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Julian Assange agrees to plea deal with US government

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge as part of a plea deal with the Justice Department. And a historic space mission by China brings back samples from the far side of the moon. These stories and more highlight The Morning Rundown for Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

Julian Assange agrees to plea deal with U.S. government

A legal case that spanned nearly 15 years is scheduled to be resolved Tuesday, June 25, when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange pleads guilty to violating U.S. espionage law. Assange left a British prison Monday, June 24, where he has spent the last five years, and boarded a plane headed for the Northern Marina Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific. The plane made a stop in Bangkok to refuel. 

According to court documents, Assange has agreed to a plea deal with the U.S. government, where he will plead guilty to a single charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disclose classified national defense documents. Charges against him stem from the release of classified information more than a decade ago, including reports on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.    

Assange is expected to be sentenced to the five years already served, sparing him from additional prison time. He is then expected to return to his home country of Australia to be joined by his wife, Stella, and two children. 

Assange’s wife told Reuters the couple will be seeking a pardon.

“Of course, I mean, I think that the correct course of action from the U.S. government should have been to drop the case entirely,” Stella Assange said. “We will be seeking a pardon obviously, but the fact that there is a guilty plea under the Espionage Act in relation to obtaining and disclosing national defense information is obviously a very serious concern for journalists and national security journalists in general.” 

Prosecutors said the Northern Marina Islands was chosen for the location of the hearing because of its proximity to Australia and that Julian Assange had opposed to traveling to the U.S. mainland. 

The hearing is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 26, local time, which is 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 25 EDT. 

Hunter Biden’s attorneys request new trial

Hunter Biden is seeking a new trial. Less than two weeks after his conviction on federal gun charges, attorneys for the president’s son have requested a new trial, saying his convictions should be vacated because the trial started before a circuit court had formally denied his appeal. 

They argue that means the Delaware court that tried him did not have jurisdiction. 

Hunter Biden was found guilty earlier this month on three federal charges related to buying a gun while being a drug user. 

In a separate filing Monday, Hunter Biden’s lawyers argue the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold a federal ban on firearms for people under domestic violence restraining orders supports their motion for an acquittal or “at a minimum” a new trial. 

His attorneys said because Hunter Biden never acted violently toward anyone or misused the gun, the charges against him are unconstitutional. 

Bankruptcy trustee plans to shut down Alex Jones’ ‘Inforwars’

A federal bankruptcy court trustee is planning to shut down Alex Jones’ media company “Infowars.” The plan is to sell it off to pay for Jones’ $1.5 billion settlement he owes to families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre

The move comes weeks after a federal judge in Texas ruled to liquidate Jones’ personal assets but did not determine the fate of “Infowars.” Jones used the platform to say the 2012 shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead “was all a hoax.” 

The trustee also asked a judge to put an immediate hold on the efforts by some of the Sandy Hook families to collect the massive amount Jones owes them. The trustee said that would interfere with his plans to close “Infowars'” parent company, Free Speech Systems, and sell off its assets — with much of the proceeds going to the families. 

Parents sue over Louisiana’s Ten Commandments in schools law

Parents in Louisiana are suing their state’s education department and local school boards over the new law requiring the Ten Commandments be displayed in all public schools. They said it’s unconstitutional. 

In court filings, the nine families — backed by civil liberties groups — argue the law “substantially interferes with and burdens” their First Amendment right to raise their kids in whichever religion they want. 

Under the new law, signed by Gov. Jeff Landry, R, on June 19, a poster-sized version of the Ten Commandments would have to be displayed in all public K-12 classrooms and state-funded universities in Louisiana. 

The families are seeking an order to stop that from happening. 

2 federal judges block key parts of Biden student debt forgiveness plan

Two federal judges in Kansas and Missouri have blocked key aspects of President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan that lowers payments. The Monday June 24 rulings will stop the Biden administration from any further implementation of its SAVE program

The plan — which ties how much someone pays each month to what their income is — has been in place for almost a year. 

This means the second phase of the plan, which would’ve reduced monthly payments from 10% of a borrower’s discretionary income to 5%, is on pause. So is any further cancellation of debt for people who took out smaller initial loan payments and have been paying for 10-plus years. 

However, the 8 million people who are already enrolled can keep using the SAVE plan until the cases are fully litigated. 

China’s Chang’e 6 brings back samples from far side of the moon

After 53-days, China’s Chang’e 6 became the first mission to successfully bring samples from the far side of the moon back to Earth. The return capsule landed in China just after 2 p.m. local time Monday. 

The capsule is expected to contain around two kilograms of moon dust and rocks to be analyzed by Chinese researchers and then by international scientists.    

China’s successful mission is the latest achievement in the modern space race. The U.S. is set to send to astronauts back on the moon as early as 2026, while China plans on doing the same by 2030. 

Panthers win first Stanley Cup, defeat Oilers 2-1 in Game 7

They say there’s nothing like a Game 7 in sports — and hockey fans got to experience a memorable one Monday night. The Florida Panthers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. 

