Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff Inverts Reality On Trump-Assange Pardon Tale

Chris Menahan
Feb. 20, 2020

The media's top story on Wednesday was the claim from Julian Assange's lawyer that President Trump allegedly sent former Rep Dana Rohrabacher to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to offer Assange a pardon in exchange for him claiming the Russians did not leak Hillary Clinton's emails to Wikileaks.

As Reuters reported on Wednesday:
At Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald, said that former Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher had been sent by the president to visit Assange in 2017 to offer him a pardon.

The pardon would come on the condition that Assange say the Russians were not involved in the email leak that damaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 against Trump.
The story was immediately called into question as Julian Assange told Sean Hannity very publicly in 2017 Wikileaks' source was not the Russian government or a state party.

HANNITY: Can you say to the American people, unequivocally, that you did not get this information about the DNC, John Podesta's emails, can you tell the American people 1,000 percent that you did not get it from Russia or anybody associated with Russia?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes. We can say, we have said, repeatedly that over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party.
Rohrabacher on Wednesday afternoon released a statement saying he never spoke to Trump about his meeting with Assange and did not offer Assange a pardon on behalf of Trump.
At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange. Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country. I was shocked to find out that no other member of Congress had taken the time in their official or unofficial capacity to interview Julian Assange. 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. 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. At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President. Upon my return, I spoke briefly with Gen. Kelly. I told him that Julian Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon. No one followed up with me including Gen. Kelly and that was the last discussion I had on this subject with anyone representing Trump or in his Administration.
On Thursday, investigative journalist turned RussiaGate clickbait conspiracy theorist Michael Isikoff decided to shift the goalposts with an article at Yahoo News titled, "Rohrabacher confirms he offered Trump pardon to Assange for proof Russia didn't hack DNC email":
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.

[...] 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.”
The headline can be misinterpreted and is being misinterpreted -- no doubt by design -- to imply Rohrabacher "confirm[ed]" he "offered" a pardon from the president when in reality he was debunking the claim from Fitzgerald that Trump had made such an offer and used him as his surrogate.

Rohrabacher told Isikoff he would "petition the president to give him a pardon" but Isikoff reported in the first line that "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."

The reality of the situation is the opposite of how Isikoff reported it, hence the BBC reporting yesterday essentially the same news with the opposite headline (Rohrabacher's written statement which the BBC was reporting on and what he said in his call with Isikoff was not markedly different):

Of course, none of this really matters because Yahoo News gets to get millions of hits and tons of ad revenue out of the story regardless of it being a fraud.

They will never face any "fact check" demoting their content on social media, nor any algorithmic censorship or demonetization from Google, nor will they have their pages banned for "fake news" -- such treatment is reserved only for people who tell the truth!

[Isikoff header image on left by John Mathew Smith &]

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