Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, left a meeting with Julian Assange believing the WikiLeaks publisher had “physical proof” Russia didn’t supply his website with leaked Democratic National Committee emails it released during the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
Mr. Rohrabacher made the comment in a interview with Breitbart Radio published online Thursday in which he spoke about his August 2017 visit to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Mr. Assange took up refuge in the diplomatic compound in 2012, and in 2016 his website began publishing sensitive DNC emails allegedly sourced by Russian state-sponsored hackers as part of an effort meant to help President Trump’s election campaign.
“By now, everybody knows that this idea that Trump was colluding with the Russians in order to get them to do things like steal the DNC emails and then release them through WikiLeaks, the public knows that’s just total baloney [and] an excuse,” Mr. Rohrabacher said in the interview.
“I knew the one man who could prove that it was all baloney was Assange. So I went to see him in London, and he confirmed for me that the Russians did not give him the DNC emails. He had physical proof of that, and he was going to let me see that and have that, but only once, I found an agreement so he wouldn’t get arrested when he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London,” Mr. Rohrabacher insisted.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 race, and particularly allegations about possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, have prevented Mr. Rohrabacher from discussion the meeting with the president, he told Breitbart.
“I’ve been waiting because I know that we’re not going to give this special prosecutor any more ammunition than he needs to try to destroy this president,” Mr. Rohrabacher added.
Mr. Rohrabacher revealed last August that he spent several hours meeting with Mr. Assange inside the embassy, and he’s repeatedly complained in the months since about being unable to discuss the conversation with Mr. Trump.
“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 previously.
Mr. Assange, 46, entered the embassy nearly six years ago amid being wanted for questioning by Swedish authorities investigating allegations of rape. He received asylum from Ecuador in 2012 and was naturalized in 2017, but he’s refused to leave the embassy in lieu of being likely arrested by British authorities upon exiting for having allegedly breached his bail conditions by entering.
Mr. Assange has previously said he fears he’ll be extradited to the U.S. if arrested and prosecuted for publishing classified military and diplomatic documents through WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks did not immediately comment on Mr. Rohrabacher’s claim. Ecuador suspended Mr. Assange’s internet access at the embassy last month, and Mr. Assange is currently barred from communicating with anyone other than his lawyers, journalists included, according to WikiLeaks.
“WikiLeaks never has and never will reveal a source,” WikiLeaks said after Mr. Rohrabacher discussed the meeting previously.
Russian hackers breached the DNC and other American political targets as part of an interference campaign targeting Mr. Trump’s opponent, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Russia’s involvement in the race is currently the subject of investigations in the House and Senate, in addition to the special counsel’s office, and the Justice Department has filed criminal charges against 13 Russian nationals in connection with the campaign, albeit not in relation to the DNC breach.
Russia has denied meddling in Mr. Trump’s election, and the White House has denied colluding with the Kremlin.