According to Julian Assange’s lawyer, President Donald Trump offered a pardon to the WikiLeaks’ founder on one condition; he would agree to say that Russia had nothing to do with hacking emails from Democrats during the 2016 presidential election.
Currently, Assange is awaiting exaction back to the United States after being charged with 17 criminal counts including violating the Espionage Act. These charges range from conspiracy to receive national defense information to obtaining national defense information and discourse of defense information.
Assange has previously stated that he believes Russia was not involved in the hack. These remarks were later contradicted by the intelligence community, who reported that the Russian government purposely interfered with the presidential election of 2016.
What We Know About The Accusations
But back to the present day; here’s what we know about the accusations from Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald:
The statements from Assange’s legal team took place during an extradition hearing in London on Wednesday. The hearing is related to the United States’ request to extradite Assange from the United Kingdom to face multiple charges.
Fitzgerald told the court that almost three years ago in 2017, former GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher visited Assange at London’s Ecuadorian embassy with a message directly from President Trump. That message was if Assange were to publicly announce that Russia had nothing to do with the release of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, Trump would then offer Assange a pardon.
These emails were hacked from the Democratic National Committee by Russian agents. Emails from the campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton were also hacked. Later, the emails were made public by WikiLeaks.
Fitzgerald continued with a statement from Jennifer Robinson, another lawyer on Assange’s legal team. Robinson disclosed that then Rep. Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, told Assange that if he “played ball,” then the president would offer a pardon or “some other way out.” The only statement Assange had to make is Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.
Allegedly, the meeting between Rohrabacher and Assange took place during the summer of 2017 at Ecuador’s embassy in London.
Keep in mind that Rohrabacher has a pro-Russia stance which earned him being nicknamed Vladimir Putin’s “favorite congressman.” At the time of the meeting, comments were made by Rohrabacher to the media.
“Our three-hour meeting covered a wide array of issues, including WikiLeaks expose of the DNC emails during last year’s presidential election,” Rohrabacher recounted. “Julian emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved in the hacking or disclosure of those emails.”
When reporters pressed the congressman for more information about the meeting, Rohrabacher answered he would share the information privately with President Trump.
Rohrabacher added that “Julian also indicated that he is open to further discussions regarding specific information about the DNC email incident that is currently unknown to the public.”
WikiLeaks released their own statement following the news: “Chronology matters: The meeting and the offer were made ten months after Julian Assange had already independently stated Russia was not the source of the DNC publication. The witness statement is one of the many bombshells from the defense to come.”
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham labeled the claim “absolutely and completely false.” She added that President Trump “barely knows” Rohrabacher and has “never spoken to him on this subject.”
Nevermind Trump’s 2018 tweet in which he proclaims Rohrabacher as a “great Congressman for his district and for the people of Cal.” Trump added that he “works hard and is respected by all – he produces!” Rohrabacher lost his seat in the House of Representatives to Democrat Harley Rouda in 2018.
Then, there’s this 45-minute-long White House meeting in 2017 that places Trump and Rohrabacher together with former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Rohrabacher’s statement regarding these allegations is that he “at no time” talked with President Trump about Assange. Recounting his meeting with Assange, he states that he told him “if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him. At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President.”
This piece of news about Trump’s alleged Assange pardon came after the president went on a clemency and pardoning spree Tuesday. When the day was done, a total of 11 individuals were pardoned or granted clemency by Trump. Some of these individuals included former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, former “junk bond king” Michael Milken, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.
So what’s next for Assange? His extradition case will hear arguments on February 24 and will run for approximately one week. After that, the case will be adjourned until May, where evidence will be presented.
If convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison for his crimes.