Bush nixes Denver visit, citing invite to Assange

AP News
Posted: Feb 25, 2011 9:05 PM
Bush nixes Denver visit, citing invite to Assange

George W. Bush said Friday he will not visit Denver this weekend as planned because WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was invited to attend one of the same events as the former president.

Bush planned to be at a Young Presidents' Organization "Global Leadership Summit" Saturday but backed out when he learned Assange was invited, Bush spokesman David Sherzer said.

It was unlikely that Assange would have attended in person. The Denver Post reported he appeared at the conference Friday by video link.

Assange has been in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden in a sex crimes inquiry, and his lawyers have raised fears that he could be arrested by U.S. authorities investigating whether Assange and WikiLeaks illegally distributed secret government documents.

WikiLeaks has released tens of thousands of U.S. military documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and on U.S. diplomatic efforts worldwide, deeply angering U.S. officials.

Sherzer said Bush doesn't want to be part of a forum that invited someone who has "willfully and repeatedly done great harm to the interests of the United States."

Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Denver, declined to comment on whether Assange would be arrested if he came to Denver. Assange has not been charged with a crime in the U.S. relating to the WikiLeaks disclosures.

Michele Foster, a spokeswoman for the Young Presidents Organization, didn't respond to questions from The Associated Press about why Assange was invited and whether he appeared by video or had planned to attend.

YPO is an international network of chief executives under age 45. The summit, held in a different location each year, is designed to bring together CEOs and entrepreneurs for a two-day event on leadership in the age of globalization.

In a statement, the group said: "We regret that our members will not be able to hear from President Bush. Bush has spoken to our members several times in the past and we hope to have him participate in another YPO event in the future."

Bush had also planned to meet with education leaders in Denver on Saturday to discuss the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership, an initiative of his Bush Institute. He won't attend that either.

"We're disappointed that he had to reschedule but we're looking forward to meeting with him in the future when he decides to return," said Amy Slothower, executive director of Get Smart Schools, a Denver organization that is working with the education alliance.

No new date has been set.