Trump 'offered Julian Assange pardon if he said Russia wasn't linked to email hack'
19 February 2020, 19:02 | Updated: 19 February 2020, 19:38
Donald Trump "offered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a pardon" if he said Russia "had nothing to do with" Democratic email leaks, a court has heard.
The remarkable claim about the US President was made at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, prior to Mr Assange's extradition hearing next week.
His barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, referred to evidence that allegedly showed a former US Republican Congressman visited him while he was staying at the Ecuadorian embassy in August 2017.
Mr Fitzgerald said a statement from Mr Assange's lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, showed Congressman Dana Rohrabacher went "to see Mr Assange and saying, 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."
In 2016, WikiLeaks published a series of hacked emails that were embarrassing for the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential election campaign.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is hearing the case at Westminster, said the evidence is admissible, meaning it is valid for use in court.
Responding to the claims after the court hearing, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said: "This is absolutely and completely false."
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," she added.
"It is a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another never-ending hoax and total lie from the DNC."
The jailed Australian activist is wanted in America on 18 charges, including conspiring to commit computer intrusion, over the publication of US cables a decade ago. If found guilty, he could face up to 175 years in jail.
He is accused of working with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
Mr Assange's legal battle to prevent his extradition to the US is set to begin at Woolwich Crown Court on Monday, beginning with a week of legal argument. It will then be adjourned and continue with three weeks of evidence, scheduled to begin on 18 May.
It is expected the losing side will appeal the decision, likely to follow months later, whatever the outcome.
The jailed hacker has been held on remand in Belmarsh prison since last September after serving a 50-week jail sentence for breaching his bail conditions while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
He entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were subsequently dropped.