Pardon me: How Donald Trump's stooges conspired with Julian Assange to exonerate Russia and undermine US Intelligence

 Remember Julian Assange? The accused rapist, close confidant of Paul Manafort and willing conduit for the 2016 Russian operation to steal and release Hillary Clinton’s emails to create a fake scandal and elect Donald Trump president? It turns out that Donald Trump, through intermediaries, offered that Julian Assange a pardon for potential criminal liability in the United States if Assange would just tell the Trump operatives that someone other than Russia gave him Hillary’s emails.

That is what a lawyer for Assange told a court in the United Kingdom hearing a case for Assange’s extradition to the US to face charges for his involvement in the stealing of diplomatic cables during 2010-2011. The lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, told the court that she observed a meeting between Assange, then-Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and Holocaust denier and far-right activist with close ties to Donald Trump, Chuck Johnson.

At the meeting, which took place in 2017 and was reported on in the press back then, Rohrabachar, known as Putin’s favorite Congressman (now ex-Congressman), even told the right wing outlet The Daily Caller that some form of pardon would be needed for Assange to “move on with his life.” But that was only going to happen, of course, if Assange were able to offer the name of his source for the Clinton emails and provided that name wasn’t Vladimir Putin or the Kremlin. From the fact that Assange remains criminally charged and unpardoned 3 years after this meeting, one can assume that Assange was unable to offer such a source, because his source was, in fact, Russian intelligence, which hacked the DNC and released the emails by using Wikileaks as its conduit.

Had Assange been able to offer a non-Russian-connected name as the source of the Clinton emails, it would have served to benefit both Trump and Assange. If the source for the Clinton emails wasn’t a Russian government operation, that would mean the emails’ release, however sensational, was not part of the successful Russian effort to elect Donald Trump president of the United States. It would have been a massive success in Trump’s attempts to discredit US intelligence. Assange would get a pardon for stealing diplomatic cables during the Obama administration, which Trump could care less about.

But most of all, clearing the Clinton emails from having a tainted Russian intelligence source would revive the reputation of Wikileaks, which was a tremendous help to Trump in 2016. With Trump badly trailing in national and battleground state polls, he certainly could use that help again.

While it is not new that Donald Trump uses the pardon and commutation power of the presidency as a transactional tool for his personal, mob-boss-esque benefit, it should still shock us each time. From commuting Roger Stone’s jail sentence for lying for Trump to pardoning white supremacist Joe Arpaio to pardoning Dinesh D’Souza for funneling illegal campaign contribution to Republican candidates, Trump has demonstrated, with surgical precision, why character is singularly important for the person entrusted with the awesome powers of the presidency, and why, those with a moral void are desperately disqualified for the office.

November must be overwhelming.

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