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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested, Carried Out of Ecuadorian Embassy in London; U.S. Charges Assange in Computer Hacking Conspiracy; Bill Barr Without Evidence Claims the FBI Spied on the Trump Campaign; Democrats Furious Over Barr's "Spying" Comments. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired April 11, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] BERMAN: WikiLeaks, his government just arrested its founder.
Evan, Jeffrey, Susan, thank you very much.
CAMEROTA: All right, CNN breaking news coverage on Julian Assange continues right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It is quite a Thursday morning already. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. We begin this morning with breaking news, consequential news. Any moment now the Justice Department is expected to announce charges against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
London Police arrested him this morning. It was a dramatic scene, here he is him being carried out, looking a very different man than when he went into that embassy seven years ago. He is set to appear in front of a judge very soon.
HARLOW: London Police confirmed that Assange was arrested on behalf of the United States in part. That's really significant, of course, because U.S. officials contend that WikiLeaks worked with Russians to release hacked e-mails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC, of course.
Someone from WikiLeaks just earlier on CNN denied that. Still that is the contention of the United States. And WikiLeaks also shared that classified U.S. military information in 2010 about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, as you know, Julian Assange had refused to leave the embassy for years, this was a seven-year ordeal, in part due to sexual assault charges that he faced in Sweden. Those charges have been dropped but this morning Swedish authorities say that case could be reopened. As for Assange, he faces bail jumping charges in the U.K. and now the possibility of being extradited to this country.
Wow. A lot. Let's get to our colleague Isa Soares. She is live from London outside of the court there with the latest breaking details.
You know, Isa, I would just say it was just so remarkable to see him in that condition walking out of the embassy, fighting, fighting, they had to go in and get him.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Good morning to you, Poppy, good morning, Jim. This is something that we hadn't expected to see in the state of him. He, looking very gaunt, clearly aged in the last seven years, in fact. Just worth reminding he is at 47 years of age and he actually looked very old, practically dragged from inside the Ecuadorian embassy and into the police van.
Now Scotland Yard has -- was told, was given the permission to go in by the Ecuadorian embassy. This happened around 10:50 or so a.m. this morning. Pardon me. There is a lot of activity because we are expecting a WikiLeaks press conference. And he was dragged and taken to police.
What we do know now is that in the next 50 minutes or so we're expected to hear from the judge. I can tell you, Poppy and Jim, in fact that Julian Assange is indeed inside the court, is inside the magistrate court, not yet allowed -- pardon me -- allowed inside -- not allowed inside. We are expected to hear, in fact, the charges against him. They could be the bail. He of course bailed in 2012, that could be a minor charge, in fact, that will be a fine perhaps and even a couple weeks in jail, but critically is the other charges around him.
Of course, we know this is a U.S. extradition arrest, computed related offenses according to the Met Office. And so it will be interesting today to find out in the next few minutes exactly what those offenses will be. But indeed a real turn of events for a man who was seen as a hero for some and others really blamed in many ways for coming to this point -- Poppy, Jim.
HARLOW: OK. Isa, keep us posted, we know we're going to hear from them in a moment. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: That's right. The Justice Department expected to announce charges, details against -- of those charges against Julian Assange at any moment.
Let's bring in Evan Perez.
So, Evan Perez, Assange's lawyers telling me and others that these relate purely or principally to the Chelsea Manning case. What do we know?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. I think that's part of what Julian Assange's cases and we are expected to hear from the Justice Department within this hour of exactly what those charges are. We've seen some movement, by the way, on this case in the last few weeks. We saw that Chelsea Manning who was convicted, was found guilty for that 2010 dump of information to WikiLeaks, has been brought before the grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia. This is where the charges against Julian Assange are and are expected
to be unsealed, and we saw that she refused to provide testimony. And so that's why she's still detained while that is still ongoing. And so we got a statement from Assange's U.S. lawyer who said, quote -- I think we have a bit of his statement that says -- Barry Pollack says, "It is bitterly disappointing that a country would allow someone to whom it has extended citizenship and asylum to be arrested in its embassy. The U.K. courts will need to resolve what appears to be an unprecedented effort." I think we've got more of this.
[09:05:03] "By the United States to seek and to extradite a foreign journalist to face charges for publishing truthful information."
Now, obviously, there is an extradition process that will be ongoing in London and then once he's brought here, if the U.S. wins extradition, obviously he will go on trial here in the United States, but, guys, one of the things that I wanted to mention was, you know, you showed a list of some of the things that are associated with WikiLeaks.
