WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange charged in hacking conspiracy

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 11, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


LENIN MORENO, ECUADORIAN PRESIDENT: The patience of Ecuador has reached its limits on the behavior of Mr. Assange.

JENNIFER ROBINSON, ASSANGE ATTORNEY: This sets a dangerous precedent for all media organizations and journalists in Europe and elsewhere around the world. This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON, WIKILEAKS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: It's called conspiracy. It's conspiracy to commit journalism.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Julian Assange arrested today in London, taken out of the Ecuadorian embassy there. And then the DOJ issued charges, putting out a statement. "Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications. 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."

It got a lot of reaction across the board, including Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a Congresswoman from Hawaii. "The arrest of Julian Assange is meant to send a message to all Americans and journalists, be quiet, behave, toe the line, or you will pay the price.

We'll star there with a lot of legal topics. Good thing we have this panel, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Anna Palmer, senior Washington correspondent for "Politico." She's also the coauthor of a new book, "The Hill to Die On, The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump's America." It's a great read, and we'll talk about that in a little bit. Welcome. Judge, you've been pretty outspoken on this case. What do you think about it now?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: I essentially agree with the argument that was just made by Congresswoman Gabbard from Hawaii. This is a case about free speech. This is a case about punishing journalists, in this case a journalist who revealed information devastating to what the United States had been saying and lying about. And it was truthful information that the people in a free democracy have the right to know.

Was a crime committed? Yes. A crime was committed by Chelsea Manning, who was charged, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to jail until President Obama decided to commute her sentence. That was the crime. The crime is the theft of the information, not the receipt of it by a journalist and its publication.

Can you help the thief get the information to you? Of course you can, just as "The New York Times" did with Daniel Ellsberg and the "Washington Post" did with Daniel Ellsberg, and the Supreme Court upheld the privilege of the journalists.

BAIER: Let me play this soundbite. This is the secretary of state and the Democrat, Republican in charge of the Senate Intelligence Committee.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a nonstate, hostile intelligence service.

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VA: I don't often agree with Secretary of State Pompeo, but in this case I do. I hope Mr. Assange gets prosecuted.

SEN. RICHARD BURR, R-N.C.: Julian Assange has put American lives at risk. I hope he gets a fair legal process, but one that judges him based upon the national security breaches that have happened in this country.


BAIER: Judge, you know intelligence folks say it was very dangerous to our troops, to our people overseas, and, frankly, a reminder that when you break the law, eventually the U.S. is going to come after you.

NAPOLITANO: But the Pentagon Papers' opinion and the Supreme Court and lower court opinions that have followed it could not be clearer. The crime is committed by the thief. It is not committed by the publisher --

BAIER: Even if he is helping him try to crack the password to the U.S. Defense Department computer?

NAPOLITANO: But we have not seen a charge like this before. The charge to me is he's helping him get the information to him. And the underlying thing that upset the government is the revelation of a painful truth.

BAIER: Mollie?

BAIER: I think that's what the government is trying to do. They are trying to separate out his journalism work, his work as a publisher, from his alleged lawbreaking. But I agree. I'm not sure that they are doing such a good job with this or that the precedent established won't cause problems for journalists down the line. You hear a lot of people being worried about Donald Trump tweeting negative things against journalists.

This is an actual action that could establish a precedent that makes it so that when journalists do their work, which I've been certainly very critical of journalists receiving leaks from anonymous sources and how that has some journalistic problems. But we defend the rights of people to publish for good reason. It is a First Amendment freedom, and this could be the kind of thing -- this is a very complicated actor, but this type of precedent could make it so that other journalists are also harmed.

BAIER: Anna, Julian Assange denies it, but lawmakers, intelligence community believes that WikiLeaks was working directly with the Russian government. How that ties in to the Russian investigation and what we don't know yet about the redacted report that's going to come out in coming days, it seems like lawmakers and the secretary of state, others are taking this very seriously.

ANNA PALMER, "POLITICO": Absolutely. I think you have -- rarely on Capitol Hill is there bipartisan support of anything. You have both Republicans and Democrats, as you played there, saying this needs to be prosecuted. They need to figure out what exactly he knew, when he knew it, and how involved was Russia.

BAIER: OK, I want to turn to Greg Craig. A lot of people said there's indictments coming after the Mueller report was going to come out. The next indictment is Greg Craig, the Obama administration White House counsel. The DOJ says "A federal grand jury today returned an indictment, charging Greg Craig, a Washington-based lawyer, with making false statements, concealing material information about his activities on behalf of Ukraine from the Department of Justice, National Security Division's Foreign Agents Registration Act Unit." His lawyers deny it. Judge, what about this case?

