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Trump associates offered pardon deal to Assange, London court told

Associates of Donald Trump told Julian Assange that the US president will forgive the founder of WikiLeaks if he reveals the source of the Democratic National Committee email hack ahead of the 2016 US presidential election, said a London court.

Mr. Assange is fighting extradition to the United States to stand trial on espionage and hacking charges related to the 2010 publication of a huge cache of classified government documents. A London court hears arguments from his legal team on why he should not be extradited.

The testimony of sworn witnesses, which echoes allegations made by Mr. Assange’s legal team in preliminary hearings earlier this year, is designed to bolster its line of defense that the Trump administration’s pursuit of the founder of WikiLeaks is politically motivated. Lawyers for Mr. Assange say the US prosecution is overturning a 2013 decision not to prosecute him made by former President Barack Obama.

Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer acting for Mr. Assange, said on Friday that in August 2017, she and Mr. Assange met with former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Charles Johnson, a Trump associate, at the Embassy of the United States. Ecuador in London where he was hiding.

At the time, Mr. Trump and his campaign team were being questioned by Robert Mueller, US special advocate, for possible involvement in Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

“Congressman Rohrabacher and Mr Johnson made it clear that they wanted us to believe they were acting on behalf of the president,” Ms Robinson said in a statement read during Mr Assange’s extradition hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday. “They said President Trump was aware and had approved that they come to meet with Mr. Assange to discuss a proposal – and that they would have an audience with the president to discuss the matter upon their return to Washington DC . “

US Congressman told Assange he wanted to end “ongoing speculation” about Russia’s involvement in leaked documents stolen from the US Democratic Party and published by WikiLeaks during the presidential election American of 2016, said Robinson.

Mr. Rohrabacher told them he was meeting with Mr. Assange to talk about “what might be needed to get him out” and presented what he called a “win-win” solution that “could enable Mr. Assange to leave the embassy and “continue”. her life “without fear of an indictment and extradition request by the United States,” said Robinson.

Mr Rohrabacher wanted Mr Assange to identify the source of the DNC leaks in return for a pardon “which would both benefit President Trump politically and prevent the indictment and extradition of the United States,” Robinson added. . Mr Assange did not disclose the source, she said.

James Lewis QC, acting for the US government, said the US government “did not dispute these things were said”, adding: “We obviously do not accept the truth of what has been said by others . “

The White House and Mr. Rohrabacher did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Friday. In February, they denied that Mr. Trump offered Mr. Assange a pardon. “At no time did I offer anything to Julian Assange from the president because I hadn’t spoken to the president about this issue at all,” Rohrabacher said at the time.

Mr. Assange faces one count of computer hacking and 17 alleged violations of the Espionage Act of 1917. The charges carry a maximum prison term of 175 years, although Mr. Assange probably receives a shorter sentence. The hearing continues.

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