The arrest of Julian Assange in London drew a mixture of reactions from U.S. lawmakers early Thursday — particularly after the Justice Department charged the WikiLeaks mastermind with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
Assange, 47, is being accused of working with whistleblower Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. intelligence analyst, in 2010 to crack a password stored on a U.S. Defense Department computer to obtain classified Pentagon documents. If convicted, Assange faces up to five years in prison.
"Manning, who had access to the computers in connection with her duties as an intelligence analyst, was using the computers to download classified records to transmit to WikiLeaks. Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her," the DOJ said in an indictment released Thursday.
Assange, an Australian native, was escorted out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he had been staying since 2012, after the South American nation revoked his political asylum. He was taken into custody in connection with a U.S. extradition request, as well as for breaching U.K. bail conditions in 2012.
Assange has faced renewed scrutiny in the U.S. after WikiLeaks obtained emails that were stolen from Hillary Clinton and other Democratic groups during the 2016 election. Politicians reacted to the news of Assange's arrest and subsequent charges Thursday — many applauding the move.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was glad to see the "wheels of justice" turning in relation to the WikiLeaks leader.
"In my book, he has NEVER been a hero. His actions - releasing classified information - put our troops at risk and jeopardized the lives of those who helped us in Iraq and Afghanistan," Graham wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said Assange's arrest was "good news for freedom-loving people."
"Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services," Sasse alleged in a tweet. "He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison."
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., commended police on the arrest.
"I commend British police for the arrest of Julian Assange after nearly 7 yrs in self-imposed exile inside the Ecuadorian Embassy. I call for the immediate extradition of Assange to the US where he'll answer for aiding & abetting a foreign power to undermine US democracy & laws," he tweeted.
Florida Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an Ecuadorian-born American lawmaker, said she encouraged the nation to pursue Assange.
"Every chance I’ve had to speak with Ecuador’s government, I pushed them to stop protecting Assange, and I’m glad they’ve finally done so," Mucarsel-Powell tweeted.
Rep. Steve Cohen, a member of the Democratic Party serving in Tennessee, questioned if President Trump would pardon Assange.
"Might Trump pardon #Assange. He loved #WikiLeaks," claimed Cohen before citing a quote, "There is honor among thieves.”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., also blasted Assange.
"Whatever Julian Assange's intentions were for WikiLeaks, what he’s become is a direct participant in Russian efforts to weaken the West and undermine American security. I hope British courts will quickly transfer him to U.S. custody so he can finally get the justice he deserves," Warner said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.