Gabbard: Assange arrest is a threat to journalists

Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard clashes with Fox News anchor: You're 'twisting and misconstruing my policies' Moulton enters 2020 White House race Tulsi Gabbard fundraises off 4/20: 'Appalls me' that feds consider marijuana illegal MORE (D-Hawaii) condemned the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday, calling the arrest a threat to journalists.

"The arrest of #JulianAssange is meant to send a message to all Americans and journalists: be quiet, behave, toe the line. Or you will pay the price," Gabbard tweeted.

The Democrat's remark came hours after police in London arrested Assange, citing charges he is facing in the U.S.

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Assange is accused of conspiring to hack into computers in connection with WikiLeaks's release of classified documents from former Army private and intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The indictment filed under seal last year in Virginia and released Thursday alleges that Assange helped Manning crack a password stored on a Defense Department computer, which was connected to a government system that stored classified information.

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U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers have also voiced concerns about WikiLeaks's actions during the 2016 election, when they published troves of hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin MORE's campaign.

The U.S. has said that Russian hackers were behind stealing the emails. However, Assange has dismissed criticisms surrounding his actions, arguing he acted like other journalists would have by seeking to leak classified documents viewed as in the public interest.

Gabbard is one of more than a dozen candidates vying for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination and the chance to face off against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE

Trump had himself spoken out in favor of WikiLeaks during the 2016 election, but sought to distance himself from the group following Assange's arrest on Thursday.

“I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Assange had been staying at Ecuador's Embassy in London since 2012, but that country's government withdrew his diplomatic asylum this week, leading to his arrest by British police.