The White House is denying a stunning claim from Julian Assange's lawyer that President Trump offered to pardon Assange if he said Russia had "nothing to do with" hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.
The Daily Beast on Wednesday reported a lawyer representing Assange, Edward Fitzgerald, claimed during a pre-extradition hearing that former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) visited Assange "on instructions from the president" and said "he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange ... said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks." Fitzgerald was citing a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham on Wednesday said Trump has "never spoken" to Rohrabacher "on this subject or almost any subject" and called the claim a "complete fabrication and a total lie." Rohrabacher has met with Trump at the White House and was reportedly under consideration to be his secretary of state.
Back in 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported Rohrabacher contacted the White House in an attempt to broker a similar deal with Assange under which the WikiLeaks founder would get a pardon or "something like that" if he produced evidence proving Russia didn't provide WikiLeaks with hacked DNC emails.
But a Trump administration official told the Journal Trump himself wasn't aware of the details of Rohrabacher's proposed deal, and Rohrabacher later said then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wouldn't let him speak to Trump about it. He also told The Intercept in 2018 that what was "preventing [him] from talking to Trump about this is the existence of a special prosecutor."