One of the important ones is the 2017 hack of CIA hacking tools. I think that's one of the key parts of this that the Justice Department used to change its opinion about charging Julian Assange.
SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, thanks very much.
We've got a lot of folks here that know a lot about this. Jeffrey Toobin, Paul Callan, Mike Rogers, former House Intelligence chairman.
Jeffrey Toobin, a question for you. If these charges are principally about the Chelsea Manning case, 2010, of course, preceded Russian interference in the 2016 election, which U.S. intelligence says that Assange played a central role. He was a middleman, in effect, for this. Could the --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Can I interrupt?
TOOBIN: They have unsealed the charges. I just got it over my phone.
SCIUTTO: So tell us what they say.
TOOBIN: It's a single count indictment from the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria, just across the Potomac River. A one-count indictment charging Julian Assange with hacking, with participating in the hacking that led to the distribution of the Chelsea Manning documents in 2010. It's -- you know, considering the complexity of the case it's a very straightforward short indictment. It's only eight pages long and it's only one count. Now the government could add to it.
SCIUTTO: OK. TOOBIN: I note that it was filed in March of 2018, so it's been under
seal for a year. But this is the case that is now pending against Julian Assange.
SCIUTTO: Right. To my question, can they also -- would they be likely to also ask him about his role in interference in the 2016 election or is that off the table for this?
TOOBIN: Well, they can ask him anything they want. Most defendants choose to take the Fifth and not answer questions of law enforcement, especially if they are under indictment, as Julian Assange is. And you know, just because there is a single indictment now doesn't mean the government won't supersede and add charges. They could certainly add charges related to the 2016 hacking in -- you know, in our presidential election.
But at the moment the only charge pending against Julian Assange which was just unsealed as you were talking to Evan moments ago, relates to the hacking that Chelsea Manning did of State Department documents and the charge, and this is very important, is that Julian Assange collaborated with Chelsea Manning and this is an attempt by the Justice Department to get around the very difficult constitutional issues raised by this case because, you know, traditionally the government has never charged journalists when they receive classified information and then publish it.
The charge here is that Assange was not a passive recipient of classified information, but he was a participant in the hacking itself. Now, of course, we'll have to see what the government's proof of that is.
TOOBIN: But that's the government's attempt to deal with the constitutional issues raised by charging someone who describes himself at least and is described by many as a journalist.
HARLOW: Jeffrey Toobin, great reporting. I'm glad you got your hands on that.
Mike Rogers, to Jeffrey's point about the, you know, freedom of the press issue here, et cetera, it's very notable that the Obama administration, because this goes back to 2010, the Obama administration did not go after Assange on this and now the Trump administration is going after him, and it is this question of, you know, what is journalism and what is actively breaking the law and hacking?
Here is what Julian Assange told us back in 2016 on this exact question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: There are concerns among many and they ask whether or not WikiLeaks is being used as an intelligence tool here, whether or not WikiLeaks is being used by a foreign government to manipulate the election in the United States.
JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: What is the accusation here precisely? No one disputes even a single e-mail that we have published is authentic. No one in the DNC and not Hillary Clinton.
[09:10:02] We have brought down the head of the DNC with authentic information provided to the public. We have a 10-year record of complete accuracy.
The goal of WikiLeaks as a media organization is to educate the public, to turn a dark world into a lighter world through the process of education and we're doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, as we read this statement from the Justice Department here, so conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing so break a password into a classified U.S. government computer. To Jeffrey Toobin's point here, this is about him actively helping this hacking along here, but, again, Chelsea Manning, 2010, not about 2016 and Russia.
PEREZ: That's right, Jim, and I think, look, there is an investigation that is still ongoing, we know that the grand jury is still sitting in Alexandria, Virginia, on this very case. So we firmly expect that there could be additional charges brought by the Justice Department because there is a lot more that they know. They know about what WikiLeaks' role was with the Russians in the 2016 -- in the DNC hack as well as the hack of Clinton campaign officials, but one of the things that stands out to me in this document, in the indictment, it talks about in 2010 that Assange essentially agreed to assist Chelsea Manning in essentially getting a password that was going to be able to get into certain computers that she didn't have access to.
This is at a time that Manning was already providing information, according to this indictment, to WikiLeaks. So what this tells us is that the Justice Department has evidence, they believe, that shows that Assange was a participant. That Assange was helping Chelsea Manning crack passwords that got her additional access to additional information in addition to what she had already been providing to WikiLeaks.
