Who is Dana Rohrabacher? Former congressman accused of offering Assange a pardon 'on instructions from Trump'

Alex Woodward
Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher: Getty Images

Donald Trump allegedly offered to pardon Julian Assange if he claimed that Russia had nothing to do with a leak of Democratic party emails, according to arguments made as the Wikileaks founder prepares to block his extradition to the US.

The request to Mr Assange reportedly came from a former California Republican congressman and Trump ally, now thrust into the scandal at the heart of a federal investigation into foreign interference in US elections, lawyers for Mr Assange argue.

Former congressman Dana Rohrabacher, 72, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House has denied the claims.

The leaked emails published by Wikileaks proved to be a campaign obstacle for Democrats and candidate Hillary Clinton.

Mr Assange faces decades in prison if found guilty on more than a dozen charges involving the release of classified documents obtained by former US Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning.

Mr Rohrabacher, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and a candidate for Trump's cabinet, was often criticised for his apparent close relationship with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.

He was frequently accused of relying on his position in Congress to subvert US foreign policy with outside interests.

On a 2016 audio capture of an exchange between then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans, Mr McCarthy can be heard joking that Mr Rohrabacher and Mr Trump are on Russia's payroll.

Months before Mr Trump was elected president – and the day after the Washington Post revealed that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee – Mr McCarthy was recorded telling a private meeting of fellow GOP members: "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God."

In 2017, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs restricted Mr Rohrabacher's use of foreign travel expenditures over concerns of his interests in Russia.

His ties were allegedly close enough with Russia and proved so valuable to the Kremlin that the FBI reportedly warned him that Russia believed he was an asset worthy of a code name.

Mr Rohrabacher also called for the resignation of then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018 for his refusal to boot Robert Mueller from the investigation into Russian interference in 2016 elections, saying Mr Sessions was being "disloyal to the president and to the country". Mr Sessions resigned later that year.

He had previously claimed that a deal with Mr Assange would exonerate Mr Trump amid charges that Russian-backed groups contributed to that interference, ultimately benefitting the president's campaign.

In that scenario, Mr Assange would have to admit that Russia was not responsible for hacking into the Democratic National Comittee's emails.

Dozens of former Trump aides and several Russian nationals and companies were indicted in charges related to Mr Mueller's subsequent investigation.

After he lost his congressional seat in 2018, Mr Rohrabacher was congratulated by Mr Trump for his service: "He produces!"

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