Here we go again: Media report ‘Trump asked Assange to deny/cover up link with Russia’… quoting statement showing no such thing

Case in point are breathless bombshells on Wednesday that Julian Assange’s lawyers confirmed US President Donald Trump offered the WikiLeaks founder a pardon if he “denied Russia link to hack” of the Democrats in 2016 (Guardian) or “cover up the involvement of Russia in hacking” the DNC (The Daily Beast).

Both outlets base their headlines on a revelation from Westminster Magistrates Court, where Assange’s barrister Edward Fitzgerald presented a statement from another attorney, Jennifer Robinson, about US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher “going 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.”

Though both publications faithfully reproduced Fitzgerald’s quote, they both jumped to the exact same conclusion, presenting Robinson’s statement as proof that Trump sought to “deny” or “cover up” what they treat as the established fact – i.e. the ‘Russian hack’ of the DNC, and the subsequent publication of internal party emails.

Never mind that the ‘Russian hack’ has only been alleged by Mueller’s prosecutors and the US intelligence community – the same one that spied on Trump during and after the 2016 election – the main story around which this malicious misinterpretation resolves isn’t even true.

While Rohrabacher did visit Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, he said it was Assange who showed him “definitive proof that Russia was not the source” for the DNC emails, according to a February 2018 report in the Intercept. 

Furthermore, Rohrabacher said that he was never able to share this with Trump, because he was blocked by the president’s chief of staff at the time, John Kelly.

“Not only Kelly, but others are worried if I say one word to Trump about Russia, that it would appear to out-of-control prosecutors that that is where the collusion is,” Rohrabacher told the Intercept. Meanwhile, Assange did not want to release the evidence publicly, so as not to compromise his sources and methods.

The timeline of events also goes against the Guardian and Beast’s interpretation. Months after the meeting with Rohrabacher – in November 2018 – a secret US indictment against Assange was revealed. 

Mueller delivered his report, finding no evidence of any Americans “colluding” with Russia in the 2016 election, on March 22, 2019. Less than three weeks later, on April 11, Assange’s asylum was revoked and he was hauled out of the embassy in handcuffs. The WikiLeaks publisher was thrown into a dungeon in Belmarsh, where he has been ever since. In May, the US government revealed the expanded indictment, threatening him with 175 years behind bars for “attempted hacking” – but in relation to the 2010 Pentagon disclosures, not the 2016 election. 

Also on
Australian senator calls on govt to bring Assange home as journalist faces ‘death’ if extradited to US

Meanwhile, the same media outlets that have spent the past three years screeching about Trump’s “collusion” with Russia are twisting words of Assange’s lawyers to retroactively validate their repeatedly debunked reporting – and see the WikiLeaks journalist imprisoned forever.

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