardon Assange.
We don’t know if there was any other contact between the campaign and WikiLeaks beyond the messages that have been reported.
We believe that Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, probably didn’t meet with Assange in London in 2015, as The Guardian reported last year. Manafort and Assange have denied a meeting and it’s not reflected in any other available documents, including embassy visitor logs.
We don’t know if Assange had any other contact with Russia beyond his interactions with Guccifer over Twitter.
And, of course, we don’t know if the conspiracy charge unsealed on Thursday is the only charge Assange will face once extradited to the U.S.