The Panthers were able to stop the momentum of the Edmonton Oilers, who fought back after being down three games to none to force a Game 7. 

After losing the last three games, the Panthers rebounded, defeating the Oilers 2-1.  

Despite being on the losing team, the Oilers’ Connor McDavid was named the postseason’s MVP. But it was the Panthers who got to hoist the Stanley Cup trophy over their heads in front of their home fans. 

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A LEGAL CASE THAT SPANNED NEARLY 15 YEARS IS SCHEDULED TO BE RESOLVED TUESDAY WHEN WIKILEAKS FOUNDER JULIAN ASSANGE PLEADS GUILTY TO VIOLATING U.S. ESPIONAGE LAW. 

ASSANGE LEFT A BRITISH PRISON MONDAY WHERE HE HAS SPENT THE LAST FIVE YEARS – AND BOARDED A PLANE HEADED FOR THE NORTHERN MARINA ISLANDS – A US COMMONWEALTH IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC.   

THE PLANE MAKING A STOP IN BANGKOK TO REFUEL. 

ACCORDING TO COURT DOCUMENTS — ASSANGE HAS AGREED TO A PLEA DEAL WITH THE U.S. GOVERNMENT – WHERE HE WILL PLEAD GUILTY TO A SINGLE CHARGE OF CONSPIRING TO UNLAWFULLY OBTAIN AND DISCLOSE CLASSIFIED NATIONAL DEFENSE DOCUMENTS. 

THE CHARGES BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT STEM FROM THE RELEASE OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION MORE THAN A DECADE AGO INCLUDING REPORTS ON THE WARS IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ AND THE DETAINEES AT GUANTANAMO BAY.    

ASSANGE IS EXPECTED TO BE SENTENCED TO THE FIVE YEARS ALREADY SERVED – SPARING HIM FROM ADDITIONAL PRISON TIME. 

HE IS THEN EXPECTED TO RETURN TO HIS HOME COUNTRY OF AUSTRALIA – TO BE JOINED BY HIS WIFE STELLA AND TWO CHILDREN. 

ASSANGE’S WIFE SPEAKING TO REUTERS – SAYING THE COUPLE WILL BE SEEKING A PARDON. 

STELLA ASSANGE | WIFE OF JULIAN ASSANGE 

“Of course I mean I think that the correct course of action from the U.S. government should have been to drop the case entirely, we will be seeking a pardon obviously but the fact that there is a guilty plea under the Espionage Act in relation to obtaining and disclosing national defense information is obviously a very serious concern for journalists and national security journalists in general.” 

PROSECUTORS SAY THE NORTHERN MARINA ISLAND WAS CHOSEN FOR THE LOCATION OF THE HEARING BECAUSE OF ITS PROXIMITY TO AUSTRALIA AND THAT JULIAN ASSANGE HAD OPPOSED TO TRAVELING TO THE U.S. MAINLAND. 

THE HEARING IS SET FOR 9 A.M. WEDNESDAY LOCAL TIME WHICH IS 7 P.M. TUESDAY EASTERN TIME. 

HUNTER BIDEN IS SEEKING A NEW TRIAL. 

LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AFTER HIS CONVICTION ON FEDERAL GUN CHARGES — ATTORNEYS FOR THE PRESIDENT’S SON HAVE REQUESTED A NEW TRIAL — SAYING HIS CONVICTIONS SHOULD BE VACATED BECAUSE THE TRIAL STARTED BEFORE A CIRCUIT COURT HAD FORMALLY DENIED HIS APPEAL… ARGUING THE DELAWARE COURT THAT TRIED HIM DID NOT HAVE JURISDICTION. 

HUNTER BIDEN WAS FOUND GUILTY EARLIER THIS MONTH ON THREE FEDERAL CHARGES RELATED TO BUYING A GUN WHILE BEING A DRUG USER. 

IN A SEPARATE FILING MONDAY — HUNTER BIDEN’S LAWYERS ARGUE THE SUPREME COURT’S RECENT DECISION TO UPHOLD A FEDERAL BAN ON FIREARMS FOR PEOPLE UNDER DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDERS SUPPORTS THEIR MOTION FOR AN ACQUITTAL OR QUOTE “AT A MINIMUM” A NEW TRIAL. 

HIS ATTORNEY’S ARGUING THAT BECAUSE HUNTER BIDEN NEVER ACTED VIOLENTLY TOWARD ANYONE OR MISUSED THE GUN — THE CHARGES AGAINST HIM ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL. 

A FEDERAL BANKRUPTCY COURT TRUSTEE IS PLANNING TO SHUT DOWN ALEX JONES’ MEDIA COMPANY INFOWARS — AND SELL IT OFF TO PAY FOR JONES’ 1.5 BILLION DOLLAR SETTLEMENT HE OWES TO FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SANDY HOOK MASSACRE. 

THE MOVE COMES WEEKS AFTER A FEDERAL JUDGE IN TEXAS RULED TO LIQUIDATE JONES’ PERSONAL ASSETS… BUT DID NOT DETERMINE THE FATE OF INFOWARS —  

THE PLATFORM JONES USED TO SAY THE 20-12 SHOOTING THAT LEFT 20 CHILDREN AND 6 EDUCATORS DEAD “WAS ALL A HOAX.” 

