Report: Assange in Plea Deal Talks

UPDATED: The report in The Wall Street Journal makes public what Consortium News had learned off the record, namely that the U.S. is engaging Julian Assange’s lawyers about a deal that could set the imprisoned publisher free. 

U.S. Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C. (M.V. Jantzen, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Lawyers for Julian Assange and officials of the U.S. Justice Department are engaged in talks for a possible plea deal that could see Assange walk out of Belmarsh Prison in London as a free man, according to a report Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper said the DOJ was considering whether to allow Assange to “plead guilty to a reduced charge of mishandling classified information,” which is a misdemeanor. He is currently charged with felonies for allegedly violating the U.S. Espionage Act and for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, charges that carry as much as 175 years in prison. 

A deal to accept guilt for mishandling classified information could see Assange “eventually” walk free if the five years he has already spent in London’s Belmarsh Prison is counted as time served, the newspaper said. 

“Justice Department officials and Assange’s lawyers have had preliminary discussions in recent months about what a plea deal could look like to end the lengthy legal drama, according to people familiar with the matter, a potential softening in a standoff filled with political and legal complexities,” the Journal reported.

Without elaborating. the paper added: “U.S. prosecutors face diminishing odds that he would serve much more time even if he were convicted stateside.” 

Barry Pollock, Assange’s U.S. lawyer told Consortium News “we have been given no indication that the Department of Justice intends to resolve the case.”

A red line for Assange in any plea negotiation, according to his brother, Gabriel Shipton, is sealing a deal without having to come physically to the United States, as he fears the terms could be changed once he’s on U.S. soil — and in a U.S. prison.

Constitutional attorney Bruce Afran, speaking on CN Live! in August last year, said:

“Usually American courts don’t act unless a defendant is inside that district and shows up to the court. However, there’s nothing strictly prohibiting it either. And in a given instance, a plea could be taken internationally. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s not barred by any laws. If all parties consent to it, then the court has jurisdiction.”

Afran also said in that CN Live! interview that “mishandling classified information” misdemeanor was a possible way out for both the U.S. and Assange, as the Journal is now reporting. 

On both issues the paper said: “If prosecutors allow Assange to plead to a U.S. charge of mishandling classified documents—something his lawyers have floated as a possibility—it would be a misdemeanor offense. Under such a deal, Assange potentially could enter that plea remotely, without setting foot in the U.S. “

The newspaper also said what has become plain, that the Biden administration, during a re-election campaign, does not need a journalist arriving in chains to Washington to stand trial for publishing U.S. state secrets that revealed government wrongdoing.

“An extradition would throw a political hot potato into the lap of the Biden administration,” the Journal wrote.  The administration “has long struggled” with the First Amendment implications of the case, the newspaper added.  

Awaiting Word From High Court

Assange is now awaiting a decision by the High Court in London on whether he would be allowed to appeal the Home Office’s order to extradite him to the U.S. 

The WSJ said talks “remain in flux,” and could “fizzle.”  The “highest levels” of the DOJ would have to approve, the paper said, presumably meaning U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

The newspaper said Assange’s U.S. lawyer Pollack gave “no indication that the department will take a deal.” The DOJ would not comment to the WSJ, at least officially.  

Because of the confirmation by the WSJ, Consortium News can now reveal that it learned off-the-record of the talks in the past months. 

Pollack said in his statement to Consortium News:

“It is inappropriate for Mr. Assange’s lawyers to comment while his case is before the UK High Court other than to say we have been given no indication that the Department of Justice intends to resolve the case and the United States is continuing with as much determination as ever to seek his extradition on all 18 charges, exposing him to 175 years in prison.”

If one side is unhappy in a negotiation, they might very well say the other side has no intention of resolving the case. 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette, the London Daily Mail and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe

38 comments for “Report: Assange in Plea Deal Talks

  1. polybius II
    March 22, 2024 at 15:14

    Sounds like a trap to me. Why could DOJ not simply drop the charges? IMO it would be likely that once Julian was safely in US custody in Virginia this “plea deal” would evaporate either by being shelved by DOJ or not accepted by the trial judge. The risk is far too great and since when is the DOJ an organisation to be trusted?

