By Julia Duggan
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is fighting extradition to the U.S. in England as new details emerged about a potential deal that was offered by President Trump in 2017.
New details have emerged over the past week, according to Reuters, showing that allies of the president reached out and offered to arrange a deal for Assange to release information on his sources in the 2016 Democratic National Committee in exchange for a presidential pardon.
Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said she saw then representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Trump associate Charles Johnson make an offer for a presidential pardon during a meeting in August 2017, NBC News reported.
According to Reuters, Robinson said the proposal that was put forth asked for Assange to “‘identify the source for the 2016 election publications in return for some form of pardon, assurance or agreement’” that would benefit the President and prevent extradition.
Robinson said she and Assange asked the men to make the case to Trump that he should be released purely on First Amendment grounds, noting that former President Barack Obama had already commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst previously sentenced to 35 years for giving classified information to WikiLeaks, NBC News reported.
Rohrabacher has also denied making such an offer. “‘At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the president because I had not spoken with the president about this issue at all,’” she said in a statement in February, according to NBC News.
“‘However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him,’” Rohrabacher said, according to NBC News.
Rohrabacher said that on his return trip to Washington he “‘wasn’t successful in getting this message through to the president,’” but that “‘I still call on him to pardon Julian Assange, who is the true whistleblower of our time,’” NBC News reported.
Over 160 current and former world leaders, lawmakers and diplomats have endorsed a call for the U.K. to free Assange, who is being held in the Belmarsh Prison located in London, and stop his extradition to the U.S., reported NBC News.
The letter, addressed to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other ministers, urges Britain to “act in accordance with national and international law, human rights and the rule of law by bringing an end to the ongoing extradition proceedings and granting Mr. Assange his long-overdue freedom — freedom from torture, arbitrary detention and deprivation of liberty, and political persecution.”
There is also concern over Assange’s mental health, according to CBS News. Michael Kopelman, a psychiatrist who has interviewed Assange approximately 20 times, said the former hacker would be a “‘very high’” suicide risk if he were handed over to the U.S.
Kopelman testified on Aug. 22 in a court hearing over extradition to the U.S., citing that Assange was suffering from “‘severe depression’” and “‘psychotic symptoms’” while in solitary confinement, according to CBS News. He also said that the former leaker was hearing imaginary voices and music during that time.
James Lewis, representing the U.S. government, alleged that Assange may have made them up, according to CBS News.
Assange fled to England, sought asylum at the Ecuador Embassy in London and stayed there for seven years until the embassy invited police to arrest him last April, according to The New York Times.
Assange is currently facing 175 years in prison on charges of espionage stemming from leaks of diplomatic cables in 2010 to 2011, as reported by NBC News.