Pro-Trump pastor Mark Burns announced in a tweet on Monday that the president planned to pardon Assange – a move the WikiLeaks founder’s supporters have been clamoring for at ever-higher volumes since Trump appeared to lose November’s vote.
The unconfirmed rumor quickly swamped social media as Assange fans begged for it to be true.
Assange’s partner, lawyer Stella Moris, reacted to the claim, asking Trump to “bring Julian home for Christmas.”
Other friends of Assange, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, expressed hope the pardon was legit.
I very much hope this is true. The case against Assange is based on a legal theory that would criminalize the work of every journalist, both at home and abroad. https://t.co/A667OXoWq7— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) December 14, 2020
However, Burns, who posted the tweet that started the rumor, later withdrew the claim, blaming a "faulty source."
As an outgoing president, many had reasoned, Trump has nothing to lose by pardoning the publisher, who is currently being held in a UK prison while Washington attempts to extradite him to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that would see him jailed for 175 years.
Pardoning the publisher who helped expose US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan would likely upset the incoming Biden administration, members of whom have called Assange a “high-tech terrorist” despite zero evidence that any document released by WikiLeaks led to harm coming to any member of the US military or government.
After spending seven years effectively under house arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Assange was arrested last April and jailed on an old bail-jumping charge. He has been locked up in the UK’s Belmarsh prison ever since, fighting extradition to what would certainly be a life sentence in the US.