One of the intriguing sub-plots set to unfold following Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election is the fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Mr Trump’s surprise win has fuelled speculation that the president-elect plans to issue a pardon to Mr Assange, who is wanted by US criminal investigators for alleged theft of classified information, computer fraud and conspiracy against the US Government.
Mr Assange has avoided arrest by the FBI since June 2012 when he was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
But the restriction on Mr Assange’s movements did not stop him from having a meaningful impact on the course of the US presidential contest and improving Mr Trump’s election chances.
Since June, Wikileaks has published thousands of private emails that revealed explosive information about how the Democratic National Committee and senior directors of Hillary Clinton’s election team were trying to control a sweep of controversies that were hounding her campaign.
The emails showed how a charity known as the Clinton Foundation had created conflicts of interest for Ms Clinton while she was Secretary of State in the first Obama administration.
Information contained in the emails raised the possibility that Ms Clinton may have used her public office to reward foreign governments that donated millions of dollars to the foundation.
The emails also exposed how senior officers of the Democratic National Committee had undermined Senator Bernie Sanders during his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Those revelations caused a political stink between Mr Sanders and Ms Clinton that eventually forced the resignation of the committee’s chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
In early October a Clinton spokesman accused Mr Assange of obtaining the damaging emails from Russian intelligence officers.
Pauline Hanson joins Republicans calling for pardon
A growing list of Republican politicians has called on Mr Trump to pardon Mr Assange when he takes over the White House in January.
Among the most vocal Republicans agitating for a pardon is Wendy Long, a New York litigation attorney who unsuccessfully ran for the US senate in this week’s elections.
One of Australia’s biggest Trump supporters, Senator Pauline Hanson, also weighed into the debate on Thursday, promising she would petition the Australian and US governments to pardon Mr Assange.
“I hope that in light of his great service towards freedom and truth President-elect Donald Trump will consider granting Mr Assange a full presidential pardon,” Senator Hanson said.
“I hope the government of Australia has taken notice and will no longer continue to assist in the shameful imprisonment of an Australian hero.”
Assange silent on whether Trump has given private pledge
On November 4, The New Daily submitted 10 written questions to Mr Assange through his Australian representative, Greg Barns.
While Mr Barns told us on November 7 that Mr Assange had promised to answer the questions, The New Daily received nothing.
Mr Barns did not respond to another email we sent on November 10.
In a public statement released on the morning of the US election, Mr Assange rejected claims that he was actively campaigning against Ms Clinton.
“This is not due to a personal desire to influence the outcome of the election,” Mr Assange said in the statement.
“Many long-term supporters have been frustrated because we have not addressed this criticism in a systematic way or responded to a number of false narratives about Wikileaks’ motivation or sources.
“Ultimately, however, if Wikileaks reacted to every false claim, we would have to divert resources from our primary work.”
While Mr Assange’s public statement answered most of our questions, he did not address the most important: whether Mr Trump had indicated during the campaign that he would grant the Australian whistleblower a presidential pardon.