NAPOLITANO: The issue is, was he acting in behalf of a foreign government, and did his behavior in behalf of that foreign government rise to the level that had to be reported? The government says yes, a very, very serious statute, for years it wasn't enforced, now it's being enforced. The government says yes, he says no, so it's going to be an issue for a jury decide.

This is a very significant Democrat. He not only worked for Barack Obama, he was the chief strategist in Bill Clinton's impeachment defense. And he's been around this town, as you know, for years. This is profound.

BAIER: And the White House is clearly poking this. Kellyanne Conway tweeting, "Breaking news! Finally! White House official indicted in connection with Mueller investigation!" pointing to Greg Craig. We should point out Michael Flynn was indicted too in the early stages.

HEMINGWAY: But what I do think it interesting is if you read the indictment, a lot of these lies date to 2012 to 2014, but he also repeated those lies according to this indictment to Special Counsel Robert Mueller who declined to prosecute him. That's just a very interesting thing. He seemed very eager to prosecute people for process crimes if they were connected to Trump, but he's not where this indictment came from. It came from someone else in D.C.

BAIER: Anna?

PALMER: Well, but Mueller turned it over to SDNY, who then turned it over to -- so one of the things we don't know is a hot potato with what happened with who decided when to prosecute, and now clearly he's he saying charges.

NAPOLITANO: It's a wild scenario. First defense witness, Bob Mueller, why didn't you indict him?


BAIER: Exactly. OK, last legal case of this panel, and that is Avenatti. He is being charged with a whole bunch of stuff. In fact, there are four areas of criminal conduct. The bullet points are that he stole, alleged to have stolen millions from clients he represented, wire fraud charges, failed to file employment tax returns, obstructed the IRS to collect this taxes, submitted bogus financial information to obtain three loans worth $4.1 million, and false declaration of bankruptcy. He denies this. The "L.A. Times" has a story, though, Mollie, that says one of the clients, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson was a mentally ill paraplegic on disability who won a $4 million settlement of the suit against Los Angeles County. The money wired to Avenatti in January, 2015, but he hid it from Johnson for years, according to the indictment.

HEMINGWAY: There are a lot of things attorney can get away with, but stealing from clients is something that is very much frowned upon. Stealing from a victim like this is particularly frowned upon. But this is a guy, Michael Avenatti, who was treated as a hero by many people in the media. Last year, someone at "The Federalist" did an analysis showing that he was on MSNBC and CNN some 200 times prior to his arrest for some domestic issue. This is someone who has been very much elevated in national discourse who I think media should've been more responsible, and they should've known that throughout the Kavanaugh hearings and otherwise.

BAIER: Obviously he'll have his day in court, Judge, but that's a lot of charges.

NAPOLITANO: He's innocent until proven guilty. But if 10 percent of this is true, and probably more of it is, the regulatory authorities in California, people who regulate the practice of law, should've known about this and taken his license to practice law and bored in on it a long time ago.

BAIER: And I want to give you 30 seconds on this book, which is a great read. I'm not through it yet, but there's great details here. Give me the elevator pitch.

PALMER: Yes. So basically Donald Trump, a change candidate in a change election, comes to Washington, says he's going to break it. We wanted to change the lens instead of on the White House, on Congress, how did Congress end up in a place that is focused on institution and rules and procedure deal with this? It goes from Election Day, 2016, through the midterms, through the shutdown. Lots of juicy details, the rise and fall of Paul Ryan and Republicans in losing the House. And we talked to the president. So he had a lot to say to us.

BAIER: Yes, great stories in there. Thank you.

Next up, we have presidential campaign news, and new polls. Stay with us.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we are involved in is not just health care registration legislation. We are involved in a great struggle. This is a struggle for the heart and soul of who we are as American people.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-CALIF., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he wasn't taking orders, he wouldn't take the interpreter's notes. It he wasn't taking orders, he would release the report that he said he's 100 percent exonerated with. Something is wrong with the way that he's acting.

JULIAN CASTRO, D-PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: The president has said that he wants to cut aid to Central America. That is downright stupid.


BAIER: Bernie Sanders on the trail talking about Medicare for all, Eric Swalwell saying he thinks the president is still a foreign agent of Russia, and Julian Castro saying his foreign policy Central America is nuts.

We are back with the panel. Mollie, this new Paul out in New Hampshire really raised some eyebrows. This is Saint Anselm College, and it has Mayor Pete on the rise. We've been seeing it all over the place. But he is definitely up in polls, this one in New Hampshire, which, notably, neighboring Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is trailing the South Bend, Indiana Mayor.

HEMINGWAY: Yes. And there are people who are doing better than him who aren't even officially in the race yet, but clearly he had a really good fundraising quarter and he's drawing a lot of attention.

