Trump claims he 'barely knows' former GOP congressman he praised repeatedly
A London court filing from lawyers representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claims ex-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher dangled a presidential pardon from Trump if Assange would deny Russia’s involvement in the DNC email hack.
Donald Trump on Wednesday falsely claimed to “barely know” former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, hours after Rohrabacher’s name was summoned in a London court filing on behalf of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Lawyers for Assange alleged in the filing that the California Republican had dangled a pardon from Trump back in 2017.
“The President barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than he’s an ex-congressman,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Wednesday. “He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject. It is is a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another never ending hoax and total lie from the [Democratic National Committee].”
According to the court filing, back in 2017, Rohrabacher offered Assange a pardon from Trump if Assange publicly denied that Russia was behind the now-infamous DNC email hack. (The American Independent has not independently confirmed this claim.)
The hacked emails were later published on WikiLeaks in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.
Assange has claimed previously that Russia had nothing to do with the hack, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The U.S. intelligence community unanimously agrees that Russia was behind the hacking and dissemination of the DNC’s emails and did so in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Rohrabacher himself publicly admitted in a 2018 interview with the YouTube channel Costa Mesa Brief that he flew to London previously and met with Assange about the WikiLeaks hack. Rohrabacher claimed Assange had offered to give the U.S. government proof that the hack was not carried out by Russia, in exchange for protection from prosecution. Rohrabacher said he had told Assange he would “get it to the president” to “find out about it.”
A 2017 Wall Street Journal report claimed Rohrabacher had in fact contacted the White House to broker a deal.
Assange for his part claimed in a 2017 tweet that “offers have been made to me” regarding the source of the hacked materials, but insisted he had dismissed the offers, claiming, “WikiLeaks never has and never will reveal a source.”
Trump, however, now denies knowing or talking to Rohrabacher about anything related to Assange, WikiLeaks, or Russia’s hacking of the DNC.
Yet there is ample evidence that Trump does know Rohrabacher, who earned the nickname “Putin’s favorite congressman” for his close ties to the Russian dictator.
Trump met with Rohrabacher in April 2017, just a few months after taking office, according to a White House press briefing by Sean Spicer at the time. Trump personally invited Rohrabacher to the White House after he saw the California congressman on Fox News defending him, according to a Politico report.
In June 2018, during a National Space Council signing event in the East Room of the White House, Trump specifically shouted out Rohrabacher, who was sitting in the audience.
Trump first called on Rohrabacher and other legislators to stand, before later singling out the California lawmaker by name.
“America’s vital interest in space lost out to special interests in Washington, except, of course, for the senators and congressmen here. They would never do it. Right, Dana?” he said.
Trump also praised Rohrabacher and endorsed his 2018 reelection bid, which Rohrabacher ultimately lost to Democrat Harley Rouda by more than 7 points.
“Congratulations to Dana Rohrabacher on his big California win. We are proud of you Dana!” Trump tweeted in June 2018, after the California primary.
Trump later endorsed Rohrabacher again, days before the 2018 midterm election.
“Dana Rohrabacher has been a great Congressman for his District and for the people of Cal. He works hard and is respected by all – he produces! Dems are desperate to replace Dana by spending vast sums to elect a super liberal who is weak on Crime and bad for our Military & Vets!” Trump tweeted on Nov. 5, 2018.
Trump, for his part, often denies knowing people who have been caught up in controversy, even when public links between them are evident.
He denied knowing indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas earlier this year after Parnas was charged with campaign finance violations. Video of Trump and Parnas having dinner together surfaced later, disproving that claim.
Trump also denied knowing Gordon Sondland, the now-former United States ambassador to the European Union who was a key figure in the Ukraine scheme that got Trump impeached. Trump, however, had tweeted praise of Sondland multiple times. He went on to fire Sondland after Senate Republicans acquitted Trump of the impeachment charges.
Additionally, Trump has downplayed his connections to other convicted felons, including his own former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was sentenced in March last year to 47 months in prison for a number of crimes, including tax and bank fraud. Manafort’s misdeeds were discovered in the course of special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year-long Russia probe.
After the FBI first raided Manafort’s residences in 2017, Trump admitted that he knew Manafort but that he “[hadn’t] spoken to him in a long time.” He added, ” He was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period of time, relatively short period of time.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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