US Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher reportedly tried to strike a deal with the White House to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a pardon or an act of clemency. In exchange, Assange would provide evidence that would prove Russia was not responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and relayed the stolen emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In a phone call with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Wednesday (13 September), Rohrabacher apparently proposed the "deal" that would involve President Donald Trump issuing a pardon "or something like that" to Assange, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
According to the newspaper, Assange would provide a storage device that contained evidence proving that Russia was not behind the DNC hack that led to leaking of embarrassing emails from top Democrat officials.
"He would get nothing, obviously, if what he gave us was not proof," Rohrabacher said, WSJ reported. During the phone call, the lawmaker also reportedly proposed a meeting between Assange and a Trump representative that has a direct line of communication with the president.
Rohrabacher confirmed that he did speak with Kelly this week but declined to discuss the content of their conversation.
"I can't confirm or deny anything about a private conversation at that level," he told WSJ.
In August, Rohrabacher had a three-hour meeting with Assange at the embassy in London - the first one between the Australian national and a US politician. He said that Assange "emphatically stated" that Russia was not involved in the "hacking or disclosure" of the DNC servers and emails and promised specific information regarding the DNC hack.
US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an "influence campaign" that involved cyberattacks, misinformation campaigns and more to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances and help Trump win the race to the White House.
The GOP representative later told Sean Hannity that a "rendezvous" was being set up between him and Trump to give the president the "outrageous" information that painted the DNC hack as an "inside job".
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to the US where he could face espionage charges for the publication of a trove of highly-classified military and diplomatic cables and files given to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning. Over the past few months, the whistle-blowing site has continued to steadily leak confidential CIA documents as part of its "Vault 7" series that expose the spy agency's wide-ranging hacking and cyberspying tools and capabilities.
Both Democrats and Republicans have previously criticised Assange and the organisation's damaging leaks, describing him as an enemy of the US and a threat to national security.