WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The Justice Department has prepped an indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to documents from an unsealed court filing, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The disclosure was unintentional, prosecutors say, and was inadvertently revealed in an unrelated case. But while the specifics of the charges against Assange remain unclear, they could significantly advance special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, given WikiLeaks published thousands of emails from Democrats hacked by Russian intelligence. The nature of the indictment could also change future procedures for those who publish government secrets.

What they're saying:

  • Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia: “The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing."
  • Barry Pollack, an American lawyer representing Assange, told the Times: “The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed. The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”

Details: While it's unclear what charges Assange could face, the Washington Post notes that, in the past, "prosecutors had contemplated pursuing a case involving conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act."

  • "But ... [i]n the Obama administration, the Justice Department had concluded that pursuing Assange would be akin to prosecuting a news organization. In the Trump administration, though, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had taken a more aggressive stance and vowed to crack down on all government leaks."

Go deeper

Deadly Hurricane Zeta slams U.S. Gulf Coast

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a 55-year-old man was "electrocuted by a downed power line" in Louisiana as the storm caused widespread power outages Wednesday night, per AP.

What's happening: Zeta made landfall south of New Orleans as a Category 2 hurricane earlier Wednesday before weakening to Category 1. But it was still "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi with life-threatening storm surge, high winds, and heavy rain" late Wednesday, per the National Hurricane Center.

Updated 53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Biden ahead in Wisconsin, Michigan as cases surge in the Midwest.
  2. Health: Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022 — Trump's testing czar: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests Some coronavirus survivors have "autoantibodies."
  3. Business: Consumer confidence sinking Testing is a windfall.
  4. World: Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  5. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
1 hour ago - Health

Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, testifies during a September Senate hearing on COVID-19 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Graeme Jennings/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday he doesn't expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be ready until January 2021 or later.

What he's saying: Fauci said during the interview that the U.S. was in a "bad position" after failing to keep case numbers down post-summer. "We should have been way down in baseline and daily cases and we’re not," he said.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!