Senate Democrats urge Pence to discuss Assange with Ecuador
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday urged Vice President Mike Pence to press Ecuador’s government over asylum it grants to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and nine other Democratic senators said in a letter to Pence that they were extremely concerned over Ecuador’s protection of Assange at its embassy in London.
Pence was beginning his stop in Ecuador on Wednesday as part of a three-nation tour of Latin America, where he will meet with President Lenin Moreno to discuss trade and the crisis in Venezuela.
“It is imperative that you raise U.S. concerns with President Moreno,” the letter says. “WikiLeaks continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes globally.”
Ecuador granted Assange asylum in 2012, seeking refuge to avoid extradition to Sweden for investigation of sex-related claims.
Sweden dropped the case, but Assange remains subject to arrest in Britain for jumping bail. He also fears a possible U.S. extradition request based on his leaking of classified State Department documents.
The senators’ letter says that Assange and WikiLeaks released hacked information to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016, and that WikiLeaks continues to undermine democracy globally.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his former position as CIA director characterized WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” the letter says.
In 2017, WikiLeaks interfered in the French presidential election and the Spanish referendum on Catalan independence, the letter says.
The senators tell Pence they worry that in a June 4 phone call with Moreno he didn’t raise Assange’s asylum, based on information they have of the conversation.
A spokeswoman traveling with Pence didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.
This story has been corrected to remove reference to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who did not sign the letter.