Assange lawyer: Trump ′offered pardon′ in exchange for denying Russia role in email leak | News | DW | 19.02.2020
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Assange lawyer: Trump 'offered pardon' in exchange for denying Russia role in email leak

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's lawyer told a court that US President Donald Trump offered him a pardon if he denied Russia's role in the DNC email leak in the run up to the 2016 presidential election.

US President Donald Trump offered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a pardon if he agreed to say that Russia was not involved in the 2016 Democratic National Committee (DNC) email leak, Assange's lawyer told a court on Wednesday. 

At a preliminary hearing in the Westminster Magistrate's court, Assange's barrister in his preliminary hearing, Edward Fitzgerald, referred to a statement by another Assange lawyer, who said that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher had visited Assange while he was at the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2017. 

The statement read that Rohrabacher had been sent by the president to offer "a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange ... said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks" in the run up to the 2016 presidential election. 

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'A complete fabrication'

The White House denied the lawyer's claim. 

"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. It is a complete fabrication and a total lie," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

London Botschaft Ecuador nach Festnahme von Julian Assange (Reuters/P. Nicholls)

Assange was arrested last September after years holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London

Rohrabacher also denied the allegations in a statement on his website.

"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," the statement read. 

"At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President," he added.

18 counts, life in prison a possibility

This comes as Assange, who is currently in a British prison, is challenging an extradition to the US.

He faces 18 counts, 17 of which are under the Espionage Act. None of these counts are related to the DNC hack but to the large-scale leaks of documents and other material on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which catapulted WikiLeaks to prominence. 

If found guilty, Assange could be imprisoned for 175 years.

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US intelligence agencies had said that Russia had hacked into the DNC's server during Trump's campaign against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate in the election. The leaked emails were later published by WikiLeaks.

Assange appeared in the court on Wednesday by video-link. The full hearing on the extradition is set to start on Monday. 

dvv/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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