- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2017

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange told Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, that his antisecrecy website wants a regular seat in the White House press room, according to the congressman.

Mr. Rohrabacher recalled the request after spending roughly three hours Wednesday meeting with the WikiLeaks chief at his residence in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy.

“He hoped that WikiLeaks — an award-winning journalistic operation — might be granted a seat in the White House press corps,” Mr. Rohrabacher told The Hill afterwards. “As a former newsman myself, I can’t see a reason why they shouldn’t be granted news status for official press conferences.”

“It didn’t sound unreasonable to me,” Mr. Rohrabacher told the Washington Examiner in a separate interview published Friday.

Mr. Assange did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Seats inside the White House press room are typically assigned by the the White House Correspondents’ Association board, and “anyone is welcome to send us a letter requesting that they be considered the next time the association considers seating in the briefing room or workspace,” its executive director, Steven Thomma, told The Examiner.

Members of the board declined to comment on WikiLeaks’ request, The Examiner reported.

While credited with publishing some of this century’s most significant intelligence leaks, WikiLeaks likely faces an uphill battle if it wants to secure White House press passes, to say the least. The Justice Department began investigating WikiLeaks in 2010, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have each declared war on the website since President Trump took office in January.

The U.S. intelligence community, meanwhile, has concluded that Russian actors used WikiLeaks to release stolen emails obtained by state-sponsored hackers deployed against Mr. Trump’s former campaign rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, making it party to last year’s unprecedented election hack.

Ecuador granted asylum to Mr. Assange in 2012. He’s confined himself to its London embassy ever since, however, because he fears he’ll be arrested upon exiting and extradited to the U.S.

Mr. Rohrabacher confirmed the meeting with Mr. Assange in a statement Thursday, according to press reports published by Daily Caller and The Hill.

It marked the first time a U.S. lawmaker has visited Mr. Assange at the embassy since the WikiLeaks founder entered its doors five years earlier, according to the congressman.

The two discussed topics ranging from the status of WikiLeaks to its publication last summer of Democratic National Committee emails, the statement said.

Mr. Assange, on his part, “explained how the ongoing proceedings against WikiLeaks over its publications on war, diplomacy and rendition violate the First Amendment rights of WikiLeaks and its readers,” he said in a statement of his own Thursday.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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