THE TRUSTEE ALSO ASKED A JUDGE TO PUT AN IMMEDIATE HOLD ON THE EFFORTS BY SOME OF THE SANDY HOOK FAMILIES TO COLLECT THE MASSIVE AMOUNT JONES OWES THEM… SAYING THAT WOULD INTERFERE WITH HIS PLANS TO CLOSE INFOWARS’ PARENT COMPANY, FREE SPEECH SYSTEMS, AND SELL OFF ITS ASSETS — WITH MUCH OF THE PROCEEDS GOING TO THE FAMILIES. 

PARENTS IN LOUISIANA ARE SUING THEIR STATE’S EDUCATION DEPARTMENT AND LOCAL SCHOOL BOARDS OVER THE NEW LAW REQUIRING THE TEN COMMANDMENTS BE DISPLAYED IN ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS — CALLING IT UNCONSTITUTIONAL. 

IN COURT FILINGS — THE NINE FAMILIES — BACKED BY CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUPS — ARGUE THE LAW “SUBSTANTIALLY INTERFERES WITH AND BURDENS” THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO RAISE THEIR KIDS IN WHICHEVER RELIGION THEY WANT. 

UNDER THE NEW LAW SIGNED BY GOVERNOR JEFF LANDRY LAST WEEK — A POSTER-SIZED VERSION OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS WOULD HAVE TO BE DISPLAYED IN ALL PUBLIC K THROUGH 12 CLASSROOMS *AND* STATE-FUNDED UNIVERSITIES. 

THE FAMILIES ARE SEEKING AN ORDER TO STOP THAT FROM HAPPENING. 

TWO FEDERAL JUDGES IN KANSAS AND MISSOURI HAVE BLOCKED KEY ASPECTS OF PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN’S STUDENT DEBT RELIEF PLAN THAT LOWERS PAYMENTS. 

MONDAY’S RULINGS WILL STOP THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION FROM ANY FURTHER IMPLEMENTATION OF ITS “SAVE PROGRAM” — THE PLAN THAT TIES HOW MUCH SOMEONE PAYS EACH MONTH TO WHAT THEIR INCOME IS.  

THE PLAN HAS BEEN IN PLACE FOR ALMOST A YEAR. 

THIS MEANS THE SECOND PHASE OF THE PLAN — WHICH WOULD’VE REDUCED MONTHLY PAYMENTS FROM 10 PERCENT OF A BORROWER’S DISCRETIONARY INCOME TO 5 PERCENT — IS ON PAUSE. 

SO IS ANY FURTHER CANCELLATION OF DEBT FOR PEOPLE WHO TOOK OUT SMALLER INITIAL LOAN PAYMENTS AND HAVE BEEN PAYING FOR 10-PLUS YEARS. 

HOWEVER — THE 8 MILLION PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY ENROLLED — CAN KEEP USING THE SAVE PLAN UNTIL THE CASES ARE FULLY LITIGATED. 

AFTER 53-DAYS – CHINA’S CHANG’E 6 BECAME THE FIRST MISSION TO SUCCESSFULLY BRING SAMPLES FROM THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON BACK TO THE EARTH. 

THE RETURN CAPSULE LANDING IN CHINA JUST AFTER 2 P.M. LOCAL TIME MONDAY. 

THE CAPSULE IS EXPECTED TO CONTAIN AROUND 2 KILOGRAMS OF MOON DUST AND ROCKS – TO BE ANALYZED BY CHINESE RESEARCHERS AND THEN BY INTERNATIONAL SCIENTISTS.    

CHINA’S SUCCESSFUL MISSION IS THE LATEST ACHIEVEMENT IN THE MODERN SPACE RACE – AS THE US- IS SET TO SEND TO ASTRONAUTS BACK ON THE MOON AS EARLY AS 2026 – WHILE CHINA PLANS ON DOING THE SAME BY 2030.   

THEY SAY THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GAME 7 IN SPORTS. AND HOCKEY FANS GOT TO EXPERIENCE A MEMORABLE ONE MONDAY NIGHT AS THE FLORIDA PANTHERS WON THE STANLEY CUP FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FRANCHISE HISTORY. 

THE PANTHERS WERE ABLE TO STOP THE MOMENTUM OF THE EDMONTON OILERS WHO FOUGHT BACK AFTER BEING DOWN 3 GAMES TO NONE TO FORCE A GAME 7. 

AFTER LOSING THE LAST THREE GAMES, THE PANTHERS REBOUNDED – DEFEATING THE OILERS 2-1.  

DESPITE BEING ON THE LOSING TEAM — THE OILERS’ CONNOR MCDAVID WAS NAMED THE POSTSEASON’S MVP — BUT IT WAS THE PANTHERS WHO GOT TO HOIST THE STANLEY CUP TROPHY OVER THEIR HEADS IN FRONT OF THEIR HOME FANS.