Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio and Trial Magazines Editor Farron Cousins discuss the charges against Julian Assange and what it means for the future of US journalism, after the Wikileaks founder Assange was forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he had been living for years.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Many people in the US were cheering the charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange last week for no other reason than they don’t like him, but the charges against him could absolutely destroy journalism in the United States and around the world, which is a point that people cheering his arrest don’t seem to understand. The people at MSNBC, for example, think it’s great that Assange has been arrested, likely because that network abandoned real journalism years ago and they’ve never found their way back when they became cheerleaders for the DNC, when they became cheerleaders for advertisers, they’re too far removed from what it means to be a reporter to actually understand the damage that’s being done to investigative reporting in this country.

I have Farron Cousins from the Trial Lawyer Magazine with me now to explain what’s happening. I tell you, anybody in the journalism business reading this story has got to understand how serious, this is conspiracy to commit journalism. That was the best as, those aren’t my words, but I heard that and that’s what is conspiracy to commit journalism. So here we’re living in, we’re living in a, an environment where we’ve got journalists that they don’t tell stories anymore because advertisers don’t let them tell the story.

The CEO who wants some political favor, doesn’t allow them to tell the story. MSNBC is the best example. They’re cheering this like this is a great day and they’re doing it because their ratings have plummeted since the whole Russiagate ended. So give me your take on it. I mean there’s so many parts to this story Farron, it’s very troublesome to me.

Farron Cousins:                  There are, and honestly the reactions that we’ve seen are the most troubling. But, but you know, I guess let’s, let’s start real quick with what the government’s actually saying Assange did. They’re saying he didn’t technically do anything, but he wanted to do something. This whole charge against him for this conspiracy to break into a government computer, that stems from, he allegedly tried to work with Chelsea Manning to crack a password on a government computer which was unsuccessful.

Mike Papantonio:             Right.

Farron Cousins:                  And that was the end of that. So far that is the only thing they have charged him with here in the United States. He’s not being charged with releasing the things that he released. You know, throughout the years, all the war crimes that Wikileaks exposed that Chelsea Manning released those documents for, that’s not part of this. The DNC hack, that is not part of this. And yet you have these people out there who can’t separate those two.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay, why, why is it happening? It’s happening because you have people like Hillary Clinton who knows better saying, oh, this is a great day. This is a great day for freedom. Really? It’s a great day when a journal, look, here’s the problem. Investigative Journalism is dead. Corporate media has made it die. You don’t get it, you don’t get investigative journalism anymore. So what’s left? What’s left are, are, are, are sites just like Wikileaks where we can actually understand maybe what’s happening in the world. We don’t get that information.

And so here we have, it’s almost like this class elite. This, you know, this American class elite, this world class elite. You know, we let CEOs from Wall Street get away with stealing trillions of dollars and I have to watch Julian Assange, sick journalists. He’s very ill, being drug out like he’s some kind of common criminal and really all he did, look, nobody likes the guy. I probably would not want to have a drink with Julian Assange, but I’d like to tell you this.

I want to know when the US government is up to spook kind of stuff. I want to know that and the American public has the right to know and you’ve got these boneheads at MSNBC doing handstands and high fives, that Julian Assange is, including people who know better. You don’t think Rachel Maddow knows what this really means. She’s a Rhodes Scholar for God’s sakes. You don’t think she understands the significance of what’s happening to investigative journalism here. You’re take.

Farron Cousins:                  These are the same people who, you know, back when this information was released by Wikileaks back in 2010 they were cheering it. They were talking about it. They were saying, let’s, let’s talk about this. The Bush administration did horrible things and Assange was the hero of the left up until the 2016 election. They blame him for every bad thing that happened to Hillary Clinton. And, and listen, you know…

Mike Papantonio:             He let, he let the emails go.

Farron Cousins:                  Right, that’s it.

Mike Papantonio:             He cost, as if it cost Hillary, the worst candidate the Democrats could have ever put up. How do you lose against Donald Trump? Here’s how, put Hillary Clinton up running against him. And so he lets the emails go and all of a sudden he’s like, oh my God, this guy is…

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and the other thing they don’t understand is if you go back and look at the historical polls after they released those emails, her poll numbers did not change. They didn’t change for two months. Nobody on the left cared about it enough to switch their vote. So they’re, they’re blaming the wrong person here. But now we have, we’ve got Chuck Schumer who said, says he hopes Assange will soon be held accountable for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government.

