Vivek Ramaswamy is seeking a meeting with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, he told the Washington Free Beacon, which could make him the first U.S. presidential candidate to meet with the controversial publisher in prison.
“I’d like to meet him. No success in getting in touch yet,” Ramaswamy told the Free Beacon on Friday, adding that he has asked former representative Ron Paul for help brokering the sit-down during Ramaswamy’s planned visit to London later this month.
Ramaswamy has vowed to pardon the Wikileaks founder on his first day in office, calling it “downright shameful” that Assange “still sits in a foreign prison in exile.” He has also said he would pardon Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed thousands of top secret documents on American surveillance programs and sought refuge in Russia.
Assange exposed hundreds of thousands of classified documents provided by the U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. During an appearance on Paul’s podcast in June, Ramaswamy said he was “trying to visit Julian Assange” and asked for “some of [Paul’s] listeners’ help” in getting in touch with him in prison.
“I have a planned trip to the U.K. that I committed to speak at sometime in September,” said Ramaswamy. “I want to see him during that visit, face-to-face, have that conversation.”
“If there’s anybody in your network. They’re making it really hard to see him. But that’s something that I’m keen to do,” he added.
Paul’s cohost told Ramaswamy that they could “help you with that.”
“I would hope so, I would take it gladly,” said Ramaswamy. “I intend to pardon him.”
Assange is awaiting extradition to the United States from His Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in London. The U.S. government charged the Australian national in 2019 with hacking crimes and espionage act violations stemming from his publication of the classified documents he received from Manning.
Ramaswamy has skyrocketed to third place in the Republican presidential primary by campaigning as a millennial candidate with fresh ideas. But some of those ideas—like his support for cutting aid to Israel—have made him an outlier in the Republican field.
His support for Assange is also outside the mainstream. Other candidates have criticized Assange, including former vice president Mike Pence, who called the Wikileaks publisher’s actions one of the biggest “compromises of classified information in American history.” Former president Donald Trump also declined to pardon Assange during his time in the White House.
Ramaswamy has been trying to arrange a meeting with Assange for months, but has had difficulty getting in contact with him. An attorney for Assange did not respond to a request for comment.
Democrats have criticized Assange as well. After Wikileaks published leaked emails in 2016 from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s former campaign aide John Podesta. But two Democratic candidates, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Wiilliamson, have said they’re also on board with pardoning the Wikileaks founder.