It seems that what he's trying to do right now is create division with Mike Pence to elevate him by bringing up this issue of his religious views versus Mike Pence's views. What's funny is you keep hearing that they are having this squabble, but it's just a one-sided fight. He keeps on going after Mike Pence, and Mike Pence keeps saying I don't really know where this is coming from.

BAIER: I get along with the guy.

HEMINGWAY: I'm a little disappointed he wants to critique me. And, certainly, Mike Pence has shown quite a bit of tolerance while Buttigieg is trying to create a division here.

BAIER: Let me play that soundbite about gay marriage and Christian values.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God. Your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, it is with my creator.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT: I have my Christian values. My family and I have a view of marriage that's informed by our faith, and we stand by that. But that doesn't mean that we are critical of anyone else who has a different point of view.


BAIER: And he went on to say that he got along with Mayor Pete when he was governor of Indiana and the mayor was in office.

PALMER: I think Mayor Pete actually in his book said some very nice things about how Pence was a great governor and had some great plans there. So, clearly, they have history.

I think what's really interesting, though, to me is he is trying to differentiate himself in this primary among Democrats, and if you look at those numbers where so many senators are doing terrible, right, they are not breaking through, he is breaking through. He's an outsider of Washington. He's willing to try to take Democrats into the religious conversation. He's talking about things that other Democrats aren't, and he is making progress.

BAIER: And Judge, the contrast is stark. You have Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in their high 70s against this 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

NAPOLITANO: He's articulate, he's attractive, same-sex marriage is the law of the land. And he's probably, as my colleague agree, picked this fight with Mike Pence so that people like us will talk about him.

BAIER: And here we are.

NAPOLITANO: And here we are. And up goes his numbers when we do it.

BAIER: This is the Senate majority leader last night on this very set talking about the Democratic field.


MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think any Democrat who ultimately wins the nomination is probably going to say, of course I'm a capitalist. But I think what we need to look is what they are advocating, not what they call themselves. And any Democrat who is sympathetic to packing the Supreme Court, getting rid of the Electoral College, the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, is in my view taking America in the direction of socialism.


BAIER: I really think that that is structuring the Republican, kind of, goalposts for 2020. That argument that he made is running against that. They don't have their own GOP health care plan, but that's the argument they're going to make.

HEMINGWAY: Right. Considering that they don't have their own plan, having a Democratic opponent who is sounding as extreme as the likely opponent will be is definitely very helpful. But this is one of those issues where Democrats are not well served by having such a friendly media environment. They're getting further and further more extreme in a way that might not work well when they're actually having to campaign in a general election. They are not getting that pushback from fellow Democrats or the media that might be helpful for them to keep on the rails.

BAIER: Bernie Sanders is the bandleader here. He is moving the policy. Other people are saying, yes, I agree with Bernie.

PALMER: It's actually pretty stunning if you look at where the Democratic Party is right now, Medicare for all, the Green New Deal. These, five years ago, Medicare for all would not have even be on the party ticket, it wouldn't be what people are talking about. I think what the Democrats are having is the civil war that Republicans had in 2010 where there is this push pull and it is ever growing more towards the left.

BAIER: You're right. Think about the evolution on health care. When Obamacare passed in 2010, the whole thing was, no, no, no, it's not a camel's nose under the tent toward single-payer. This is separate of that. Now, it's like, well, it is actually single-payer.

NAPOLITANO: It openly discussed what we laughed at when it was discussed last time around. I agree with Mitch McConnell. I can't see one of these hard lefties getting the nomination and the party thinking that that person can beat Donald Trump.

On the other hand, if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidates Obamacare, as that trial judge did in Texas, and the Republicans have nothing with which to replace it, that's the issue in 2020.

BAIER: And we should point out, we will be asking a host of these questions to Bernie Sanders on Monday in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which will be interesting, Mollie.

HEMINGWAY: It will be great to see. And I think he showed that he understands that he needs to reach out to a different audience than most the audiences that Democrats are reaching out to.

BAIER: Panel, thank you very much. Anna, congrats on the book.

When we come back, a family reunion 50 years in the making.


BAIER: Finally tonight, a family reunion five decades in the making. After 50 years apart, an Indiana woman has been reunited with her birth parents. Originally Kim Gantt thought she was abandoned in an orphanage in South Korea. Her birth parents say they have been searching for her since the early 60s when she disappeared at a market. She will now be going back to South Korea to introduce her adoptive father and three children to her new family. That is great news.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for the “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and unafraid. "The Story" hosted by Martha MacCallum starts right now.

And we, Martha, have a big event on Monday.


BAIER: In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with Senator Bernie Sanders, a town hall in the shadow of a closed steel plant there. It's going to be fascinating to see.

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