Former California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher says he spoke with Julian Assange about getting the WikiLeaks founder a pardon from President Trump.
Rohrabacher on Thursday confirmed a recent report from the Guardian that Assange’s lawyers told a court in London that the former congressman made the offer in 2017. Assange, who is currently being held in a U.K. prison, has been indicted in the U.S. on a variety of hacking-related charges.
In an interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said he told Assange that he could get him a pardon from Trump if Assange could provide information that would attribute the 2016 hack of Democratic National Committee emails to a widely debunked conspiracy theory. Doing so would help to absolve Russia, the nation U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was responsible for the hacking.
Rohrabacher, who lost his seat in 2018, was known as Vladimir Putin’s “top congressional ally,” which could explain why he was attempting to debunk the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s intelligence services were behind the email hack.
“I spoke to Julian Assange and told him if he would provide evidence about who gave WikiLeaks the emails I would petition the president to give him a pardon,” Rohrabacher told Yahoo, adding that Assange “knew I could get to the president.”
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The former congressman went on to say that he told then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about the offer, but that Kelly did not say he would tell Trump and the two never spoke about the matter again.
On Wednesday, Rohrabacher attempted to distance Trump from the Guardian story, which had gone viral. “At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange,” he wrote in a blog post. “Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham also responded, telling 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.”
As the Guardian pointed out in its initial report on the offer, Trump invited Rohrabacher to the White House in April of 2017 after seeing him on Fox News. The president has also praised Rohrabacher on Twitter on multiple occasions.
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