US President Donald Trump has thrown himself into another quid pro quo mess, after he promised to pardon WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange if he denied Russia leaked emails of his 2016 election rival’s campaign.
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said in a document before a London court that Trump relayed the offer through former US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the UK’s Press Association news agency reported.
The White House quickly issued a denial that Trump had dangled a pardon in exchange for help in the Russia controversy, which has cast a shadow over his first term in office.
“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,” Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“This is probably another never-ending hoax and total lie” by the Democratic Party, she said, a day after Trump controversially pardoned or issued other forms of clemency to 11 people including a former governor jailed for corruption, and other high-profile white-collar criminals.
The revelation came at a case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court before Monday’s formal start of Washington’s extradition request for him to face espionage charges.
If found guilty in the United States, he could be jailed for 175 years.
Assange’s defence cited a statement from Robinson in which she said that Rohrabacher had been to see Assange and said “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”.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said the evidence was admissible.