As we reported last week, California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher earlier this year tried to broker a deal between the Trump administration and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange whereby Assange would furnish purportedly conclusive evidence that Russia wasn’t responsible for the DNC leaks in exchange for a presidential pardon.
Well, apparently Trump isn’t an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal (the newspaper that originally reported on the Rohrabacher-Assange deal), because when asked about it over the weekend, he responded that he’d “never heard” of the deal.
That’s not surprising. As WSJ initially reported, Rohrabacher was stymied by Chief of Staff John Kelly when he tried to take the deal to the president. Trump’s chief of staff, who’s efforts to impose “discipline” on the West Wing in part by limiting access to the president have been widely publicized, suggested that Rohrabacher first clear the deal with the intelligence agencies, which, of course, would be a non-starter.
So, in what’s likely another attempt to circumvent Kelly’s influence via the media (after all, it’s not out of the question that Rohrabacher was behind the initial leaks to WSJ) Rohrabacher complained to the Daily Caller that certain disloyal aides are creating “a wall around” the president.
“I think the president’s answer indicates that there is a wall around him that is being created by people who do not want to expose this fraud that there was collusion between our intelligence community and the leaders of the Democratic Party,” Rohrabacher told The Daily Caller Tuesday in a phone interview.
“This would have to be a cooperative effort between his own staff and the leadership in the intelligence communities to try to prevent the president from making the decision as to whether or not he wants to take the steps necessary to expose this horrendous lie that was shoved down the American people’s throats so incredibly earlier this year,” Rohrabacher said.
As WSJ reported, Rohrabacher met with Assange in August at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has lived in asylum since 2012 due to now-dropped sexual assault charges in Sweden. However, American authorities are reportedly still investigating Assange for his role in disseminating thousands of classified US documents. At the meeting, Assange purportedly promised to deliver information that proves Russia wasn’t behind the DNC leak.
While Trump said early in the campaign that he believed Assange should get “the death penalty” for publishing US secrets and endangering intelligence assets, he has since softened his tone. Earlier this year, he praised Wikileaks for publicly denying that the Russian government was the source of the leaked DNC emails – provoking outrage among Democrats and some Republicans, who accused the president of siding with an enemy of the state over his own intelligence community.
US intelligence agencies have claimed that Russian state actors were involved with the hacking and leaking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.
Rohrabacher said that a pardon would likely have to occur for Assange to give up this information about the source of the DNC emails. Assange has long maintained that he would never reveal a source, but Rohrabacher said that Assange now “wants to get out of the Ecuadorian embassy.” Rohrabacher told The Daily Caller that he hasn’t seen the information that Assange says vindicates Russia, but vouched that the Wikileaks founder would provide the goods if the president is on board.” According to US laws, the president is able to preemptively pardon someone.
To be sure, nobody has railed against the ongoing Russia investigation harder than Trump, who has vehemently denied accusations that his campaign colluded with Russia, while also pushing back against the notion that Russia actively tried to interfere in the US election.
It’s not out of the question that Trump would consider such a deal if it were presented to him.