  2. Vera Gottlieb
    March 22, 2024 at 11:49

    As soon as freed…move to Russia and join Snowden.

  3. Konrad
    March 22, 2024 at 06:36

    The Biden administration is desperately trying to improve its reputation. So a final release of Julian Assange would not surprise as a cheap whitewash to be appreciated internationally. Let’s hope so. They are cashing in an asset worth more outside than inside of jail one may cynically consider. Kind of improving reputation at bargain price as far as I may conclude.

  4. John Z
    March 21, 2024 at 21:14

    Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own. James Russel Lowell
    Excerpted from The Present Crisis

    The more things change, the more they remain the same, and the human heart desires truth, justice, and kindness above all things. May it be that Julian’s trap be sprung, and the bird flies free!

  5. Rubicon
    March 21, 2024 at 21:08

    Sounds like an Election Year Stunt by the Biden group. All to garner much needed voter’s votes.

    • WillD
      March 21, 2024 at 22:43

      Yes, but to make it work they would have to do a lot more to convince the world that they were in ‘serious’ discussions, and that Assange’s lawyers were not co-operating fully.

      In other words, make it look like they really tried hard BUT the other side was unreasonable. And they would have to prolong the talks till much closer to November to garner any extra votes.

      Whatever it does, I don’t think the US can use this to generate many votes for Genocide Joe. I’m more inclined to believe that they want to remove the problem now before it damages Biden’s election prospects even more, just as they are trying to distance the US from the Ukraine debacle.

  6. March 21, 2024 at 21:05

    Thanks for the update!
    You and the majority of your commentators herein may well be interested in the reading of this remarkable independent “journalism” from two European women, who have been loyal advocates of Julian Assange since well before his criminally forced confinement by the national governments of Great Britain and the United States. Their thoughtful and accurate reporting is a testament to the professional contribution women are making, especially during the current recognition of “Women’s History Month”
    See, Listen or Read here: hxxps://
    As Usual,

  7. Atul
    March 21, 2024 at 15:44

    All of us people in the Western neoliberal lands have committed sins nearing infinity, and there is a single man incarcerated for exposing a few of them.
    I wonder if anyone else in history was crucified like this and killed for the sins of others.

    • John Z
      March 22, 2024 at 16:07

      Easter is upon us, and yes, someone has died for the sins of humanity. I have opposed the oppression and warmongering and racism promoted by my country from Vietnam on. I am not willing to take the fall for happening to live in an oppressive and cruel State, any more than I would expect it of any other person in any other country in the world. It is not right to paint everyone in a country or situation with the same brush.

  8. Richard L Romano
    March 21, 2024 at 15:01

    No agreement has been reached. But at least they are talking. No agreement will support him for the more 10+ years he suffered for doing his job. But freedom is the goal.
    It might get some votes for the Dems.

  9. Michael G
    March 21, 2024 at 14:26

    “The concentration camp was never the normal condition for the average gentile German. Unless one were Jewish, or poor and unemployed, or of active leftist persuasion or otherwise openly anti-Nazi, Germany from 1933 until well into the war was not a nightmarish place. All the “good Germans” had to do was obey the law, pay their taxes, give their sons to the army, avoid any sign of political heterodoxy, and look the other way when unions were busted and troublesome people disappeared.
    Since many “middle Americans” already obey the law, pay their taxes, give their sons to the army, are themselves distrustful of political heterodoxy, and applaud when unions are broken and troublesome people are disposed of, they probably could live without too much personal torment in a fascist state — some of them certainly seem eager to do so.”

    -Michael Parenti “Fascism in a Pinstriped Suit”

  10. Laurie Holbrook
    March 21, 2024 at 14:25

    This is good news. I hope it comes to pass.

    • Bushrod Lake
      March 21, 2024 at 15:51

      Yes, let’s celebrate the good news – if it develops.

  11. evelync
    March 21, 2024 at 13:58

    I have lost every tiny bit of respect for my government, my justice dept, my corrupt elected officials my MICIMATT – the whole stupid lot of them.
    My remaining trust and respect on this matter is totally for Julian Assange and his family and team and his true friends who write beseechingly on his behalf.

    I want him out of that hell hole.


    He is not negotiating with sane or decent people. It is way past “proving” a “public” “truth’ of his innocence. Whatever these assholes claim he did or thought or cared about or achieved is a black hole of official lies.