Mike Papantonio:             Has nothing to do with Russia. Has nothing to do with anything other than the fact they targeted him because he told some really ugly stories about what was going on in Afghanistan, with spending. What were taxpayers blowing in Afghanistan? How did we lose $12 billion in cash in Iraq and nobody can ever explain where it went? Those are the kinds of stories he was telling.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and the video that they released showing US soldiers mowing down civilians in the streets of Afghanistan, innocent unarmed civilians walking down the street. US soldiers slaughtering them. Those are war crimes.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay, so here’s the equivalent Daniel Ellsberg on bombing Cambodia. We would have never known about it, but for Daniel Ellsberg getting that information to journalists. Good investigative journalists then told the story. It was the undoing of that little twit, Henry Kissinger, we found out what a psycho Henry Kissinger was after that. How about the murder of Allende? Where we murder Allende and Pinochet takes over. You know how that story came out?

Again, it was Kissinger, it was the story about Kissinger actually lining up the murder of Allende so we could put him in Pinochet, who murdered people by the, by the thousands and we didn’t know about that story until somebody leaked it and an investigative journalism told the story. Or how about the story of the, the Panama papers, you remember the Panama papers? Panama papers, thousands of documents that showed that the biggest, the biggest organizations in America, biggest corporations in America, biggest banks in America, we’re actually storing money offshore.

$600, $700 billion stored offshore and we get to finally get to take a look at it because an investigative journalists was given that money. Now let me, let me backtrack. These, you know who these investigative journalists were? They weren’t corporate journalists, they were people who were back would probably be considered the fringe. They were people like ProPublica that tells stories that CBS and NBC and ABC are terrified to tell because their advertisers won’t let them tell the story.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and plenty of news organizations have used the documents that Wikileaks has put out there. They understand these are credible sources, and when you point out, you know, the investigative journalists back then, and that’s part of the conversation or false conversation, I should say that some of these people cheering on this arrest are now having. They’re saying, well, Julian Assange isn’t a journalist. So therefore journalistic protections should not apply to him. But that’s the thing is journalistic protections actually apply to every single person in the United States. Whether you call yourself a journalist or not, if you…

Mike Papantonio:             Like Chris Hayes is a real journalist. Like Rachel Maddow or Joy Reid are real journalists. All they do is report stories. These are journalists who get the information that they report.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             And they think this is a big victory because we’re going to prosecute him. What we’re gonna do is we’re going to make it worse in America for stories being told about our government. When our government breaks the law, when our government engages in conduct that we’d all, that we all find deplorable. They’re not going to be able to tell these stories anymore and these boneheads that are cheering about it, progressive’s. Now think about that.

The same progressives who were cheering the fact that Julian Assange had, had let this information to go just five years ago, right? They were all poor Julian Assange. He’s being locked up with, those same progressive’s are now on the other side of it, because you got people like Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer and MSNBC saying, oh, this is, this is great for the Democrats. This is really good for the Democrats. This makes the Democrats, if they take that position, look like the losing party that they’ve become. That’s the problem I see.

Farron Cousins:                  Right, they’re just wanting to get revenge for something that didn’t even actually take place. But here’s the other thing. Look, Obama knew that Assange and Wikileaks got these documents and they had considered it, but they realized, they had enough sense that if we move forward with any kind of charges or prosecution, this is going to have a chilling effect on journalism in the United States. It’s The New York Times’ problem, they called it.

Mike Papantonio:             Obama did the right thing. Obama said, this is not something that we want to chill. This is good that there’s people telling stories about bad thing that government, Obama had the sense to do it and then the redhead orange orangutan comes in office and all of a sudden Julian Assange is the enemy and then you’ve got the real boneheads and MSNBC who are cheering it because, oh this is great, this is a great day for democracy. Really?

Farron Cousins:                  This is one of the worst things that could happen for the first amendment here in the United States because if they want to try to argue that, okay, Assange is not a journalist and therefore is not protected with what he did, then it’s going to extend further. It’s going to extend to, okay well this blogger is not a journalist, lets shut them down.

Mike Papantonio:             We aren’t journalists because, we aren’t generalists because we’re saying something that they don’t want to hear.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. On, on, on a network that they don’t want to see or on our YouTube channel they don’t want to see or a website they don’t like. This is going to go everywhere.

Mike Papantonio:             By the way, they, they, they, they’re taken away foreign credentials left and right because we’re saying things they don’t want to hear. Thanks for joining me. This is a story we’re going to pick up probably next week cause it’s, it is deplorable. What’s happening to this man.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.