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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Team Trump's use for Julian Assange may have ended with the last campaign 

Julian Assange, left, gestures to reporters from a

Julian Assange, left, gestures to reporters from a police vehicle on his arrival Thursday at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, and President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House also on Thursday. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images, Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool

Here we have two very different public shouts from two very different kinds of public men.

These exclamations, nearly three years apart, now form unique audio bookends.

The first shout: As he mugged for the cameras at an October 2016 rally, presidential candidate Donald Trump waved a piece of paper and bellowed: "I love WikiLeaks!" The website founded by Julian Assange had just posted Russian-hacked documents embarrassing to Trump's Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

The second shout: On Thursday a handcuffed and hermit-like Assange gave a rough shout of his own for news cameras as London cops dragged him from the Ecuadoran embassy, in which he'd had asylum for years, into a waiting van:

"The U.K. must resist this attempt by the Trump administration!"

Somewhere between these iconic yelps of Trump and Assange came an alliance of sorts — or maybe just a limited mutual understanding.

For a while, Republicans touted the accuracy of Assange's information, if not his civic virtue in publishing tons of sensitive U.S. intelligence secrets. Behind the scenes some in the GOP pushed to ensure he would get light treatment if and when the time came.

But by now, the bloom appears to be long since off that rose. Things are back to normal in a sense, with the U.S. government and leaker Assange clearly on a collision course.

During the period when Trump loyalists regarded Assange as useful, it felt like a strange inversion of the 1950s when Trump's GOP mentor Roy Cohn was founding a legal career on the prosecution and execution of atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

What Trump and Assange and, for that matter, Russian President Vladimir Putin shared during their loose entente was opposition to the last Democratic administration and, for lack of a better term, its mainstream liberal politics.

Agitators for left and right always share an interest in prodding the established middle. But in the White House, the pressure now is on Trump to govern rather than agitate. That means leading, changing, influencing or following the "deep state" rather than making defensive accusations against it.

And Assange's energies will no doubt go to defending himself, both in court and by trying to rally political opinion in his favor.

Thus he becomes a celebrated cause for the American Civil Liberties Union, which declared in a statement:

“Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.

"Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public's interest."

For the purpose of rallying future cheering flocks, will the president shift gears and brand Assange an "enemy of the people?" That is anyone's guess.


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