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Assange: Obama Commuted Manning’s Sentence to ‘Make Life Hard’ for Me

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange famously promised to accept extradition to the United States if the original WikiLeaker, Chelsea Manning, was set free.

His views on Manning’s freedom underwent another curious mutation in an interview with Australian television, in which he described Barack Obama’s commutation of Manning’s sentence as a move intended to make Assange’s life more difficult.

As the UK Guardian reports, Assange accused Obama of “wanting, I guess, to look tough” by denying he signed the Manning clemency just to put Assange in a tough spot.

“What’s the result? It is going to make life hard for Assange because either he will be extradited to the US or we will show him [to be] a liar. Therefore, it is OK to pardon Chelsea Manning – that’s what happened,” he said, referring to himself in the third person.

When the interviewer asked about all the new qualifications Assange has tacked onto his offer of extradition, he replied, “We had a major strategic victory in liberating Chelsea Manning… but, of course, saying I’m willing to accept extradition doesn’t mean I’m saying that I’m willing to be a complete idiot and throw all my lawyers away and so on.”

Fox News reported on Tuesday that Swedish authorities are “getting closer to either indicting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape charges stemming from an incident in August 2010 or letting it drop,” with a final decision expected within a few months.

Extradition to Sweden is the primary concern keeping Assange in his sanctuary at the Ecuadoran embassy in London. If there are indictments awaiting him in the U.S., they remain under seal, a situation Assange and his defenders frequently portray as unfair.

For that matter, as the Fox News report notes, it is not clear if Sweden has enough evidence to pursue the third-degree rape charges it has been attempting to extradite him for. Assange has claimed the rape case is just a pretext to ship him off to the United States, to be prosecuted for his role in Manning’s theft of classified material. He is currently about three years away from running out the statute of limitations on the charges.

In another noteworthy passage of the interview, Assange repeated his denial that Russia was WikiLeaks’s source for the purloined emails of the Democratic National Committee, saying it “is not a member of the Russian government,” and he expressed frustration that the media keeps asking him for details about the source.

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