- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Republican congressman seeking a pardon for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has accused the White House chief of staff of blocking access to President Trump.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California said Tuesday that John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, is preventing him from meeting with the president to discuss his recent sit-down with the wanted WikiLeaks chief.

Mr. Kelly and “a coalition of people in the White House” are keeping Mr. Rohrabacher from having a conversation with the president about Mr. Assange and his website, the congressman told Business Insider.

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“The White House staff and other top people in the administration are trying to protect the president from himself,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. “That’s what they think and in fact they are usurping his authority to make decisions — the important decisions — himself.”

Mr. Rohrabacher visited the WikiLeaks publisher in London this past August, marking the first meeting between a sitting U.S. congressman and Mr. Assange since the latter took refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy there more than five years earlier.

The Obama administration began investigating Mr. Assange in 2010 after WikiLeaks began publishing classified government documents, including hundreds of thousands of files obtained from State and Defense Department computer networks. The Justice Department has failed so far to publicly file criminal charges against anyone in connection with WikiLeaks, but Mr. Assange has said he fears he’s been secretly indicted for leaking state secrets.

U.S. intelligence officials have since concluded that Russian state-sponsored operatives used the secret-spilling website as a conduit for releasing emails and other materials stolen from Democratic targets during last year’s White House race as part of an alleged Kremlin-ordered influence campaign. Mr. Rohrabacher isn’t convinced by the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment, however, and said he left his meeting with Mr. Assange believing otherwise.

“I’m trying to get this out in the public now where we can get this Julian Assange thing straightened out so that people know that it wasn’t the Russians that hacked into the system, and that’s not how this information was released,” Mr. Rohrabacher said early last month.

The congressman later said he spoke with Mr. Kelly afterwards about possibly securing a pardon or “something like that” for Mr. Assange, but his attempts to raise the matter personally with the president have so far been unsuccessful, Business Insider reported.

Neither Mr. Assange nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment Thursday.

Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

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