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What’s Really Behind Rohrabacher’s ‘Assange Pardon’ Story?


IMAGE: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Julian Assange.

Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

Just as Roger Stone’s sentencing was getting underway this afternoon, another story began drifting out into the media sphere – another potential spanner in the works just in time for part one of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing which is due to commence this Monday.

According to a revelation aired during a recent scheduled case hearing on Wednesday by a member of Assange’s defence team, Edward Fitzgerald QC, Assange was informally offered some kind of pardon deal by a US representative during the first year of the Trump Administration. Fitzgerald was reading from a statement by Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson, reportedly saying:

“Mr 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.”

This statement is referring to former US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) who says he visited Assange as part of Rohrabacher’s own independent ‘fact finding mission’ at London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, near the beginning of the Mueller Investigation.

The White House has firmly denied the claim and states the President had no contact with Rohrabacher.

Before we continue and unravel what has been said and by whom, there are three key aspects of this latest news to consider.

The first and most importantly – is the media spin aspect. Given that this is both a highly-charged partisan, as well as geopolitical case, and that we are just days away from the start of Assange’s historic extradition hearing, there are powerful forces, be they state, partisan or media – who will try and spin this and other ‘bombshells’ in a way which suits their political agenda. It also goes without saying that there are agents of influence within mainstream media organizations who are both willing and able to manipulate, twist, distort or fabricate any aspect of a story like this in order to further the interests of the two primary government stakeholders in this case, the United States and United Kingdom. This has already been demonstrated time and time again with the Assange story, most notably by The Guardian newspaper who completely fabricated at least one headline story by Luke Harding and Danny Collyns claiming that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The Guardian then followed this fake news story up with a sequel in which they used Harding’s Manafort story to help bolster another bogus claim that an ally of Nigel Farage was attempting to obtain emails from WikiLeaks. Bottom line: if there is any opportunity to advance a Trump-Russia or RussiaGate narrative, there are mainstream journalists and editors ready to publish or say anything, even if it’s a complete lie.

The second thing to consider is how this latest news will factor into Julian Assange’s extradition hearing next week.

And thirdly, whether or not the Dana Rohrabacher story will ultimately help, or hurt the real protagonist in this case, Julian Assange.

Most certainly, the mainstream media have distorted this story from the word go, mostly to advance anti-Trump and anti-Russian narratives. We’ll look at two reports, one from the Daily Beast, and the other from the UK’s Independent.

The Daily Beast story written by Nico Hines carries an over-the-top headline, “Trump Offered Assange Pardon if He Covered Up Russian Hack, WikiLeaks Founder’s Lawyer Claims”. Of course, this isn’t actually what the lawyer said. The headline doesn’t actually correspond with the claims made below in the article. Hine’s own article does not stipulate that Trump himself made such an offer to Assange. Hine then repeats the same lie in the sub-header, saying that Rohrabacher “had brought the message to London from Trump.” In addition to this, the headline erroneously asserts that Assange is also orchestrating a cover-up. No doubt the Daily Beast’s management and data analytics team knows that a large percentage of online readers, especially those seeing content via social media, only skim the headline of a post and do not read the body of the article (content engineers need to know this data because it is how they place and bill for advertising space).

In addition to this, according to a statement made by former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the former Congressman denies having made a pardon offer on behalf of Trump, saying that he made a proposition to Assange that if the WikiLeaks founder was prepared to give proof of who provided the DNC and related email leaks, Rohrabacher would do his best to lobby the President for a pardon.

Technically, this is not breaking news, as it was reported back in September 2017 my multiple mainstream outlets.

Just below the Daily Beast’s gratuitous headline is stamped with “Quid Pro Quo” in red lettering, Here author Hines was attempting to re-purpose the UkraineGate-Impeachment accusation of Trump’s abuse of power in asking the Ukrainian President Zelensky for an illicit ‘Quid Pro Quo’ favor, thus engaging in yet another under-the-table dodgy deal.

Above all, this story is being crafted to look as if Trump was in league with Assange to try and cover-up any Russian involvement in the DNC Leaks and the 2016 Election – leaving the reader to assume that there was Russian involvement. This story is complete spin and clickbait by the Daily Beast. In classic propaganda style, the author also uses this opportunity to reinforce the usual laundry list of unproven RussiaGate narrative talking points, stating a series of evidence-free assertions and falsehoods as if they were iron-clad proven facts (now standard operating procedure for most US mainstream outlets):

“Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee.”

“WikiLeaks posted the stolen DNC emails after they were hacked by Russian operatives.”

This is followed by a cheap, ad hominem smear against Rohrabacher:

“Rohrabacher, who was known as Putin’s favorite congressman.”


