In June 2016, five months before the American presidential election, Julian Assange made a bold prediction during a little-noticed 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 be publishing a cache of emails related to Hillary Clinton.
He was right. But an indictment unsealed on Thursday charging Mr. Assange with conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer in 2010 makes no mention of the central role that WikiLeaks played in the Russian campaign to undermine Mrs. Clinton’s presidential chances and help elect President Trump. It remains unclear whether the arrest of Mr. Assange will be a key to unlocking any of the lingering mysteries surrounding the Russians, the Trump campaign and the plot to hack an election.
The Justice Department spent years examining whether Mr. Assange was working directly with the Russian government, but legal experts point out that what is known about his activities in 2016 — including publishing stolen emails — is not criminal, and therefore it would be difficult to bring charges against him related to the Russian interference campaign.