LONDON: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange plans to claim during an extradition hearing that the Trump administration offered him a pardon if he agreed to say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, a lawyer for Assange said.
Assange is being held at a British prison while fighting extradition to the United States on spying charges. His full court hearing is due to begin next week.
At a preliminary hearing held Wednesday in London, lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said that a now-former Republican congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2017.
Fitzgerald said a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, recounted “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 leaks.”
Responding to the the lawyer’s claims, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “This is absolutely and completely false.”
President Donald Trump “barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than he’s an ex-congressman. He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject,” Grisham said. “It is a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another never-ending hoax and total lie from the DNC.”
Emails embarrassing for the Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign were hacked before being published by WikiLeaks in 2016.