A lawyer for Julian Assange reiterated that the WikiLeaks founder would be offered a presidential pardon if he revealed the source behind the leaked Democratic National Committee emails.
Jen Robinson, who has represented Assange for years, said then US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and an associate of Donald Trump met with Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy on August 15, 2017 to discuss the idea “win -win “.
The proposal “was for Mr. Assange to identify the source for the 2016 election publications in exchange for some sort of pardon, assurance, or agreement that would politically benefit President Trump and prevent US prosecution and extradition,” he said. Robinson in a statement on Friday.
The alleged offer of pardon is one of the key arguments Assange is using in a London courtroom to fight extradition to the United States to face criminal charges. His lawyers argue that the US case is politically motivated.
The claims were first done earlier this year, as part of a preliminary hearing, when Assange’s attorneys told the judge they would present Robinson’s witness statement as evidence. His testimony offered more details on the 2017 meeting.
In February, the The White House denied that the pardon was ever offered to Assange and called the claims “a complete fabrication and a complete lie.”
James Lewis, a US attorney, told the court that “the government’s position is that we do not dispute that these things have been said.”
Rohrabacher offered a more nuanced account of the meeting in a blog post earlier this year. “I told him that if he could provide me with information and evidence on who actually provided him with the DNC emails, I would then ask President Trump to forgive him,” Rohrabacher said. “At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President.”
Rohrabacher said he later told White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that Assange was willing to provide information on the hacked DNC emails in exchange for a pardon. Nobody followed him, Rohrabacher said.
During the 2016 campaign, Wikileaks published a series of DNC emails harmful to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton that US intelligence believes were hacked by Russia as part of its effort to influence the election.
Robinson said Rohrabacher told Assange that Trump was aware of and approved of the ongoing meeting. Rohrabacher also told Assange he would meet Trump upon his return to the United States to discuss Assange’s reaction to the deal, he said.
Rohrabacher “wanted to resolve the ongoing speculation about Russian involvement” in the DNC leaks to WikiLeaks, Robinson said. He was accompanied by Charles Johnson, another Trump associate, he said.
“He said he considered the ongoing speculation to be detrimental to US-Russia relations, that it was reviving old Cold War politics and that it would be in the best interest of the US if the matter could be resolved,” he said, adding. that Rohrabacher said disclosing the source of the leaks “would be of interest, value and assistance to President Trump.”
Rohrabacher, who represented a district in California’s Orange County from 1988 until he was defeated by Democrat Harley Rouda in 2018, was known as the strongest defender of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Congress. Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarthy told colleagues in 2016 that he thought both Trump and Rohrabacher might be on Putin’s payroll, though he later said he was joking.
Assange is fighting extradition to the United States to address the leaking allegations that precede the DNC documents.
He is accused of conspiring to obtain and disclose confidential documents passed to him by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Those documents, including State Department cables and reports on military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, were published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011.
(Updates with more details from Robinson’s witness statement)