HARLOW: And Evan --
PEREZ: That's a very big deal because that means that he was participating in this, not just receiving information.
HARLOW: Right. Evan, do you know at all when the Justice Department -- I mean, obviously this was as Jeffrey said a year ago, but how much prior to that? Do we know that the Justice Department gathered what they say is this evidence that not only did Assange and WikiLeaks take the information from Manning, but helped Manning get it.
PEREZ: We know that they had a lot of this information going back years ago. During the Obama administration the reason why they didn't bring charges is that they did the legal analysis and they thought that they would have a very difficult time bringing -- having these charges stand up, again, because WikiLeaks was not the only -- were not the only ones publishing information that came from classified files obviously that were sent by leakers, "The New York Times," "Washington Post," CNN, everybody has done that.
And so the question was, how do you treat WikiLeaks differently from the publishers, from other news organizations, and the Obama administration just struggled with that. It wasn't until Jeff Sessions took office and I think late in the Obama administration there was an effort to try to see whether the Ecuadorians would allow extradition. There was an effort at the end of the Obama administration but Jeff Sessions really was the one who ordered a new analysis and arrived at a conclusion that some of this that you're now seeing was enough to bring charges against Julian Assange.
SCIUTTO: Mike Rogers, former House Intelligence chairman. President Trump has repeatedly praised WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks, we could play the clips add (INAUDIBLE) here. Now he's being extradited to the U.S. under criminal charges. Is this problematic for the president?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I don't think so. I think people will see that for the political, you know, flinging that it was at the time in the campaign, but why this is important and I was there in 2011 and on the committee in 2010 when all this happened, this is very different than a reporter who gets information and then goes through the vetting process and gives an opportunity for intelligence services to respond, and they also have a journalistic code that doesn't want to get anyone hurt by this information.
You know, none of that happened. And I will tell you that they were complicit, WikiLeaks was complicit when they were going through this process. Remember, the information that Chelsea Manning stole had nothing to do with the job and responsibility that she had at that time in the military. They were encouraging her to go to different places and steal different bits of information to provide back to WikiLeaks.
You know, you are a co-conspirator at that point for stealing classified information and I will tell you the information that was released, we shouldn't gloss over this, was very harmful to our national security, including conversations, very sensitive conversations, from our diplomats about sensitive issues with countries around the world that really should not be made public.
[09:15:00] And so when you wrap this whole thing up, I think this is long overdue. I think the -- I do believe that they're going to try to fight the journalistic angle on this. I think they're going to lose because of how complicit they were.
Fast forward to 2016, guess what? They were also active with the Russians in soliciting information. They were taking stolen goods of which they knew were stolen, and then just rawly putting them out there with ill regard to the consequences of that. I don't think that makes you a journalist. JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Listen, know your source is an
essential rule of journalism. If that course is compromised, say a hostile foreign government trying to --
POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Yes --
SCIUTTO: Influence an election, that should influence --
HARLOW: Yes, you to see it --
SCIUTTO: The information you put out.
HARLOW: Absolutely. Paul Callan is also with us. What is the likelihood of superseding indictments here?
PAUL CALLAN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY PROSECUTOR & CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, I think there is a great likelihood of superseding indictments. And I'll tell you one important reason is that, there's a precedent for arresting somebody on a hacking charge and trying to extradite that person to the U.S., it's called the Lori Love Case which took place back in 2018, and the British would not allow that extradition to take place.
Love had been accused by the way of hacking into FBI, U.S. Army, NASA computers. He suffered from Asperger's disease and I think that probably had a big factor in it. But I would expect that you'll see a superseding indictment with more serious charges being lodged against --
SCIUTTO: Or another --
Including possibly Russian interference?
CALLAN: Yes, well, it could be Russian interference, but also about a year and a half ago, there was a leak of documents in an unrelated federal case that if you remember indicated that there was another set of charges floating around that were going to be lodged against Assange.
It was very embarrassing to the Department of Justice. I'm wondering where those charges are now and whether they will re-emerge.
HARLOW: Thank you --
SCIUTTO: Good point --
HARLOW: Very much to all of you. Stay with us, obviously, this is just breaking.
SCIUTTO: Still to come, there is a lot going on, Democratic lawmakers are outraged, this after the Attorney General William Barr says that, quote, "spying occurred on the Trump campaign", but then later he granted that he doesn't have evidence of that. HARLOW: And, of course, we're following all the developments on this,
the breaking news, the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrested on behalf of the United States, and just charged with conspiracy to commit computer hacking. Stay with us.