    Please know, Mr Assange, that you have our highest respect and grateful thanks and sorrow for what you have endured on our behalf and on behalf of a peaceful world.

    • Carl Zaisser
      March 22, 2024 at 05:54

      very well said…we’ll have to rely on independent media like Consortium to correct any perception that he is guilty of anything he might be forced to plea to, if in fact he is released on a plea deal.

  12. CaseyG
    March 21, 2024 at 13:29

    If America can’t see the sense and need for what Julian Assange has done—– then America can’t be considered a democracy. I shudder to think what it is we have become.

  13. C. Crown
    March 21, 2024 at 12:57

    Government crimes should be shouted to the roof tops by everyone who knows about them. Short of that pie in the sky world, let’s hope this happens.

  14. Carrie
    March 21, 2024 at 12:20

    For several months I have been replying to pleas (over 20 to date) for donations to candidates for office in the coming election in several states, few of which I have ever visited. I have answered such requests with something like this:

    I am donating this year to support the First Amendment, as without the freedom of speech the American dream would crash and burn. I will happily send a donation to your campaign if you have spoken, written, voted for, or sponsored any action to free Julian Assange, being held in England by the CIA and our government for being a journalist.
    If Assange is not freed by the U.S. I, a Democrat for 66 years, will not vote for Biden or any other Democrat in an election coming up. Instead I will vote for a third party candidate, one who promises to uphold the Constitution and the First Amendment.
    Let me know what you have done and/or are doing now to free Assange and I will send a donation to you and your campaign.

    Just f.y.i., not one of the politician candidates has responded to my message. Do they have any idea of how many people there are (younger than I, just getting around to paying attention and voting in the upcoming battle for the presidency) who will not support the Dems this year because of their criminal activity regarding Assange as well as Gaza?

  15. March 21, 2024 at 12:17

    Unfortunately this still sets the bar that being a journalist can be criminalized by governments.

  16. P. Michael Garber
    March 21, 2024 at 12:04

    I fear the sole point of these talks may be to provide positive press for Biden while delaying the extradition until after the election. And, why aren’t the prosecutors asking Assange to finger somebody like Manning or the Russians? Hard to believe they’d let him go without getting some testimony in return, unless their case against him has some huge flaw we don’t know about. Which leads me to wonder about this statement from the WSJ: “U.S. prosecutors face diminishing odds that he would serve much more time even if he were convicted stateside.” Why are the odds diminishing?

  17. Richard Burrill
    March 21, 2024 at 11:42

    The world is upside down. The U.S. committed war crimes that were shown to the world. Julian Assange proved it by exposing them. It is madness that the criminal here is charging the reporter. F. U. to the U.S.

  18. Jerry Markatos
    March 21, 2024 at 11:00

    It’s possible (dunno how likely) that the publishing and journalism world may finally have told the persecutors that THEIR interests are in danger and they’d better find a way out for everyone.

  19. March 21, 2024 at 10:37

    Thank You Joe

  20. JonT
    March 21, 2024 at 09:15

    This is good news. A chance to feel a bit more optimistic than of late. However, we must not count our chickens to early. What the US may do next? Could be anything.


  21. hetro
    March 21, 2024 at 08:41

    To begin with it is very difficult to see how Julian could accept this “plea-deal”–that he mishandled anything. He treated the information with meticulous care to make sure no individual was harmed by its release. Such a deal suggests that ANY whistle-blowing is “mishandling” as though government permission of its wrongdoing was needed beforehand to expose it. This is entirely contrary to what he stands for. Secondly, and darker, I’m suspicious of this seeming about-turn, and hope that if it really is possible, and he accepts the deal, he has strong security to accompany him. His life would continue to be in danger.

  22. susan
    March 21, 2024 at 07:50

    I’m taking this “wsj news” with a grain of salt until Julian Assange walks free!

  23. Valerie
    March 21, 2024 at 03:07

    Please make it come true.


  24. YesXorNo
    March 21, 2024 at 02:27

    Good job, Editor in Chief.

  25. Travis
    March 21, 2024 at 01:00

    I acknowledge the warning that there is “no indication that the department will take a deal.” However, after a decade of searching for good news for Assange, I cannot help but feel hope after reading this.

