London: Jennifer Robinson, the Australian lawyer representing Julian Assange, has told his extradition hearing the Trump administration offered Assange a pardon over the WikiLeaks publications if he outed the source of the 2016 DNC email hack.
The emails, which US agencies say were obtained by Russian hackers, were published by WikiLeaks to the benefit of Donald Trump’s campaign.
Julian Assange is driven from the Ecuadorian embassy in London after his arrest in April 2019.Credit:PA
She said the offer was made by Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Trump associate Charles Johnson, who visited Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2017.
Assange was living in the embassy having sought political asylum there to prevent his extradition to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual assault.
It is not the first time Assange’s legal team have made the claims, which have been denied by both the White House and Rohrabacher.
« At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the President because I had not spoken with the President about this issue at all, » Rohrabacher said in a statement in February, when the claims were first made.
« However, 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. »
But Robinson, who attended the meeting, said a direct offer was made and the pair explicitly stated that they were acting on behalf of the President.
« They said that President Trump was aware of and had approved of them coming to meet Mr Assange to discuss a proposal, » she said.
She said that Rohrabacher described the offer as a « win-win solution » in which Assange would be given a « pardon, assurance or a commitment » preventing an indictment in return for giving up the source of the 2016 hack of the DNC email servers, allowing the 49-year-old to « get on with his life ».
« He said the ongoing speculation was damaging to US-Russia relations, that it was reviving old Cold War politics and that it would be in the best interests of the US if the matter could be resolved. »
She said they were told that the source of DNC emails « would be of interest, value and assistance to President Trump ». At the time, Robert Mueller was investigating Russian interference in the US election and any connections between Trump associates and Russian officials.
Significantly, James Lewis, the QC representing the US government, did not cross-examine Robinson who read from a pre-prepared statement.
« The position of the government is that we don’t contest, challenge those things were said, we obviously don’t accept the truth of the contents of what was said by others, » Lewis said.
Assange’s legal team claims his prosecution is a political one and that his human rights would be violated if he is extradited – if his argument is accepted, it could prevent his extradition to the US.
Earlier, the court was told that Assange was « just an Aussie guy » who had devoted himself to making the world a better place by providing classified information obtained by hacking.
The United States Department of Justice wants Britain to extradite the Australian so he can face 18 charges, mostly relating to computer hacking and conspiring with former Army analyst Chelsea Manning to hack Pentagon systems.
The DoJ is also prosecuting Assange over the publication of informants, including in Afghanistan and Iraq whose names were published on WikiLeaks, potentially putting them in great harm.
A supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange takes part in a protest outside the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, in London.Credit:AP
Nicky Hager, an investigative journalist from New Zealand, said that when he travelled to the United Kingdom to work with Assange on the cables in 2010, Assange had wanted to redact the names of informants from documents before they were published on the WikiLeaks website.
The court has previously heard that Assange insisted on stringent redactions and that software was created to scrub all non-English words from the files in the hope that all foreign names would be removed.
The investigative journalist, who relied heavily on the WikiLeaks cables and worked with Assange and WikiLeaks in 2010, blamed « very bad fortune » and « bad luck » for the documents eventually being published online in full.
« I think it was subsequently through very bad fortune and perhaps partly the fact that these kinds of leaks and people of all sorts aren’t used to being engaged in them, that the information got out and it shouldn’t have, » he said.
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Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.
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