- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A lawyer for Julian Assange said in a British court Wednesday that President Trump offered to pardon the WikiLeaks founder if he agreed to help cover up Russia’s hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee.

The White House called the claim “a complete fabrication and a total lie.”

Mr. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, offered Mr. Assange the deal in 2017, The Daily Beast reported.

The allegation emerged during a pre-extradition hearing for Mr. Assange held in London ahead of the proceedings that formally start next week.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham rejected the claim, and Mr. Rohrabacher denied relaying any offer on the president’s behalf.

“The president barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than he’s an ex-congressman,” Ms. Grisham said in a statement. “He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject. It is a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another never-ending hoax and total lie from the DNC.”

In a separate statement, Mr. Rohrabacher said, “At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the president because I had not spoken with the president about this issue at all.

“However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that 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.”

WikiLeaks published the stolen emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, and the U.S. government later determined they had been looted from the DNC by Russian state-sponsored hackers.

Mr. Rohrabacher previously said he met with Mr. Assange in London in August 2017 and that they spoke for about three hours about matters including the DNC emails and their origins.

“He said, ‘I have physical proof that the Russians did not give me this,’” Mr. Rohrabacher told CNN afterward.

Weeks later, Mr. Rohrabacher said that White House officials including John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s then-chief of staff, were preventing him from relaying details to the president about his meeting with Mr. Assange.

Mr. Rohrabacher subsequently said he reached out to Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, with the intent of having him communicate details about the London meeting to the president.

“I wanted to make sure that when [Trump] calls him that [Paul] knew enough about the Julian Assange offer that I found something of value for the president to look at,” Mr. Rohrabacher told The Daily Caller at the time.

Mr. Assange is fighting extradition to the U.S., arguing that a pending prosecution against him is politically motivated. He faces 18 criminal charges, none related to the DNC leak, including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law.

His extradition hearing is scheduled to start next week.

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