On May 23, activist and satirist Randy Credico met with the staff of Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and de facto leader of the House’s investigation into Russian meddling. Credico described the discussions to me hours after his meeting.
According to Credico, Schiff requested the interview after a brief chat with Schiff at the White House Press and Correspondents Association gala last month. An email from House Intelligence Committee senior counsel Shannon Green to Credico (below) demonstrates Schiff’s interest in the encounter.
Schiff was interested exclusively in gathering evidence to bolster the Russiagate narrative of Credico as a secret liaison between Julian Assange, who has been branded without evidence by the CIA as a hostile foreign intelligence asset rather than a journalist, and former Trump campaign aide Roger Stone.
(Credico, an erstwhile associate of Stone and fervent advocate for Assange’s freedom, was subpoenaed last November by Schiff. He invoked the Fifth Amendment at the time).
But once Credico arrived in Schiff’s office, he sent the congressman’s staff in an unexpected – and politically inconvenient – direction.
“I told them three times that Mr. Assange is wiling to meet with him,” Credico said. “And if Schiff is serious he can get this stuff cleared up. I’m just a courier to deal with this. And they [Schiff’s staff] just sat there and said, ‘Well noted.’ I said, if Nixon went to China, if the orange man Trump’s going to Korea, Schiff has the street cred — go meet with Assange.”
Two days later, Credico was invited onto MSNBC’s “The Beat” with Ari Melber. Melber and his producers had no idea that Assange had offered to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee. Like Schiff, they were merely interested in pumping Credico for details on communications between Stone and Assange that reinforced the narrative of Trump-Russia collusion.
“They have an agenda at MSNBC that’s anti-Assange, pro-war against Russia,” Credico remarked. “They pre-taped me because they got nervous, but they kept most of what I had to say. So what all the stuff about Stone did was give me a chance to talk about Assange.”
When Credico revealed his “secret mission” to Schiff to deliver Assange’s offer of an interview, Melber reacted with astonishment. He took to Twitter to publicize the offer that Credico disclosed, prompting a revealing reply from the congressman’s office:
“Rep. Schiff’s office just gave us this response:,” Melber tweeted. “‘Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before.’”
Rep. Schiff’s office just gave us this response:
“Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before.” https://t.co/Ho0LkqtN7N
For years, the US and UK governments have refused to tell Assange or his laywers if it had prepared an indictment of him.
With Schiff’s remarks, he has the strongest evidence to date of Washington’s plans to lock him in jail.
Building a case in secret, threatening in public
The Wikileaks founder has been accused by CIA Director Mike Pompeo of overseeing a “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” The Trump administration expanded the federal grand jury seeking the arrest of Assange this year to cover the Wikileaks release of thousands of documents on CIA hacking tools.
“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,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has declared.
So far, however, the US has not made public an indictment or plans to request Assange’s extradition.
Writing in the Guardian this January, journalist James Ball — a former Wikileaks staffer turned ferocious Assange critic — maintained that, “There is no public criminal case against Assange or WikiLeaks in the US.” Ball claimed Assange has nothing to fear by leaving the Ecuadorean embassy in London because, “The WikiLeaks founder is unlikely to face prosecution in the US.”
But the comments by Schiff — who implied he was speaking on behalf of his entire House committee — offer the most substantial indication that the US has prepared an indictment of Assange, and that it would seek his immediate extradition if he were to leave the embassy grounds.
Schiff’s errant remarks are likely to have major implications on how Assange, Wikileaks and the Ecuadoran government respond to mounting pressure from the US and UK.
Maximum pressure on Assange, Wikileaks and Ecuador
Since he lost his freedom seven years ago, Assange has been confined to a series of small rooms inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Ecuador’s former president, the leftist Rafael Correa, has been succeeded by the more pliant Lenin Moreno. Though Moreno granted Assange citizenship this January, he has described him as an “inherited problem” and denigrated him as a “hacker.”
Correa has slammed Moreno as a Trojan Horse for the US agenda — a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” — who played up his leftist credentials to get elected, then turned on his base.
In April the US signed a joint security agreement with Ecuador, allowing the presence of American military personnel in the country. This month, Ecuador held joint military exercises with Colombia, a US vassal state that recently announced plans to join NATO as a “global partner.”
Meanwhile, Washington and London have applied maximum pressure on Assange in hopes of breaking him and prompting his voluntary exit from embassy grounds. CNN reported on May 25 that the US was determined to snatch Assange from the embassy to “open a new phase for US investigators eager to find out what he knows.”
Wikileaks has produced infrared footage of a supposed “grab team” posted outside the Ecuadoran embassy:
RELEASE: Infra-red footage of covert @JulianAssange "grab team" stake out operation reading mission briefing notes
A dispatch by a member of Assange’s legal team which I obtained in April painted a grave picture of the situation: “While the UK-US seeks [Assange’s] arrest outside the embassy, in violation of two UN rulings, inside people are barred from seeing him (other than some of his lawyers) and he has no access to phone or internet, including his own, due to the installation of radio jammers and an executive instruction gagging him by the new president of Ecuador — which appears to be a breach of Ecuador’s constitution.”
If Assange is indicted and extradited to the US, he would be the first journalist in American history to be prosecuted for publishing classified information. The move would be especially notable given that Assange is not an American citizen.
Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, has said, “Any prosecution [of Assange] would be incredibly dangerous for the First Amendment and pretty much every reporter in the United States.”
But there is little sympathy for Assange — and loads of malice — from a Washington press corps consumed in resentment of Trump and an obsession with Russiagate intrigues.
In the meantime, Ecuadorean President Moreno must consider the legal implications of Schiff’s comments. His country’s constitution explicitly forbids the extradition of citizens: “In no case shall extradition of an Ecuadorian be granted.” It also notes that, “The State shall respect and guarantee the principle of non-return.”
Now that Schiff has essentially confirmed American plans to extradite Assange, Moreno must decide whether he values his budding partnership with Washington more than the rule of law.