WASHINGTON – In June 2016, five months before the US presidential election, Julian Assange made a bold prediction during a slightly noted interview with a British television show.
"WikiLeaks has a very big year ahead," he said, just seconds after announcing that the website he founded would soon publish a cache of e-mails related to Hillary Clinton.
He was right. But a charge not made on Thursday, charges Mr. Assange joined in picking up a Pentagon computer in 2010, not mentioning the key role that WikiLeaks played in the Russian campaign to undermine President Clinton's presidential chances and help choose President Trump. It is unclear about the arrest of Mr Assange will be a key to unlocking any of the lingering mysteries around the Russians, the Trump campaign and the plot to hack a choice.
Court documents have revealed that it was Russian intelligence – by means of Guccifer persona – who gave Mr. Assange you true of emails hacked from the democratic national committee and the personal account of John D. Podesta, the president of the Clinton campaign.
Another question is whether Mr. Assange was a channel between the Russian hackers and the Trump campaign. Mr. Assange exchanged emails with Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump's eldest son, during the campaign and a Trump campaign officer, sent Roger J. Stone Jr., an adviser to the president for information on the hacked democratic emails, according to a January accusation by Robert S. Mueller III, the Special Adviser.
Mr. Mueller concluded his investigation without a charge directly related to WikiLeaks, the Russians and the Trump campaign, suggesting that the prosecutors did not find sufficient evidence that Mr. Assange deliberately involved a conspiracy with Russia to help the Trump campaign.
But the report prepared by Mr Mueller's team and expected to be released next week could have further details on the links between the Trump campaign and Mr. Assange. These details could be edited by the Justice Department, but if officials believe the material contains classified intelligence, said Carrie Cordero, a former Justice Department's National Security Division and Office of Director of National Intelligence.
"What was the real interaction between Russian intelligence surrogates, WikiLeaks and Trump campaign surrogates?" She said. "It's a question that hasn't yet been answered."
The Special Adviser also gave his work to other prosecutors, including those who have long been investigating Mr Assange's relationship with Guccifer, the Russian intelligence front.
Many Democrats and Republicans are convinced that Mr. Assange deliberately worked with Russian intelligence. On Thursday, Senator Richard M. Burr, the North Carolina Republican, chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Mr Assange and WikiLeaks "worked effectively as an arm for Russian intelligence services for years." The Committee's Democratic Vice-President Senator Mark Warner from Virginia said Mr. Assange had become "a direct participant in Russian efforts to undermine the West."
Mr. Assange has long been a polarizing figure – hailed at the beginning of his career as a public transparency champion, but also considered by US national security officials as a disruptive force interacting with Chelsea Manning, the former army inspector analyst, to publish hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
But it was WikiLeaks & # 39; publishing material stolen by the Russian intelligence service in 2016, which hardened the view of national security officials.
In April 2017, in one of his first major speeches, Mike Pompeo, who was the CIA director at the time but months earlier as Republican Congressman, had promised WikiLeaks for his releases that damaged the Clinton campaign – signaled that the government would take a hard line at WikiLeaks.
Mr. Pompeo's public remarks coincided with a private effort against Mr Assange of the Trump administration. C.I.A. Intensified espionage efforts against WikiLeaks, seeking to learn more about his interactions with the Russian intelligence operations.
Timing of Mr. Assange's actions drove suspicions. His interview in June 2016, announcing the impending release of democratic emails, came three days after a meeting of the Trump Tower in New York between Russians and senior Trump campaign officials – a meeting set up on the promise that the Russians would have harmful information about Mrs. Clinton.
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Assange down allegations of Russian interference and mislead the public because of the harmful documents, WikiLeaks released.
He offered a $ 20,000 reward for information on killed in Washington by Seth Rich, a young democratic national committee employee shot to death in an apparently bungled street robbery. Some supporters of Mr Trump suggested that it was Mr Rich who had leaked the committee's emails and that he had been killed in retaliation.
In August 2016, with Dutch television discussed the sources of WikiLeaks & # 39; information, Mr. Assange suddenly raised Mr Rich's murder.
"It was just a robbery, I think, wasn't it?" the interviewer said. "What do you suggest?"
"I suggest our sources take risks," Assange said. He then refused to say whether Mr. Rich was a source.