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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange In Court After Arrest; Attorney General William Barr, Without Evidence, Says Spying On Trump Campaign Occurred. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired April 11, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A good and very newsy Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're following major breaking news this morning.
WikiLeaks Found, Julian Assange, is in a London courtroom right now. Just moments ago, the U.S. government charged him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion i.e. hacking. This is back in 2010, related to Chelsea Manning. The indictment alleges that Assange actually helped Manning facilitate, right? Manning, of course, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. army, facilitate, crack a password on classified defense from the (ph) documents.
SCIUTTO: It was quite a scene this morning to see Assange dragged out against his, clearly, of the Ecuadorian Embassy, his home, his refuge for the past seven years, where he had refused to leave, afraid of exactly this, being arrested by U.K. authorities.
Let's get to both CNN's Evan Perez, he's in Washington, Isa Soares in London outside court. To you, first, Isa, because Assange has been in court now, opportunity to plead. What did we hear from him?
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, it's just wrapped up in the last minute or so, Jimmy and Poppy. He has been removed from court. We're expecting WikiLeaks to Come out and give a statement any moment now. But I can tell you that Assange will be remanded in custody, we've been told from our producer inside the courtroom, until there is an extradition hearing. That hearing, according to producers inside, will be on the 2nd on May. And this will appear via video link.
Now, In terms of his other charge regarding a skipping bail in 2012, he has been -- basically was told, according to the judge, saying that he is a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests, this coming from the judge inside.
So, really, what we know now is that Assange will have to wait for his extradition hearing. That's expected, according to the producer inside, May 2nd, Jim. That's wrapped up now inside. He's been taken away. We're expecting to hear from WikiLeaks.
There's a protest behind me. As you can hear them, they're saying no extradition, freedom of the press, freedom of speech. And what we saw was Assange going in with a beard, a very long gray beard, we saw today, as he was being dragged out of court, looking rather tired, rather old.
But still, it seems, according to our producer, in good spirits. He waved to the cameras. And then he seemed calm and confident but, clearly, very tired and surprised that this has happened, this has taken a turn of events, of course, because he was, like you said, for seven years, been protected by the Ecuadorian Embassy.
So in terms of the extradition hearing, that is expected now, according to the judge, on May the 2nd, to take place. And then we'll find out exactly his fate. But the judge today calling him a narcissist, in the last few minutes, in fact.
The scenes here are getting crowded, it's getting louder. The crowds are coming out to support him. Of course, a man who to some is a hero, to others is a villain. But, clearly, something we also, I should add, we're expected to hear from Sajid Javid of the Home Office. He said today that no one is above the law.
We also got some color, in fact, today from what happened this morning. They went in the Scotland Yard, went in. They spoke to the Ambassador. They removed the possibility of Staying there, of actually -- of staying in the embassy. They asked him to leave the embassy. He refused. And then that's when they had to put cuffs on him and drag him out. And it was at the police station where he was charged, where he was told of the charges against him.
So, really, we're seeing Assange coming in to face, really, some of the charges, the two charges he faces, skipping bail in 2012, and now, expect the hearing, Poppy and Jim, on May the 2nd.
HARLOW: Okay, thank you very much.
Evan Perez is also with us. An important note, Evan, Assange has not been charged with at least for now anything related to WikiLeaks' role in releasing the DNC hacked emails all around the 2016 election. But, Evan, just weigh in here on this as we wait to hear from his attorneys and also the U.K. Home Secretary.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Poppy. He has not been charged with anything beyond this conspiracy hacking charge from 2010 related to Chelsea Manning.
But I'm told by a U.S. official that we can expect that there will be additional charges brought by the Justice Department. When exactly, we don't know. But you can expect that, certainly, if he is extradited, he is going to face additional charges, perhaps including related to the 2016 Russian interference, the hacking charges related to the Russians in 2016. And we also know that one of the things that the Justice Department has been looking at was what they believe was -- there was a difference between what WikiLeaks was doing, what they thought WikiLeaks was doing, which was publishing classified information that was taken by other people. They believe that Assange had transformed himself, essentially, to be part of the hacking. And that's what you see in this document today.
