Sept. 18 (UPI) — The Trump administration offered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a presidential pardon if he revealed the source of the 2016 Democratic National Committee email hack, his lawyer said Friday.
Jennifer Robinson, an Australian lawyer representing Assange, made the assertion at the Old Bailey Court in London as Assange fought extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage charges stemming from WikiLeaks’ release of confidential diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.
Robinson claimed the offer was made by Republican U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Trump associate Charles Johnson, who visited Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2017.
She said the pair told Assange that Trump was aware of the proposal and had approved it.
“Rohrabacher explained that he wanted to resolve the ongoing speculation about Russian involvement in the Democratic National Committee leaks to WikiLeaks,” Robinson said. “He said that he regarded the ongoing speculation as damaging to U.S.-Russian relations, that it was reviving old Cold War politics, and that it would be in the best interests of the U.S. if the matter could be resolved.”
In return for revealing the source of the leak, the pair offered Assange “some form of pardon, assurance or agreement” which would both prevent his extradition and benefit Trump politically.
Assange did not accept the offer, Robinson said, because “that would not be “consistent with WikiLeaks editorial policy.”
The meeting with Rohrabacher and Johnson came as special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and probing connections between Trump associates and Russian officials.
Mueller concluded the trove of confidential DNC emails were stolen by Russian hackers and given to Wikileaks in an attempt to sway the election against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Rohrabacher denied he had offered a pardon to Assange when the claims were initially made earlier this year.
“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,” he said in a statement in February.