Donald Trump ‘offered Julian Assange a pardon if he denied Russia link to hack’
Owen Bowcott and Julian Borger
Wed 19 Feb 2020 14.47 EST First published on Wed 19 Feb 2020 12.42 EST
Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told.
The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US.
Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, referred to evidence alleging that the former US Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher had been to see Assange, now 48, while he was still in the Ecuadorian embassy in August 2017.
Assange appeared in court on Wednesday by videolink from Belmarsh prison, wearing dark tracksuit bottoms and a brown jumper over a white shirt.
A statement from Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson shows “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks”, Fitzgerald told Westminster magistrates court.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is hearing the case at Westminster, said the evidence is admissible.
White House spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told reporters: “The president barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than he’s an ex-congressman. He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.”
“It is a complete fabrication and a total lie,” Grisham said. “This is probably another never ending hoax and total lie from the DNC.”
Trump, however, invited Rohrabacher to the White House in April 2017 after seeing the then congressman on Fox TV defending the president.
In September 2017, the White House confirmed that Rohrabacher had called the then chief of staff, John Kelly, to talk about a possible deal with Assange.
Rohrabacher told the Wall Street Journal that as part of the deal he was proposing, Assange would have to hand over a computer drive or other data storage device that would prove that Russia was not the source of the hacked emails.
“He would get nothing, obviously, if what he gave us was not proof,” Rohrabacher said.
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