As part of the Indictment, they say that he essentially helped Chelsea Manning crack the passwords. They had an agreement, and this was information that they later were able to recover.
Now, this has been a case that's been long in the making, as you know. Back in the Obama administration, they looked at whether they could bring charges against Julian Assange and they struggled with it. They thought that perhaps they could not because WikiLeaks was claiming to be a publisher.
Some of that changed, Poppy, as a result of evidence that they were able to recover. You can see a little bit of that in the indictment. They talk about how there was communications that they were able to recover that they said showed that there was a conspiracy, there was an agreement to try to help Chelsea Manning get into secure computers belonging to the Defense Department, and that's where everything has changed.
Under the Trump administration, The Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the determination that these charges could be brought. And according to the documents that we saw today, this indictment was actually sealed and signed last year in 2018.
HARLOW: So the same information was known under the Obama and the Trump administration, but they saw it wildly differently in terms of what is freedom of press and what is breaking the law?
PEREZ: They did. Yes, they did.
HARLOW: All right. Evan, thanks, great reporting.
SCIUTTO: Important distinction. Isa, thanks as well, outside courtroom.
Let's speak now to former New York City Prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst, Paul Callan, former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, Jessica Roth, we also CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh.
Jessica, if I could begin with you, so to this point, the extradition request confined to 2010, Chelsea Manning case. But you will also have in the U.S., assuming this goes through, a star witness, and one of the accused for Russia's interference in the U.S. election, just based on how U.S. intelligence views WikiLeaks' role. Is there any chance he is questioned on that as well?
JESSICA ROTH, PROFESSOR OF LAW, CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW: Are you leading to Roger Stone? SCIUTTO: Well, I'm -- well, Roger Stone as well, but I'm talking about Julian Assange.
ROTH: Julian Assange, good point. So once he's here, right, sort of things start all over again, if you will, I think in terms of his relationship perhaps with U.S. prosecutors. Once he is here and the reality sets in that he's going to be facing the charges for which extradition is sought and perhaps additional charges related to the 2016 election, he may change his mind in terms whether he's willing to cooperate with prosecutors.
He certainly indicated so far that he is not inclined to be a cooperative witness with U.S. prosecutors, that that would be against his credo, if you will, but sometimes people do change their minds when they're facing a very real threat of prosecution.
HARLOW: Paul Callan, to you. I think it's interesting to note some recent reporting from our colleague, Nina dos Santos, that according to Assange's lawyer, he was not approached by the Mueller team, which I think is interesting given the 2016 Russian interference, et cetera. May 2nd, extradition hearing there in the U.K., what's the likelihood he's extradited to the U.S.?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, in looking at the indictment that he's being extradited on, I think it's a very thin, wafer thin indictment in terms of the evidence, at least that's listed in the indictment. The standard under British law is that there has to be reasonable cause to believe that Assange has committed a crime.
So the question will be under this indictment, which says basically two things. One, that Chelsea Manning shared part of a password with Julian Assange as part of their conspiracy to hack into U.S. computer networks, and, Two, set up a cloud file that Manning could use to transfer information to.
Now, does that make out a conspiracy to hack U.S. computers is the question that British courts will be looking at, or will the first amendment defense come into play and Assange says, listen, I was functioning as a journalist and I have the right to accept information from any source.
HARLOW: Yes. But journalists don't help hack, right?
CALLAN: Well, the question is, was he helping to hack? There's no claim in the indictment that Assange used this so-called partial password to hack into the U.S. computer system or that he even gave information to Manning that would make Manning a more effective hacker.
So it's a very -- as I say, it's a wafer thin indictment in terms of making out a case against Assange.
SCIUTTO: At least on what they made public, it seems. Nick Paton Walsh there in London, and the pictures we're showing you there are a live camera position where we expect both the spokesperson, spokesman, and a lawyer for Julian Assange to speak very soon.