    • Sick and tired
      March 21, 2024 at 09:10

      Yes, I hope so too, but one cannot overestimate the viciousness of Biden and his administration. I think that the image of Assange extradited to the US and awaiting trial would be a good PR move for him. Keep in mind that many feminists (mostly to the trumped up rape charges in Sweden) and other “liberal” Americans blame him for HRC’s 2016 electoral college defeat. He’s as culpable as the Russians to them, even though neither were responsible.

  26. Emma M.
    March 21, 2024 at 00:07

    This lesser charge of “mishandling classified information” is no doubt something Assange is actually guilty of—after all, Assange made the unfortunate mistake of sharing it with The Guardian, along with the encryption key to the unredacted documents!

    One mustn’t expect guardianship from The Guardian, a poorly named publication if I’ve ever seen one. A quick look at antonyms of “guardian” finds such words as “capitulator” and “betrayer,” the latter of which is defined by synonyms dot com as meaning: 1. one who reveals confidential information in return for money; 2. a person who says one thing and does another. Obviously more accurate – if they were honest, maybe they’d be The Betrayer instead.

    Although, if they did want to be more honest to help potentially collaborative journalists and sources, they’d have a number of other fine options; the website lists other such synonyms being “double-dealer, puke, rotter, dirty dog, git, double-crosser, strikebreaker, stinker, hog, grunter, informer, so-and-so, pig, squealer, skunk, traitor, scum bag, scab, lowlife, rat, bum, stinkpot, blackleg, crumb, blabber, two-timer.”

    Such a noble effort would be too late for Assange, however, but when he’s free, he’ll no doubt regardless be more careful than to share classified information and encryption keys with the fine journalists of The So-and-So, The Informer, The Blabber, etc again, when considering all the fine independent alternatives to The Stinkpots these days.

    Humour aside, I truly hope he’s free before much longer. People have forgotten what Julian Assange was like: intelligent, insightful, funny, the most influential journalist ever and a good man who deserves freedom. No journalist on Twitter had memes as good as his were, before they banned him and his Internet got pulled.

    • Em
      March 21, 2024 at 06:49

      A dark example of self-satisfied liberals’ hypocrisy in selective reasoning!

    • daryl
      March 21, 2024 at 11:47

      Emma M
      I loved your exposition, what came to mind for me was perfidy. The betrayal by so many on so many levels, countries, justice systems, news purveyors (all the main stream) no where to turn for relief from.
      Worse where to turn for finding our collective humanity. A seeking of collective humanity, That which was found in Assange. The betrayal and silencing then needed the most.
      Our future in tatters, news even more distant no misleading not just absent. . Over run by missnews, simply misslead. Julian was and is in this be tryal our beacon in this dark time.

    • Michael G
      March 21, 2024 at 11:59

      Since Emma M. here is giving us a list of one, how about we make an actual list of sources that are found to be reliable, a useful list, the ones that I saw telling the truth about Julian. It would be helpful to people who are just waking up to know where to go, and selfishly, give me other places to go for information.

      News sites:

      Consortium News

      Jimmy Dore (Rumble is best now)
      The Grayzone (youtube)
      Garland Nixon (youtube)
      The Duran
      Alex Christoforou
      Alexander Mercouris
      Due Dissidence
      Glenn Greenwald (Rumble only)
      Useful Idiots
      Friendlyjordies (Don’t let the name fool you, someone is actually trying to kill him right now)

  27. Lois Gagnon
    March 20, 2024 at 22:53

    I think the problem lies with the CIA wanting revenge for Vault 7. They hold sway over the government/media complex. They could throw a wrench in any deal. I hope if they do, that there are enough political strategists in the Biden White House who are not afraid to over rule them.

  28. theduce
    March 20, 2024 at 19:48

    Spectacular news!!

    • Ken Rundell
      March 21, 2024 at 00:16


  29. gcw919
    March 20, 2024 at 18:44

    We can only hope that Assange’s nightmare might be coming to a close. Regardless of whatever political reasons may lie behind the Administration’s decision to offer a plea bargain, this persecution of someone whose only “crimes” were to make the world aware of war crimes can’t end soon enough.

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