A lawyer for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange told a British court Friday that her client was offered a deal in 2017 by a Republican congressman who said he would be helping President Trump.
Jennifer Robinson detailed the previously disclosed meeting between Assange and former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, during her client’s high-stakes extradition trial in London.
Another member of Assange’s defense team, Florence Iveson, read a statement in court from Ms. Robinson in which she recalled attending the meeting alongside both her client and then-congressman.
Ms. Robinson said Mr. Rohrabacher was accompanied by Charles C. Johnson, a conservative activist, and they “made clear that they wanted us to believe they were acting on behalf of” Mr. Trump.
“They stated that President Trump was aware of and had approved of them coming to meet with Mr. Assange to discuss a proposal and that they would have an audience with the president to discuss the matter on their return to Washington, D.C.,” recalled Ms. Robinson.
Mr. Rohrabacher, according to Mr. Robinson, proposed that Assange identify the source of the stolen Democratic National Committee material released by WikiLeaks in 2016, “in return for some form of pardon, assurance or agreement which would both benefit President Trump politically and prevent U.S. indictment and extradition.”
“He and Mr. Johnson also explained that information from Mr. Assange about the source of the DNC leaks would be of interest, value and assistance to President Trump,” Ms. Robinson added.
James Lewis, a prosecutor representing the U.S. government in the extradition proceedings, reportedly did not dispute the congressman made the claims.
“The position of the government is we don’t contest these things were said. We obviously do not accept the truth of what was said by others,” said Mr. Lewis, according to The Associated Press.
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe Russian government hackers breached the DNC to steal documents that were later published by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential race.
Assange has denied WikiLeaks was given the DNC material by a Russian source. Mr. Rohrabacher has said he left the meeting believing Assange had “physical proof” to corroborate that claim.
“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,” Mr. Rohrabacher said in February. “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.”
Mr. Rohrabacher, who retired in 2019, previously said that he attempted to talk to Mr. Trump regarding Assange but was rebuffed by John Kelly, the president’s chief of staff at the time.
The White House has denied Mr. Trump ever spoke to Mr. Rohrabacher about the matter.
Assange, a 49-year-old Australian, is wanted in the U.S. to face charges stemming from soliciting, receiving and releasing classified material published online by WikiLeaks dating back to 2010.
The meeting took place inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange lived before he was ejected in April 2019 and promptly arrested and convicted of jumping bail several years earlier. The Department of Justice unsealed a criminal indictment charging him shortly afterward.
Mr. Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment. He previously told The Washington Times he attended the meeting.