Like The Guardian, formerly a respectable newspaper, the UK’s Independent has become a formidable online propaganda outlet. It’s headline takes the Daily Beast spin even further, adding ‘Russian election interference’ for good measure: “Trump offered to pardon Assange if he covered up Russian interference in US election, court told”. Of course, this is not what the court was told, but the truth doesn’t seem to be a priority for these mainstream outlets. It repeats most of the lies woven through the Daily Beast article, and then builds a partisan angle on top of the initial lie, making reference to the 2020 US election:

“… could have profound consequences for Mr Trump’s re-election effort if proven true.”

Note also the use of the cheap throwaway propaganda phrase, “if proven true” – which more often than not denotes a fake allegation, and is proof of deceptive intent, or a pre-existing agenda or bias by the author. A similar election smear here:

“It’s another indication that Trump’s assault on the rule of law isn’t new; it’s been ongoing throughout his term. And imagine just how much we don’t yet know.”

The propaganda housekeeping continues, advancing the official conspiracy theory that the DNC and Clinton emails were hacked, when there is still no proof to validate this claim, citing a likely partisan source, Obama CIA official Ned Price:

“A series of emails embarrassing for the Democrats and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign were hacked before being published by WikiLeaks…”

More of the same, reinforcing unproven, untested accusations tabled by Mueller probe:

The Mueller investigation, published in April, found Russian GRU agents hacked Ms Clinton’s private server for the first time just hours after Mr Trump’s public request for Russia to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing”.

(NOTE: DOJ indictments of ‘GRU hackers’ have shown no proof, FBI did not forensically inspect DNC servers, only showed redacted IT reports from the private firm Crowdsrike, and posited an unproven theory that Russian GRU agents ran online cut-outs like Guccifer 2.0)

SEE ALSO: Media Spinning ‘Assange Pardon’ as Proof of Russiagate Conspiracy

Needless to say, when it comes to stories like this, most mainstream media outlets are not fit for purpose, and most likely co-opted by some partisan interests, or worse, by an intelligence agency. History is replete with examples of this.

The second consideration is: how will this latest revelation effect Julian Assange’s extradition hearing next week? If you can filter out all of the media and partisan spin, you can see that this new information was introduced by the defense for a reason which may have less to do with Trump and Russia, and more to do with substantiating a complaint made by the defense that Assange should not be extradited to the U.S. because Washington’s case against him is in fact politically motivated. In this case, as a serving member of Congressman, Rohrabacher’s meeting with Assange and solicitation of a deal automatically proves that there was direct US political involvement in advance of the Department of Justice’s 18 superceding indictments of Assange served this past summer. In addition to this, the defense has proof of a CIA-led operation which spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which included surveillance of his discussions with his attorneys. Taken together, these two pieces of evidence could be crucial in the defense’s effort to have the US extradition request overturned on the basis that the US effort is entirely politically motivated and therefore in violation the extradition treaty between the two countries.

WikiLeaks tweeted out today that this Rohrabacker story will come into play on Tuesday’s session of the hearing.

WikiLeaks also points out the issue of the timeline of events with this story – that the Rohrabacher meeting took place long after Assange had publicly stated that his source for the DNC leaks was not a sate actor.

In addition to this, former UK Ambassador and friend of Assange, Craig Murray, has also declared publicly ( and confidently) on numerous occasions that the source was not Russia, but from ‘Washington DC circles’. From Sputnik News:

In December 2016 Murray told Radio Sputnik that the DNC Leaks had “absolutely nothing to do with Russia”. He said that he discovered the source while attending a whistleblowing conference in the US and stressed that it came from “official circles in Washington DC”.

The hysterical way in which the mainstream media has spun this story, and the extreme politicization by the establishment – may also play into the hands of the defense team.

Lastly, there is the question of whether or not the Dana Rohrabacher story will help, or hurt the credibility of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

As I have stated a number of times previously, the key to the DOJ case against Assange lies in the language in which they have reframed Assange and WikiLeaks from being a journalist and a press outlet, and instead labeled him as a ‘cyber terrorist and Russian asset’, and a ‘hostile non-state foreign intelligence service’, respectively. This reframing will also allow the US to strip Assange and WikiLeaks of any first Amendment protections upon arrival in the US, as well as justify Special Administrative Measures, which places Assange essentially in the same category as an enemy combatant or terrorist. One way to make this reframing exercise more credible is by attacking the credibility of both Assange and WikiLeaks, to portray them as not acting like ‘conventional journalistic outlets,’ simply to demonstrate that Assange and WikiLeaks are cavalier or careless in keeping to their journalistic principles. This is where the claims made by Dana Rohrabacher might be used to undermine Julian Assange’s insistence that WikiLeaks protects their sources at all costs. The insinuation by Rohrabacher – which has now cascaded through the world’s media – is that Assange was willing to sell-out his principles by divulging to Washington who leaked the DNC emails in order to save his own skin in the form of a pardon from President Trump.

