Former California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has denied that he acted on orders from President Donald Trump to offer Julian Assange a deal for a pardon, saying that he never spoke to the president about the offer. The Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, and other mainstream outlets all ran sensational headlines claiming Trump was directly involved, despite some of the reports acknowledging Rohrabacher’s denial.
Rohrabacher’s claim calls into question accusations made earlier this week by a Wikileaks attorney who alleged that Rohrabacher was acting “on instructions” from President Trump to offer clemency to Assange if he confirmed Russia wasn’t involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mainstream outlets including The Washington Post, The Guardian, Reuters, and the Associated Press ran with the initial allegation, printing sensational headlines implicating President Trump, even though some of them acknowledged in their reporting that Rohrabacher denied he was following orders from the president.
In a recent interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal in meeting with Assange in 2017 was to find proof to support the unsubstantiated rumor that slain DNC staffer Seth Rich was the real source of the DNC leak, not Russian agents. He said that he never spoke to President Trump about the proposed deal.
“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 President Trump.
Since the claim by the Wikileaks attorney went public in a London court, the mainstream media has attempted to spin the claim as proof that President Trump has tried to coordinate with Wikileaks in order to damage his political opponents at home.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has denied that President 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.”
Assange faces extradition to the U.S. on multiple charges, though none of them are related to the DNC hack.
Seth Rich was murdered on July 10, 2016, in Washington, DC. No charges have ever been brought related to his death, and his killer remains at large.