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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

Boris Johnson warned Speaker Bercow to help MPs deliver no confidence vote – expert claim

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BORIS JOHNSON has been warned Speaker of the House John Bercow could “facilitate” requests for a confidence vote in his leadership before Parliament goes into recess later this week.

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Everything you need to know

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Four months after he sent his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign to Attorney General William Barr, former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify publicly Wednesday about what his investigators did — and didn’t — find.

Here’s a look at how and when to watch, and what to expect:

Mueller hearing time

During his time as FBI chief and as special counsel, the former Marine had a reputation as an early riser who would be at work before 7 am.

His hearings won’t start that early, but they are early for Congress — he is set to begin his testimony promptly at 8:30 am before the House Judiciary Committee.

Hearing schedule

He’s expected to testify between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to Judiciary, and then go before a second committee, House Intelligence, at noon for approximately two hours.

Who will be doing the questioning?

The Judiciary Committee has 41 members and the Intelligence Committee has 22. While all of the Intelligence committee members are expected to get five minutes to ask questions, it is likely that some members of the larger Judiciary panel will get less time for questioning.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is expected to make a brief opening statement, as is the panel’s ranking Republican, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia. Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and that committee’s ranking Republican, Schiff’s fellow Californian Rep. Devin Nunes, will each make five-minute opening statements at the Intel hearing.

Will Mueller make an opening statement?

A spokesman for Mueller said Monday he will make a brief opening statement before both committees before giving them a lengthy official statement — his 448-page report on Russian interference.

Will Congress get the unredacted report?

Not on Wednesday. The version of the report Mueller is submitting for the official record will have the same number of redactions that were made by the Attorney General before the document became public — over 900 of them.

What is Mueller expected to say?

He has said his report “speaks for itself” and that he won’t provide any information “beyond what is already public.”

Democrats say they aren’t expecting any new bombshells, but they believe Mueller’s testimony will be an eye-opener for the American public. Nadler told “Fox News Sunday” the report “presents very substantial evidence” that President Donald Trump “is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Schiff said he wants Mueller to bring his report “to life.”

At the Aspen Security Conference on Saturday, Schiff told NBC’s Kristen Welker that it could be worthwhile to have Mueller read some portions of the report out loud.

“I do think there’s value in particular passages in the report to have the special counsel literally speak it in his own words,” Schiff said.

Republicans are expected to press Mueller on the political affiliations of some of his prosecutors, who Trump has repeatedly derided as “angry Democrats.” They’re also expected to focus on the report’s bottom line — that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its interference in the 2016 election.

Trump has said the report concluded there was “no collusion” and ” no obstruction,” but Democratic lawmakers plan to highlight at least five instances of what they say is obstruction of justice from the report, staffers told NBC News.

“What’s important is there is truly shocking evidence of criminal misconduct by the president — not once but again and again and again — that would result in any other American being criminally charged in a multiple count indictment,” one Democrat staffer said last week.

Where can I watch the hearings?

NBC News will air a special report beginning at 8:15 a.m. ET that will continue into the afternoon through both sessions. On MSNBC, live coverage will start at 6 a.m. ET. The testimony will also stream live on NBC News NOW, NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, YouTube, and other streaming platforms beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Will Trump watch?

He said on Friday he would not, but acknowledged to reporters at the White House on Monday he would “probably” watch a little.



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Boris, sign him up! Jacob Rees-Mogg offers to join new Cabinet – ‘I will do anything’

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JACOB REES-MOGG has vowed to “do anything” to help incoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the former London Mayor secured a landslide victory over Jeremy Hunt in the Tory leadership contest.

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