Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said someone leaked information about his call this week with White House chief of staff John Kelly, possibly to undermine his ability to speak directly with President Trump about WikiLeaks.
The Republican congressman from California spoke with Kelly on Wednesday regarding his recent meeting with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in London, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday evening, and broached a possible trade.
Rohrabacher reportedly used the word "deal" in his conversation with Kelly and said Assange would get a pardon or "something like that" in exchange for information files on a data-storage device showing that Russia did not hack Democratic emails that WikiLeaks published last year during the 2016 campaign.
"He would get nothing, obviously, if what he gave us was not proof," Rohrabacher told Kelly, according to the Journal.
Rohrabacher said after his August meeting with Assange that WikiLeaks could disprove the conclusion of U.S. spy agencies that Russia was responsible for hacking Democratic emails, and that he would seek a meeting with Trump to discuss the information.
Rohrabacher told the Washington Examiner on Friday evening that he would not confirm quotes attributed to him, and said nobody in his office was responsible for disclosing the call.
"I have honored the confidentially of a very important business-related call," he said, speculating that someone inside the White House or within U.S. intelligence agencies leaked the call.
"I don't know who it is, all I know is I'm up against an array of very powerful forces, including the intelligence services and major newspapers that are basically allied with the liberal Left who have every reason to undermine communication on this issue," he told the Washington Examiner.
"Look, there are very powerful forces at work," he added. "We've got the NSA, the FBI and the CIA, all of whom confirmed a major lie that was being used for political purposes and a lie that was repeated and repeated in order to undercut our new president."
Rohrabacher said White House leaks to the press are particularly bad during Republican presidencies, as staffers attempt to ingratiate themselves with reporters, and he's not ruling that out as an explanation.
"You've got people who are obviously just trying to cover their ass for mistakes they have made," he added, referring to the intelligence agency theory. "They will probably do their best to keep Trump from knowing about this and knowing about his options to expose this."
Rohrabacher has for years been skeptical of U.S. policy toward Russia, defending its annexation of Crimea while former President Barack Obama was in office before refusing to accept that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump.
The congressman is celebrated by some groups for his maverick approach to politics, such as his leadership role pushing for marijuana reform legislation, but also is known for making sometimes head-turning remarks.
Rohrabacher was quoted earlier this week as saying he believed Confederate war re-enactors had been tricked into rallying in Charlottesville, Va., last month. He said he stood by those remarks.
"I don't think I was misquoted, [but] there should be no implication that I believe Civil War re-enactors are stupid," he said. Rohrabacher said he can't recall the source of that information, but that he believes he heard it in a news report.