White House denies offering Assange pardon to say Russia had no role in DNC Leaks - UPDATED

White House denies offering Assange pardon to say Russia had no role in DNC Leaks - UPDATED
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  • calendar-gray 19 February 2020

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement on Wednesday denied allegations that President Donald Trump directed former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher to offer WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia had no role in the Democratic National Convention (DNC) leaks, APA reports citing Sputnik.

"The President barely knowns Dana Rohrabacher other than he's an ex-congressman," Grisham said in the statement. "He's never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject. It is a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another never ending hoax and total lie from the DNC."

Assange's legal team alleges that Trump asked the former congressman to speak with his client to offer a pardon in exchange for a statement saying Russia did not have a role in the DNC leaks.

The WikiLeaks founder is indicted by a US court on 18 felony charges, mostly regarding the violations of the Espionage Act after he leaked classified cables that exposed US transgressions during the Iraq and Afghan wars. Assange faces five to 10 years in prison for each if convicted.

Assange spent seven years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London after skipping bail and asking for political asylum in 2012 to evade possible extradition to the United States.

The whistleblower was forced out of the embassy last year and is being held at a high-security prison in London pending an extradition trial, which is scheduled to begin on Monday. A UN rapporteur on torture has said that he showed signs of prolonged psychological torture.

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U.S. President Donald Trump offered to pardon WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange if he said that Russia had nothing to do with WikiLeaks’ publication of Democratic Party emails in 2016, a London court heard on Wednesday, APA reports citing Reuters.

Assange appeared by videolink from prison as lawyers discussed the management of his hearing next week to decide whether he should be extradited to the United States.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald, referred to a witness statement by former U.S. Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher who had visited Assange in 2017, saying that he had been sent by the president to offer a pardon.

The pardon would come on the condition that Assange complied with the U.S. by saying that the Russians were not involved in the email leak which hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, Rohrabacher’s statement said.

 

Assange, 48, who spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s embassy before he was dragged out last April, is wanted in the United States to face 18 counts including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades behind bars if convicted there.

Almost a decade after his WikiLeaks website enraged Washington by leaking secret U.S. documents, Woolwich Crown Court in London will begin hearings on Monday - with Assange present in person - to decide whether he should be sent to the United States.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Assange spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.

He appeared relaxed and spent much of the hearing reading notes in his lap. He wore two pairs of glasses: one on top of his head and another which he took on and off and twiddled in his hands.

 

Australian-born Assange made global headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.

WikiLeaks later angered the United States by publishing caches of leaked military documents and diplomatic cables.

The full extradition hearing will be split in two parts, with the second half delayed until May.

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