Nick Paton Walsh, this is the end of a seven-year stand by Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. He never left it to avoid not only the possibility of extradition to the U.S. but also charges in U.K., which he's just been found guilty of, and also hanging over his head, charges of sexual assault in Sweden.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's been almost a fabled presence, frankly, for Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. And we saw in the last week or so how that increasingly strained relationship with Ecuador, which has, recently as December 17, actually granted him Ecuadorian citizenship and have, before that, provided asylum for him in that embassy. It clearly began to fray.
Some say perhaps Assange and his legal team got wind maybe of these extradition proceedings. There certainly was an inadvertent unsealing of some of the charges against Assange and appeared in a court document recently. That may have fed into the climate in the last week or so, in which we, in fact, saw Assange and his colleagues at WikiLeaks made very clear allegations against those same Ecuadorian diplomats that, in fact, they have been spying upon him, that there was a video, an audio recording system around there to check his ever single move. Clearly, I think that was about trying to suggest the relationship have broken down beyond some state of repair.
Now, the events that occurred this morning, we're hearing from the court, and you heard partly from Isa are clearly sequenced. The Ambassador to Ecuador in the United Kingdom, London, told him that his asylum had been revoked. The police turned up. They appear to have tried to get him to come quietly. He's, according to statements read to the court, but passed to a different part of the embassy. And then he was taken out.
And I think you can see in his appearance there, very disheveled, not the well kempt man we've seen, quite capable of getting hold of a razor blade and hygiene materials inside the embassy in the past, a very disheveled, dragged out towards the truck, perhaps hoping to conspire the idea of a man very much conspired against.
I should go back to something one of your colleagues was saying there actually just earlier on to do with the nature of the charges here, whether or not this is a man who could be perceived as a journalist. It is quite clear that the U.S. indictment suggests this is somebody who was involved in obtaining the information as their criminal offense, not necessarily its distribution. It talks about how he helped Chelsea Manning crack a password.
Now, I know, as a journalist myself, if you are presented with a safe that's locked and you try and get into it, then you probably know you're stepping on the wrong side of the ethical boundary here. I'm sure a lot of that will be considered by the U.S.-U.K. court system here. They're only allowed to look at offenses that potentially mandate a year in jail here in the United Kingdom and are also offenses here in the United Kingdom. So that will be what begins to occur in May.
But this a very politicized fate of Julian Assange, as it's been in the United Kingdom, relating to the often contentious U.S.-U.K. extradition relationship, and that will certainly play out very publicly in the weeks ahead.
SCIUTTO: Listen, Nick, Paul, Jessica as well, stay with us. We've got a lot of news. And as you there, we're going to hear some live comments from Assange's lawyer and spokesman shortly. We'll be right back.
SCIUTTO: These are live pictures here from London where, momentarily, we expect Julian Assange's lawyer and spokesperson to make comments following his appearance in court. He may be headed to the U.S. to face criminal charges.
Meanwhile, back here at home, democrats outraged at Attorney General William Barr and an accusation in effect he made yesterday. He told the Congressional Committee that he believes the FBI may have spied on the Trump campaign during 2016.
Joining me now to discuss is Democratic Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence of Michigan. She sits on the House Appropriations and Oversight Committees. She also questioned Barr. You may remember earlier this week. Good morning to you, Congresswoman. We appreciate you taking the time.
REP. BRENDA LAWRENCE (D-MI): Good morning, Jim. I'm so glad to be here with you.
SCIUTTO: First question for you. That was quite a comment from a sitting Attorney General to say that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign. And to be clear, he later clarified those comments saying he doesn't have evidence of it, and it's not clear to him that that spying was wrong. It might have been part of the counterintelligence publication, and yet, he uttered the word spying. Your reaction?
LAWRENCE: You know, I sat through that hearing and I questioned Barr. It was really compelling and intriguing, the amount of dismissive, arrogant interaction we had with him. Even to the point of where I'm not going to talk to you about, I don't to talk about that.
