Julian Assange’s lawyers told a London court that they will provide evidence that US President Donald Trump was prepared to offer pardon to the founder of WikiLeaks if he “continues the flow” about email leaks from the Democratic National Committee .
At a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, asked the court to allow more witness statements during the extradition hearing that will begin next week. The new information includes a witness statement by Jen Robinson, another of Assange’s lawyers, who deals with the alleged offer made by the then US representative Dana Rohrabacher, told the court.
The witness statement will address that “Mr. Rohrabacher went to see Mr. Assange and, following the president’s instructions, offered a pardon or some other way out if Mr. Assange was following the flow and saying that the Russians had nothing to do with the leaks, Fitzgerald said.RELATED
The White House denied Wednesday that such an offer was made to Assange.
“The president barely knows Dana Rohrabacher, apart from being a former congressman,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “He has never talked about this or almost any other subject. It is a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another endless hoax and a total lie of the National Democratic Committee. ”
Trump has shown his willingness to grant pardons to political allies and well connected people convicted of white collar crimes. On Tuesday, he issued a series of such clemencies, including former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of public corruption in 2011 and was serving a 14-year sentence, and financier Michael Milken, who was convicted of fraud of securities in 1990 and served 22 months in prison. Milken’s forgiveness in particular was backed by many Trump allies for a long time.
The National Democratic Committee has accused Trump of conspiring with Russia and WikiLeaks to hack emails from his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential race. A US district judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Committee last year, but questions about Trump’s relationship with Russia continue.
Rohrabacher, who represented a district in Orange County of California from 1988 until he was defeated by Democrat Harley Rouda in 2018, was known as the biggest defender of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Congress. Republican minority leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, told colleagues in 2016 that he thought both Trump and Rohrabacher could be on Putin’s payroll, but later said he was joking.
Trump strongly supported Rohrabacher in his bid for reelection.
USA filed 18 charges against Assange related to endangering national security, conspiring to obtain and disclose classified information. He is accused of collaborating with former US Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to obtain classified database documents with about 90,000 reports on war-related activities in Afghanistan, 400,000 about the war in Iraq and 250,000 cables from the State Department .
The Australian has been in Belmarsh prison, in London, since he was evicted in April from the Ecuadorian embassy, where he sought refuge after violating his bail to avoid being interrogated for a Swedish case of sexual assault. The case was withdrawn in November, after Swedish prosecutors said the accusations had weakened as the memories of the witnesses faded.
Assange appeared through a video link and spoke only to confirm his name and his date of birth. His extradition trial will begin next week and then be postponed until May for an additional three-week hearing.