Sessions: Arresting Julian Assange Is Now a Priority for U.S.

REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a copy of a U.N. ruling as he makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. Assange should be allowed to go free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and be awarded compensation for what amounts to a three-and-a-half-year arbitrary detention, a U.N. panel ruled on Friday. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Months after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump declared “I love WikiLeaks” at a campaign rally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters the arrest of the rogue website’s founder, Julian Assange, has become a top priority for U.S. prosecutors. “We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” Sessions told a press conference in El Paso, Texas, on Thursday. “This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious.” He added: “So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

The comments came as CNN reported U.S. authorities are preparing charges to seek Assange’s arrest, according to officials who spoke about the matter. The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks goes back to at least 2010, when the website became known for posting thousands of documents stolen by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. During Obama’s administration, the Justice Department determined that bringing charges against Assange would be difficult because WikiLeaks was not the sole publisher of the documents. But during the 2016 presidential campaign, Assange was lauded by many Republicans, including Trump, for publishing the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee. Assange is still in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, attempting to avoid an arrest warrant on sexual-assault charges in Sweden. “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo recently said.