President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, in an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner, said Julian Assange could expose a “plot” involving Ukraine to falsely accuse Trump of colluding with Russia.
Assange helped elect Trump with 2016 dumps of damaging Democratic emails allegedly hacked by Russia. He was charged with a single count of computer-hacking conspiracy relating to Chelsea Manning’s 2010 leaks of military and diplomatic secrets.
Trump distanced himself from the case, but Giuliani said Assange’s apprehension — after nearly seven years in the embassy — could benefit the president, who was recently exonerated of criminal collusion with Russia by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“Maybe it will shed light on the plot to create an investigation of President Trump based on a false charge of conspiracy with the Russians to affect the 2016 elections. Keep your eye on Ukraine,” Giuliani said. “It’s possible with all his sources he might know or have information of how it all started.”
Giuliani specified that he was talking about Assange exposing the origins of the federal investigation of possible Trump collusion with Russia and was not raising the possibility of Assange disproving that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Giuliani said he believed Assange may be able to “show who invented [the] false story that [Trump] colluded with Russians.”
Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney and New York City mayor, said he was “not sure yet” if Assange helping exonerate Trump would lighten his possible criminal penalties.
In a report submitted March 22, Mueller found no evidence of Trump criminally colluding with Russia, according to Attorney General William Barr’s summary of Mueller’s findings. Barr said Tuesday that he expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report within a week.
Assange is accused of conspiring to hack a U.S. government computer system. He allegedly communicated with Manning about cracking a password, though charging documents did not make clear if any records were accessed as a result. The charge carries up to five years in prison.
Following Assange’s arrest, experts raised the possibility that Assange would seek to “graymail” the Trump administration into dropping charges, meaning threaten to expose secrets — whether true or not — in an effort to nix the prosecution.
There are some unresolved Russia-related claims that could damage Trump, including former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s claim he overheard a July 2016 phone call in which adviser Roger Stone told Trump that he spoke with Assange, who intended to release hacked emails. Mueller’s team also focused on author Jerome Corsi, finding it implausible that he “predicted” in July 2016 that Assange had Podesta’s emails and would release them in October.
Giuliani answered with a firm “no” when asked if Assange’s arrest could put Trump in new legal jeopardy in relation to the 2016 email releases.
Although candidate Trump routinely reveled in WikiLeaks’s disclosures about Hillary Clinton, Trump as president has consistently professed ignorance about Assange and efforts to broker a pardon on his behalf. Former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., tried in vain to speak with Trump about a pardon for Assange, and on Thursday Trump claimed he knew “nothing” about either Assange or the WikiLeaks organization.