If Trump did try a quid pro quo with Julian Assange, let's not react like we've been beaten with an apathy bat again

If we look at the fallout for those who have assisted Trump with his other quid pro quo endeavors, many have either resigned, been voted out of office or are in prison

Amee Vanderpool
Washington DC
Thursday 20 February 2020 15:53 GMT

An attorney for Julian Assange told Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Wednesday that the WikiLeaks founder was offered a pardon by Donald Trump. This pardon came at a price: Trump allegedly wanted Assange to publicly deny Russia’s involvement in hacking and then leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 Presidential Election.

Assange is currently fighting extradition to the United States, where he faces 18 charges including conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which could total a prison sentence of 175 years.

The full extradition hearing for Julian Assange is due to begin on Monday, with a week of legal argument expected. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser determined that the evidence of the hacked emails and subsequent publishing by Wikileaks would be admissible in the extradition case. Based on statements made in court, Assange intends to claim that not only was he offered a pardon by the Trump administration in exchange for his silence, but that former Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) was involved in delivering the message to Assange. At Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, Assange’s lawyer told the court that in August 2017, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher visited Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Fitzgerald quoted a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, to the court by detailing the visit: "Mr. Rohrabacher [went] to see Mr Assange and [said], on instructions from the President, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange… said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.”

These latest explosive revelations by Assange’s lawyers are breathtaking for a number of reasons. First, the statement made in court is presumably a mere summary of the events that actually took place. We can expect to get much more detail about yet another quid pro quo from the Trump administration when the full extradition hearing commences next week.

While it is hardly shocking that Trump offered such an arrangement, the way in which members of the Republican Party manoeuvred to get a message to Assange may have additional ramifications, including criminal implications for Rohrabacher, who was voted out of office in 2018.

Considering the number of charges Assange is facing, and his apparent willingness to sing like a canary, those who participated in Trump’s alleged scheme to keep Assange quiet are now at risk. The only person who seems to be insulated by the many Trump quid pro quos that are surfacing now on a weekly basis is Trump himself – and that is only while he is able to neutralize charges against him by retaining his office and a party majority in the Senate.

If we look at the fallout for those who have assisted Trump with his other quid pro quo endeavors, many have either resigned, been voted out of office or are in prison or facing charges.

Case in point: on June 15, 2016, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told former Speaker Paul Ryan in a taped call that was later verified, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump…Swear to God.” Ryan has since resigned and vanished from the public eye. McCarthy is now the minority leader, thanks to an election in 2018 that shifted control of the House of Representatives to Democrats.

We are living in a surreal time for American politics where the President of the United States seems immune from all accountability. Trump continues to leverage federal power over the state of New York by suspending the Global Entry Program in retaliation for local agencies continuing to investigate his personal and business dealings. Just days after his impeachment acquittal, he issued a threat to New York Governor Cuomo on Twitter that represents yet another attempt at a quid pro quo, only this time he did it completely in the open. It’s also not hard to imagine that Trump did try to arrange some kind of deal with Assange involving a pardon, considering his Tuesday pardoning spree that granted clemency to 11 felons.

Watching Trump continue to pursue quid pro quo deals after he was impeached and then not removed from office, while all the while knowing that those who can do something about it are refusing to, is exhausting. The nation seems to have a “why bother?” mentality these days, closely resembling a defeated mother trying to corral a toddler on the tail-end of a sugar spree who has lost all hope in controlling the situation or returning it to normalcy.

The question is: Will America get a second wind? That second wind in 2018 is the very thing that shifted the mid-term election, forcing the ouster of many of Trump’s allies, including Rohrabacher.

Will the ongoing abuses of power by the Trump administration continue to beat the United States over the head with the apathy bat, or instead, will Americans harden their resolve and become determined not to let the unruly child in the White House prevail? After the Mueller investigation, it became painfully clear that the only option for getting rid of Donald Trump was to vote him out of office. Given the ironic and seemingly never-ending series of twists that work in his favor to curtail the voice of the American voter, the need to double our efforts to turn out the vote is overwhelming.

The details we can expect next week from Assange’s court hearing will no doubt be interesting and salacious, but what remains to be seen is how well the public digests what we learn while knowing full well our hands are tied until November. The real key to holding Trump accountable will come from a voter who can lie in wait, fully anticipating the moment they need to act without dozing off or losing faith. What has become evident in the last few weeks after the Senate’s monumental failure to rein in Trump’s blatant mistakes is that the duty to reprimand the President rests squarely with the American voter at the ballot box. Let’s just hope that the nation is not too glassy-eyed to read the ticket.

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