September 17, 2023 — The New York Times has published the results of its 2024 Executive Power Survey in which Presidential Candidates explain their position on press freedom and specifically on the case of Julian Assange.
The candidates were asked if they think the Espionage Act charges against Mr. Assange are constitutional as a legal policy matter and would their administration keep that part of the case against him. In addition, they were asked if they support and would their administration keep the new rules against compulsory production of reporters’ information in leak investigations.
Democratic candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson spoke strongly in favor of press freedom. Kennedy Jr. confirmed that he will drop all charges against Julian Assange, while Williamson said she would drop the Espionage Act counts against him.
Williamson explained that the Espionage Act “violates freedom of speech and press by criminalizing publications without proof that the disclosures were intended to and did cause material harm to the national security of the United States.”
President Joe Biden avoided directly responding regarding the prosecution of Julian Assange, saying “it isn’t appropriate for me to offer an opinion on an ongoing criminal prosecution that is now pending in court.” Instead he stressed his role in codifying new legislation preventing compulsory seizure of journalists’ records “except in limited circumstances” and thus his commitment to press freedom.
Republican candidates Asa Hutchinson and Francis Suarez said they do not plan to interfere with pending prosecutions, nor that it is appropriate to opine on the issue.
Former Vice-President Mike Pence pointed out the need for balance between national security and the freedom of the press. Alluding to the Assange case he said that the First Amendment “does not protect so-called journalists from breaking the laws necessary to maintain our national security and keep Americans safe”.
Other Republican candidates, including former President Donald Trump, did not offer an answer to these questions.