Julian Assange's extradition hearing begins on Monday, but an explosive claim was heard in a pre-trial hearing Wednesday in London: that Assange was in August 2017 allegedly offered a pardon by President Trump if he would say Russia had no role in the leak of DNC emails, which WikiLeaks subsequently published. Assange's lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, says the offer came from former GOP congressman Dana Rohrabacher during a visit to the Ecuadorian embassy and that Rohrabacher was there on the president's direction. Business Insider reports Assange's lawyers said they want to call a witness who will make that allegation during the hearing. Presiding District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled the allegation is admissible, reports the Guardian.
Within hours, the White House had denied Fitzgerald's claim, the Washington Post reports. "The president barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than he’s an ex-congressman,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. "He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject. It is a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another never ending hoax and total lie from the DNC." The Post notes that while it's clear Rohrabacher visited Assange in 2017 and said at the time that he was going to approach Trump about pardoning Assange in exchange for "a big favor" relating to "earth-shattering" information on the 2016 election hacks, reports at the time indicated the idea was never brought to Trump himself, with Rohrabacher accusing White House aides of blocking him. However, the paper also notes the "Russia-friendly" lawmaker did meet with Trump before he met with Assange. (Read more Julian Assange stories.)