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By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in late 2017, more than two months earlier than disclosed in the indictment when he was arrested last week, court documents released Monday revealed.

Assange was taken into custody April 11 after spending more than six years under the protection of Ecuador’s embassy in London. A federal indictment unsealed after his arrest accused him of trying to help a U.S. Army private crack an encrypted password to hack into a Pentagon computer and steal classified documents.

But charges for the same offense were actually filed in secret on Dec. 21, 2017, in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. The 26-page affidavit accompanying the charges listed what it said were hundreds of online exchanges between Assange and the Army private, Chelsea Manning, who provided hundreds of thousands of government documents, many of them classified, to WikiLeaks.

After one transmission of documents, the charges said, Manning messaged, “thats all i really have got left.” When Assange suggested getting more, Manning replied, “ive already exposed quite a bit, just no-one knows yet. ill slip into darkness for a few years, let the heat die down,” according to the newly unsealed court filing.

Manning was arrested two months later while on duty in Iraq.

Despite filing the criminal charges, the Department of Justice sought a grand jury indictment only a few months later in order to make a stronger case for extradition in the event Assange was arrested, an administration official said Monday.

The Obama Justice Department had concluded that Assange was, for legal purposes, a journalist and that charging him for gathering and disseminating government secrets would be no different than prosecuting an American news organization for the same conduct. A former Obama administration official said last week that the United States had not considered bringing the kind of computer hacking charges that were later filed against Assange.

But the Trump administration took a different view and began exploring other ways to seek Assange’s prosecution. As early as April 2017, Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, said arresting Assange was a priority. The Trump administration’s first CIA director, Mike Pompeo, called WikiLeaks “a nonstate hostile intelligence service.”

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Jose Valencia, said Monday that it was not unfairly targeting Assange when it revoked his political asylum last week, calling his behavior “undeserving, disrespectful.” Valencia said his country had made a sovereign decision to revoke Assange’s asylum over concerns about possible computer hacking in Ecuador.



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Politics

Nigel Farage says his party will FIGHT next General Election

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THE Brexit Party is planning to take on the Tories and Labour in the next general election, Nigel Farage said yesterday.

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‘They have to get the shot’

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By Dartunorro Clark

President Donald Trump on Friday urged parents to get their children vaccinated after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week record-high cases of measles since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.

“They have to get the shot. The vaccinations are so important,” Trump said outside the White House on his way to Indianapolis to address the NRA. “This is really going around now, they have to get their shot.”

New cases of measles reported in New York, New Jersey and California bring the total number of infections in the U.S. to at least 695 so far in 2019 according to new numbers released by CDC.

Nearly 300 students and employees at two Los Angeles universities were under quarantine Thursday and Friday after possible exposure to measles.

Trump’s comments on Friday differed from his past remarks on vaccinations.

At a 2015 Republican presidential candidate debate hosted by CNN, Trump said that he wanted to change the vaccine schedule for children, erroneously linking autism to vaccines.

“Autism has become an epidemic…I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time,” he said.

In a March 2014 tweet, Trump questioned why a child “gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines.”

“Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes — AUTISM. Many such cases!” he tweeted.

On Wednesday, New York City and suburban Rockland County confirmed an additional 37 measles cases, and California reported seven new cases. The second-highest number for measles cases in the U.S. was 667 in 2014, according to the CDC.

In New York City and Rockland County, there have been 590 cases since the measles outbreak began in October 2018. Los Angeles reported its first five cases on Monday.

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Trump says no money paid to North Korea to have Otto Warmbier returned

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By Adam Edelman

President Donald Trump on Friday denied that his administration had paid any money as part of a deal to get North Korea to return Otto Warmbier, whom the regime had detained.

“No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else,” Trump tweeted.

The tweet came in response to a Washington Post report on Thursday that North Korea had issued a $2 million bill to the U.S. for the medical care of Warmbier, who was returned to the U.S. in an unconscious state.

The regime, The Post reported, demanded that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay the bill before Warmbier was allowed to be returned to the U.S.

State Department official Joseph Yun, who had traveled to North Korea in 2017 to help retrieve Warmbier, was instructed to sign the agreement by Trump and did so, The Post said. The bill was sent to the U.S. Treasury Department and remained unpaid throughout 2017. The Post said it was not clear whether the bill was later paid.

Responding to questions from NBC News about the report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday, “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”

Warmbier, 22, was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel while on a visit to Pyongyang in January 2016. The University of Virginia student from Ohio was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

The North Korean government released him in June 2017, and when he returned to U.S. soil, doctors found him to be in a state of unresponsive wakefulness. He died days later; the exact cause of death is still not known.

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, were told he had been in a coma since shortly after being sentenced.

In February, Trump was slammed by politicians on both sides of the aisle after he absolved North Korean Kim Jong Un of blame in the death of Warmbier. Following a summit with Kim, Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, that it “just wasn’t to (Kim’s) advantage to let that happen.” He added: “He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”

The president later tweeted that his comments had been misinterpreted and said, “Of course I hold North Korea responsible.”



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