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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

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

GOP research firm aims to hobble Biden nominees

Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-aligned opposition research group America Rising is doing all it can to prevent President Biden from seating his top Cabinet picks.

Why it matters: After former President Trump inhibited the transition, Biden is hoping the Republican minority in Congress will cooperate with getting his team in place. Biden hadn't even been sworn in when America Rising began blasting opposition research to reporters targeting Janet Yellen and Alejandro Mayorkas.