In Rohrabacker’s own words:

“Upon my return, I spoke briefly with Gen. Kelly. I told him that Julian Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon.”

In his statement posted on Feb. 20, 2020, Rohrabacher was careful not to state explicitly that Assange had told him “Yes” and agreed to give up his source in exchange for a Presidential pardon – it was only inferred in Rohrabacher’s above quote, “I told him that Julian Assange would provide information…” – but he does not specify what exactly that information would be: a source, contextual information, deductive information, ie. who it wasn’t, or some other forensic evidence which would rule out a Russian state actor. It’s hard to know at this point, but that didn’t stop the mainstream media from colonizing that vacuum of information with the usual bevy of speculation, spin and fake news which we demonstrated earlier in this article. But the general impression in all of the reporting and from the Congressman himself, is that Assange had told Rohrabacher he would indeed give up his source in exchange for a pardon. This does not square with many vehement statements made by Assange about maintaining the integrity of WikiLeaks’ sources.

Who would really expect Assange to have have suffered this ten-year long ordeal – only to suddenly trust an emissary of the United States government to keep his promise to make good on some informal, and highly uncertain promise of freedom?

It’s also worth noting here that this same narrative mirrors a story which has been circulating somewhat under the radar for months, about a former FOX News contributor named Ellen Ratner (late brother Michael Ratner had been a U.S. lawyer for WikiLeaks) who says she visited with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the fall of 2016. Claims about her visit were then made by an alleged associate, another FOX News contributor and Dallas financial manager named Ed Butowsky – and Butowsky claims that Ratner told him that Assange said his source was the late Seth Rich, a DNC employee who was shot and killed a block from his apartment in Washington DC on July 10, 2016. This of course infers, by extension, that Rich was murdered because he was the leaker. The Ratner-Butowsky story has been mentioned by a few mainstream media outlets, but is more popular in alternative American conservative media. All of this is purely speculative, and as yet, without any evidence to validate the theory. However, Butowsky’s third-hand claims have triggered a chain a lawsuits led by a libel suit filed by the family of Seth Rich against various parties and media outlets who made the claim that Rich leaked the DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

Rohrabacher also mentions Seth Rich on this statement made on his website:

“Even though I wasn’t successful in getting this message through to the President I still call on him to pardon Julian Assange, who is the true whistleblower of our time.  Finally, we are all holding our breath waiting for an honest investigation into the murder of Seth Rich.”

One has to also ask why, if Rohrabacher believed in Assange’s cause of press freedom and clear First Amendment implications for the American people should Assange be put on trial for doing journalism, that the Congressman has never canvased for the release of Assange from arbitrary detention all these years, but instead only dangles a private deal in front of Assange requiring him to give up his source?

The amount of media noise surrounding this issue can easily obfuscate some of the fundamental principles and themes which are governing the mainstream narrative of this story.

What’s important to note here is that just like Rohrabacher’s inference that Assange had agreed to provide information on the DNC leaks, Butowsky’s unfounded claim infers that Julian Assange gave up his source to Ellen Ratner – a core principle which Assange has sworn he would never betray. Again, such a narrative actually undermines the ethical and professional credibility and staunch reputation of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as serious journalists.

Rohrabacker’s approach wasn’t the first interface between US officials and Julian Assange. While Rohrabacher’s approach was a traditional face to face meeting and offer of a pardon, a previous approach was said to have been made by the FBI and CIA agencies in 2017, as reported by John Solomon in 2018, whereby Assange would be offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for cooperation with intelligence agencies in mitigating some of the damage from WikiLeaks release of a CIA document trove. Solomon reports for The Hill:

This yarn begins in January 2017 when Assange’s legal team approached Waldman — known for his government connections — to see if the new Trump administration would negotiate with the WikiLeaks founder, holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy. They hoped Waldman, a former Clinton Justice Department official, might navigate the U.S. law enforcement bureaucracy and find the right people to engage.

Allegedly, FBI director James Comey then intervened later in the process in order to kill the deal.

The Rohrabacher story is just one of many fascinating details which will be introduced during the process of Assange’s hearing which will take place in two parts; in February, and then in May. But with all of these details and revelations, readers should pay close attention to how and why the news is being spun the way it is, and to the benefit of whom. Also, consider the source of the information.

The first half of Assange’s extradition hearing will begin on Monday Feb 24th at Woolwich Crown Court, where US lawyers will make the case that he should be extradited to the United States to face 18 federal counts of espionage and conspiring to commit computer intrusion, totally 175 years in prison – if he is found guilty.

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