Leaked audio suggests President Trump ordered former US Ambassador to Germany and newly-appointed acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell to make a deal for Julian Assange's arrest.
NEW: Julian Assange's lawyers plan to introduce evidence this week involving Ric Grenell. Evidence includes a Grenell ally's recorded conversations, which we obtained, suggesting access to "classified info" about Grenell's involvement in Assange’s arrest: https://t.co/rfQ3e1y1nD
A GOP operative, known as the Trump family ‘fixer,’ appears to have admitted in a recorded call that the new US spy chief acted on the president’s orders when he allegedly secured the arrest of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
The contents of the call between GOP operative Arthur Schwartz and journalist Cassandra Fairbanks – which could turn Julian Assange’s UK extradition trial upside down – were reported on Tuesday by several US media outlets citing nonprofit transparency group Property of the People. The recording itself was later released by Fairbanks on Twitter.
In the call, dated September 2019, Schwartz pleads with Fairbanks to delete a September 10 tweet in which she says that Richard Grenell, then a controversial US envoy to Germany, “was the one who worked out the deal for Julian Assange’s arrest.”
Initially, Fairbanks refused to budge, arguing that her tweet was based on an ABC News report from last April alleging that Grenell was instrumental in persuading Ecuador to let British police into its London embassy, where Assange spent some seven years under political asylum. The report suggested that Grenell promised Quito that the US would not pursue the death penalty for the self-exiled publisher if it gave the go-ahead for the raid.
Schwartz, however, insisted that Fairbanks must scrub the tweet, accusing her of publishing “classified information.”
Here's the tapes and Fairbanks explaining her side of the story:
Fairbanks said the tweet she deleted said that "Grenell personally made the deal for Assange’s arrest."
Sounding increasingly frustrated with Fairbank’s unwillingness to pull the post, the Trump fixer says he could go to jail over the information he had apparently shared with her.
“Rick’s role is classified… You can’t do that… you are posting things that are classified, that no one knows, that has not been reported... I know what’s been reported, I see what you’re tweeting, what you’re tweeting is not what was reported. Someone’s going to go to jail. You need to stop this.”
Fairbanks then reminded him that it is Assange who was imprisoned due to his work to expose US war crimes, but Schwartz only doubled down on his request. At the same time, Schwartz appears to confirm that Trump himself had pulled strings behind the covert diplomatic op to nab Assange, reportedly orchestrated by Grenell.
“Please. I’m begging you… They look at you, they see that we speak, that’s bad. He’s [Grenell] is taking orders from the president. OK? So you’re going to punish me because he took orders from the president? I’m begging you, I’m begging you, please.”
Fairbanks eventually deleted the tweet, but said that she archived the post. An outspoken supporter of Assange, the journalist has confirmed reports that the recorded call will be included in materials introduced by the publisher’s defense team as evidence that his persecution was politically motivated from the outset.
A source privy to the Assange defense team’s strategy told Politico the call would be only “one piece of the argument,” part of a larger trove of evidence to be unveiled in court on Wednesday. The materials are intended to prove that the request for the publisher’s extradition was based on a desire for vengeance, rather than on any legal basis.