And we have on our side, and I want to say this because so many people keep bringing up the point of why are the democrats pressing so hard to get the Mueller report, to question the behavior of this administration. In the Mueller report, we have the support of the people. It's been polled so many times, 80 percent, even the republicans. We have bipartisan, 100 percent support via vote to have a clear, transparent process, and we have history on our side, starting with the Watergate investigation of transparency.
It's somewhere along the line. And if you followed my line of questioning, I asked this Attorney General, who do you serve? Do you serve the people, as you took your oath, and you said in your -- when you were being nominated in your nominated (ph) process, do you serve the people or Donald Trump? And he said he served the people. But somewhere along the line, he's gotten twisted because that comment about spying is a direct quote from the rhetoric of the President of the United States. You are the Attorney General. You are supposed to operate on fact and law.
SCIUTTO: Well, let me ask you a question. You, for instance, support the release of the Mueller report so that you and Americans can see if there is any evidence of wrongdoing by the President or his associates. Would you support the Attorney General being clear and transparent about any evidence he has of undue spying during the campaign? I mean, the question being, why not wait to see what he's got before you dismiss what he says are legitimate concerns?
LAWRENCE: For an Attorney General to just blurt out something as serious as spying by our own government without due process is a very serious accusation. If you are going to say that, and from all of the procedural requirements, you should have clear documents, there should be a charge and is there an investigation? He backed back on that. He did not go into there's a clear investigation, we have charges. None of that was said. So that's why if he has it, bring it forward. That's his job.
SCIUTTO: And it's a fair point because he, of course, has said it would be wrong --
LAWRENCE: His job not to --
SCIUTTO: He, of course, has said it would be wrong to bring up the possibility of charges or even evidence of wrongdoing by others in the Russia investigation unless you got the goods, right? I mean, he said that elsewhere. So it's a fair point.
As you know --
SCIUTTO: -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she has questioned whether he is carrying the President's water, in effect here, running defense for the President as Attorney General.
LAWRENCE: And that's exactly my point.
SCIUTTO: Are you concerned?
LAWRENCE: You are -- that is exactly my point. As the Attorney General, your job is not to be a messenger of rhetoric for the President. That is a very, very serious and important position in our government. And he took an oath. And his job is not to promote rhetoric or fear or political agendas. His is to be the gatekeeper of the law and the process of justice in our country. And so I pray that he gets that. And if not, we need to take action in Congress.
SCIUTTO: Final question. The most contentious interchange between you and Barr during that hearing on Wednesday was about healthcare, about the ACA, Obamacare, and the administration's new effort to repeal the whole thing, take it in court, take the whole thing down in court. And he gave what was not exactly a fulsome defense of the President's position on this. Did you sense he was a reluctant fighter for this now, taking up this reversal in effect by the administration to try to take all of Obamacare down?
LAWRENCE: Jim, if you see the systematic elimination of people who work for our government appointed by the President, who advise him on law, policy and to try to give him that expertise based on their experience, they have been eliminated. So Barr is a new person. And, evidently, to keep his job, my sense from when I interviewed him is I need to say what the President says. The President said we need to eliminate, don't worry about it. The courts will take care of it. What difference does it make what I say? That was appalling. How can an Attorney General say what difference does it make what I say? If you think it's that good, if it's that strong, let the courts play it out. That is not his role.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And he could certainly have given a more aggressive defense there. Congresswoman Lawrence, welcome to the show. We look forward to keeping up the conversation.
LAWRENCE: Thank you so much.
HARLOW: Really interesting, all right. So we're standing by for a press conference outside of the courthouse in London. This is after a judge found WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange guilty of breaking bail conditions. Stay with CNN for all the developments.
SCIUTTO: Well, the news keeps coming across our desk. We have an update on Julian Assange's hearing in the U.K. just wrapped up. CNN's Isa Soares outside the courthouse, what did he say inside?
SOARES: Hi. Let me give you a bit more details in terms of what we know. He went in about an hour or so ago. That's now finished, Jim. He wore a black suit. He had his hair tied back in a ponytail with gray beard.
And as he went in, he gave a thumbs up to the press. He appeared calm. He appeared confident.