FPI / February 21, 2020
Several major media outlets ran with an unsubstantiated rumor which claimed a California Republican congressman had acted on orders from President Donald Trump to offer WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a pardon in exchange for Assange saying Russia was not involved in the 2016 DNC emails leak.
Former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher met with Assange in 2017. The congressman said he never spoke to Trump about the meeting.
Still, The Washington Post, Reuters, and The Associated Press all ran sensational headlines on the alleged Trump order, even though the congressman had already made the denial.
Earlier this week, a Wikileaks attorney alleged that Rohrabacher was acting “on instructions” from Trump to offer clemency to Assange if the WikiLeaks founder confirmed Russia wasn’t involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Assange faces extradition to the U.S. on multiple charges, though none of them are related to the DNC hack.
In a recent interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal in meeting with Assange in 2017 was related to DNC staffer Seth Rich being the alleged source of the DNC leak, not Russian agents. Rich was murdered on July 10, 2016, in Washington, D.C. No charges have ever been brought related to his death, and his killer remains at large.
Related: Judicial Watch sues FBI for records on murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, February 13, 2020
“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 News. “He knew I could get to the president.”
The former congressman wrote on his personal blog earlier this week that “there is a lot of misinformation floating out there regarding my meeting with Julian Assange.”
“At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange. Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange,” he wrote.
Rohrabacher said that he called then-chief of staff John Kelly to discuss the proposal, but said Kelly made no promises that he would even raise the matter directly with the president. The former congressman said he never heard anything back from Kelly on the subject and never discussed the subject directly with Trump.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has denied that Trump ordered Rohrabacher to make a deal with Assange, saying that the president has “never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.”