[09:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HARLOW: All right, so Attorney General Bill Barr, two days of testimony on the Hill, saying he will likely release that redacted Mueller report next week to Congress.
SCIUTTO: Coming up, Barr told a congressional committee yesterday that he believes that FBI spied on the Trump campaign, though when pressed later, he said he did not have hard evidence of that. Questions, concerns. Let's discuss with Laura Jarrett; CNN Justice Reporter, Mike Rogers; CNN national security commentator and Renato Mariotti; CNN legal analyst.
Good morning. Laura, you covered the Justice Department, I imagine you've been pushing your sources since the Attorney General made this comment here. For an Attorney General to say he believes spying occurred or may have occurred here, that's significant.
Did sources inside the Justice Department back that up in the hours since then, as to why he believes that may be the case?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: So as you might imagine, I have pressed them at length about what is the basis for his belief? What is the basis for his concern? And folks will not say what it is that's troubling him, but they do seem to suggest that he doesn't think spying in and of itself is a pejorative term, it's been described as, you know, he is an old CIA guy.
He actually thinks the issue is whether the spying was adequately, factually predicated. And he did say that at the hearing. He eventually got to the point where he said what I'm worried about is any unauthorized surveillance. Now, at the same time, this is a very savvy man, this is a person who has been at the Justice Department before, he is on round two here.
He is also aware of the political climate, he's aware of the fact that the president has weaponized that term over the last two years as the Mueller investigation has been simultaneously going on. So all of that is in the ether here. But what I think is the issue is everyone is very focused on the word.
And if he had just said I'm going to look at all of the different issues surrounding the counterintelligence investigation, it was a big deal, it was against members of the Trump campaign, if he had just said that alone and talked about the IG report and pulling all the threads together and stop there, I think it would have been OK.
But the fact that he used the word 'spy' appears to have triggered everyone.
HARLOW: That word is, you know, in all the newspaper headlines and way --
ROGERS: Yes --
HARLOW: Above the fold this morning, of course, right, he sort of have that reaction to it. Chairman Rogers, you listen to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Let me just say how very dismaying and disappointing that the chief law enforcement officer of our country is going off the rails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Is this off the rails?
ROGERS: I don't think it's off the rails. Listen, I was surprised by the term, I wish he hadn't used the term. He did clarify later that he was talking about the predicates for the surveillance that was --
HARLOW: Right --
ROGERS: Obtained from the FISA court, and I think that's the appropriate way probably to couch that. And candidly, we should -- you know, this notion that we shouldn't review that work, I mean, obviously the special counsel came out and said there was no collusion.
This was a major intrusion into a political campaign, and we shouldn't care if it's Republican or Democrat, we should have a review of that. I don't think that should be a concern for us. I hope they do, do a review, find out, did you meet all the predicates? How did you get there? Did you follow protocol?
And if you did, no harm, no foul, but if you didn't, maybe we should make some changes to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. I think if he does it and continues to couch it in those terms, he's going to be fine.
[09:25:00] SCIUTTO: Renato, fair point, is it not? Because if you're going to be using those resources against U.S. persons, particularly, political persons during a presidential campaign, all of us, whether Democrat or Republican or neither want that power exercised only with the greatest justification, right?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR & CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No question, and I don't disagree with what Mr. Rogers just said, I think that's very reasonable. I think the issue here is just that, first of all, the term spying, these are -- these were all techniques that were authorized by federal judges that were done in accordance with the way that law enforcement operates.
That suggests that there's something untoward that's happening, and until we have evidence that something untoward was happening, the presumption should be that these judges were, you know, authorizing something that was accurate and correct.
And frankly, his tone towards it and his attitude towards it really to me stokes fears or concerns and conspiracy, and if you don't have a reason to do so, what you should say is like Mr. Rogers said a moment ago, which I think is very well taken, that we should always examine what's happening to ensure that, you know, everything was complied with, that proper information was given to the judges that authorized this.
HARLOW: All right, thank you all very much, we appreciate it. Laura, great reporting, I know you're pressing them hard for those answers, let us know if you get any clarification.
Of course, we're on top of this breaking news, U.S. announced it's charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after police arrested him in London just this morning.
SCIUTTO: Think of all the questions they could ask him about.
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: Plus, we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Investors will be watching for news, remember these, on the China trade talks? They're still ongoing, both sides working to set up trade enforcement offices. Can they reach agreement?