In a damning claim before the Westminster magistrates court, on Wednesday, February 20, lawyers representing whistle-blower and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange alleged that US President Donald Trump had offered him clemency if he cites Russia's non-interference in the 2016 DNC email leak.
Ex-Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who met Assange during his London trip in 2017, served as the middle-man, Assange alleged. Both Rohrabacher and the White House have denied the claims.
DNC's email hack and Wikileaks
Before the US went to polls to elect its 45th President, Wikileaks released thousands of DNC's [Democratic National Committee] emails. Among other things, the emails hinted at Democratic Party deriding Bernie Sanders' campaign, in favour of Hillary Clinton. They were leaked just after an embarrassing tape, in which Trump joked about molesting multiple women, was released.
Donald Trump offers pardon
During his 2017 trip to London, the then-Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher, told Assange that "on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks", lawyers claimed before the Westminster magistrates court, on Wednesday, Guardian reported.
In a blog put out by Rohrabacher, he said, "at no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange. I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact-finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country."
Though he claimed, he didn't talk to the President about Assange, but he did speak to the then chief of staff John Kelly, about the issue. In October 2017, Business Insider reported that John Kelly was blocking the pro-Russian Rohrabacher from meeting the President. The report also mentions the lawmaker requesting Kelly, a pardon for Assange in exchange of evidence that would clear the whistle-blower's name.
White House denied claims
"Even though I wasn't successful in getting this message through to the President I still call on him to pardon Julian Assange, who is the true whistleblower of our time", the ex-lawmaker wrote in his blog on Wednesday.
Likewise, White House too denied the claims. "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", White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told reporters. "It is a complete fabrication and a total lie".
"This is probably another never-ending hoax and total lie from the DNC", she added. Julian Assange is facing 18 charges in the US, if convicted, could face imprisonment of up to 175 years. Having sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, he was arrested and transferred to the Belmarsh prison, in September, last year.