As I said last night, the story that Julian Assange was offered a pardon by Trump if he would denounce the fact that Russia was behind the 2016 DNC email hack was a huge deal if it was true. Supposedly former GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher was the intermediary who offered the deal to Assange in 2017.
It's looking more and more like it's true as Rohrabacher confirmed the story to Yahoo News.
Former California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher confirmed in a new interview that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.
In a phone interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered on the streets of Washington in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery.
A lawyer for Assange in London on Wednesday cited the pardon offer from Rohrabacher during a court hearing on the U.S. government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham immediately denounced the claim about a pardon discussion with Assange as a “complete fabrication,” adding that the president “barely knows Dana Rohrabacher” and has “never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.”
Rohrabacher said that not only did talk of a Trump pardon take place during his meeting, but he also followed up by calling then White House chief of staff John Kelly to discuss the proposal. He did not, however, ever speak to Trump about it, he said.
“I spoke to Julian Assange and told him if he would provide evidence about who gave WikiLeaks the emails I would petition the president to give him a pardon,” Rohrabacher said. “He knew I could get to the president.”
When he spoke to Kelly, the then chief of staff was “courteous” but made no commitment that he would even raise the matter directly with the president. “He knew this had to be handled with care,” Rohrabacher said, and that it could be spun by the news media in ways that would be “harmful” to the president. In fact, Rohrabacher said he never heard anything further from Kelly about the matter, nor did he ever discuss the subject directly with Trump.
Rohrabacher, who was defeated when he ran for reelection in 2018 and is now a consultant to the cannabis industry, long had a reputation as one of the few members of Congress willing to defend Russian President Vladimir Putin.
So at least now the story looks like Rohrabacher, not Trump, was behind the effort to defend Putin by using Assange to advance the ridiculous and ghoulish Seth Rich conspiracy theory, he talked to then White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and it never got any further than that.
This is completely in-line for Rorhabacher, who has long been Putin's best friend in the House until he lost his usefulness to him along with his House seat in 2018.
Of course, Rohrabacher could be lying and Trump absolutely had him make the offer. That would be in-line for him too. John Kelly would know for sure. Maybe somebody should, I dunno, ask him.
And speaking of Russian operatives...
President Trump erupted at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office last week over what he perceived as disloyalty by Maguire’s staff, which ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter.
Trump announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany.
Maguire had been considered a leading candidate to be nominated for the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a GOP ally that the intelligence official in charge of election security, who works for Maguire, gave a classified briefing last Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee on 2020 election security.
It is unclear what the official, Shelby Pierson, specifically said at the briefing that angered Trump, but the president erroneously believed that she had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, and that the information would be helpful to Democrats if it were released publicly, the people familiar with the matter said. Schiff was the lead impeachment manager, or prosecutor, during Trump’s Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The president was furious with Maguire and blamed him for the supposed transgression involving Pierson when the two met the next day.
“There was a dressing down” of Maguire, said one individual, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “That was the catalyst” that led to the sidelining of Maguire in favor of Grenell, the person said.
What information could have set Trump off like that, pray tell? Why, the fact that Russia is openly helping Trump in 2020.
Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.
The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, Mr. Trump berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant.
During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans.
That intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter.
Though some current and former officials speculated that the briefing may have played a role in the removal of Mr. Maguire, who had told people in recent days that he believed he would remain in the job, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental. Mr. Grenell had been in discussions with the administration about taking on new roles, they said, and Mr. Trump had never felt a kinship with Mr. Maguire.
Spokeswomen for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its election security office declined to comment. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
So yes, as I said earlier today, Maguire is being ousted because he was actually doing his job. Trump will never allow that, as he wants an intelligence apparatus that is to be used exclusively against his political enemies. And under Grenell and Barr, it will be.