Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, said he plans to brief President Trump following a meeting at London’s Ecuadorian Embassy with its most infamous resident, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
The two spent around three hours Wednesday discussing topics ranging from the status of WikiLeaks to its publication of internal Democratic National Committee emails last summer, Mr. Rohrabacher said Thursday, making him the first U.S. congressman to visit the WikiLeaks chief since he took refuge at Ecuador’s London compound in 2012.
Mr. Assange offered potentially “earth-shattering” details about the DNC emails, Mr. Rohrabacher said, and he “emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved in the hacking or disclosure of those emails,” the congressman said in a statement.
The U.S. intelligence community said those emails were initially obtained by Russian hackers, but the president and some other Republicans have publicly considered otherwise.
“He has given us a lot of information. He said there’s more to come. We don’t have the entire picture yet,” Mr. Rohrabacher told The Orange Country Register following his meeting with Mr. Assange this week. “I have some information to give the president before I give information to anyone else,” he added.
Mr. Assange acknowledged the meeting in a statement Thursday and said that he and his attorney had met with Mr. Rohrabacher “at the congressman’s request.”
Mr. Assange “explained how the ongoing proceedings agains WikiLeaks over its publications on war, diplomacy and rendition violate the First Amendment rights of WikiLeaks and its readers,” the statement said – a contrasting readout showing the complexities surrounding the not just the Russian hack, but the international dilemmas initiated by WikiLeaks since its launch more than a decade earlier.
The Justice Department began investigating WikiLeaks in 2010 over its publication of hundreds of thousands of classified State and Defense Department documents, but only one of the website’s sources — Army Private Chelsea Manning — has been convicted in the U.S. of crimes connected to WikiLeaks. She was ultimately sentenced to 35 years in prison for supplying that trove, but President Obama commuted most of it on his way out of office.
Ecuador granted asylum to Mr. Assange in 2012, seemingly sparing him from facing a similar fate as his former source. He’s been confined to its London embassy ever since, however, because British authorities have threatened to arrest him on unrelated charges, opening the door to his potential extradition, conviction and execution.
Mr. Trump applauded WikiLeaks on the campaign tail for publishing emails damaging to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, but the Trump administration has since ramped-up the Justice Department’s probe and made arresting Mr. Assange a priority, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April.
At seven years, the grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks is “one of the longest and most expensive in U.S. history,” Mr. Assange said Thursday, as well as “widely viewed by legal scholars as unconstitutional.”
Other participants during Wednesday’s meeting included Mr. Assange’s attorney, Jennifer Robinson and Charles C. Johnson, a conservative writer and activist who arranged the get-together, the Daily Caller first reported.
“There was just me, Julian, the congressman and Assange’s lawyer,” Mr. Johnson told The Washington Times Thursday.
Mr. Assange referred to his statement when reached for comment Thursday.