Frank Barat and Yanis Varoufakis: discussion on Assange and “being on the defensive”
Starting at 47.10
Frank Barat: So Yanis, I wanted to ask you. We spoke five minutes before about us, the movement, the Left, being on the offensive. I can just give you a brief example. Someone that I dearly respect and love, Jeremy Corbyn, when he was attacked and called an anti-Semite and they said he wanted the destruction of Israel, and all this. I thought I would have responded in a totally different way. And that’s the problem of the Left. By being that defensive and by saying in a way: “Oh, I didn’t do that. Oh, I didn’t do that” it played totally into the hands of the far right. And as a movement we have to stop doing that, right? We have to stop only responding to the attack but to be on the offensive ourselves. I know you agree, Yanis. You told me that just before, but…
Yanis Varoufakis: The purpose you are articulating is to turn the tables. In the case of Julian Assange the point is to start prosecuting the war criminals that are killing him as we speak. And this is a process that we are continuing. You are giving me a great pass for discussing the assassination that precedes the actual murder, and that is the character assassination. What you mentioned regarding Jeremy is precisely what I experienced too in 2015, when I was actually warned. This is something that I don’t think any of you knows. But I was in the White House in 2015 as the Minister of Finance of Greece, and I just had a chat with Obama. And as I was coming out a former student of a friend of mine, who worked as part of the White House, approached me and said: “Minister, can I have a word with you?” We were sitting next to a toilet, you know. And he said: “I feel the obligation to warn you that in ten days there is going to be a character assassination against you.” Precisely ten days later every major newspaper: Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, you know, El Pais, all of them unleashed a torrent of abuse against me. Just complete fake news about me. About what I was saying. I experienced that. Why? Because that was the moment when the will of the Greek people had to be bent and, you know, we had to fold, and Varoufakis had to get out of the way. So they created essentially a narrative that made it impossible for any of my arguments, or facts, to emerge. Because suddenly it became something about me. This is exactly what they did with Jeremy. And this is exactly what they did with Julian. And, you know, the Establishment, the Deep State, call it whatever you want, the oligarchy, have become much much better at it than they used to be. Because back in the 1960s and the 1970s, you know, they would accuse you of being a Communist. Accuse me of being a Marxist. I am a Marxist and I’m not really going to suffer that much if you accuse me of being a left-winger. I am a left-winger. But now what they do is something far worse. They accuse you of something that really hurts you. Calling somebody like us a racist, a bigot, an anti-Semite, you know, a rapist. This is what really hurts because, you know, if anybody calls me a rapist today, right, even if it is complete baloney, I feel as a feminist, the need to give the woman implied or involved somehow in this accusation the opportunity to speak against me. Because this is what we left-wingers do. So this is what they do. The character assassination of Julian Assange is what? That he elected Trump, single-handedly, and that he was a rapist. Now look I don’t want to get deeply into this but allow me to do some reporting. I’m going to finish off with an account of a discussion I had with Julian in the Ecuadorian Embassy in November 2017. It’s no secret to the United States authorities because as I found out recently I actually watched the video that they taped of me speaking to Julian in the Ecuadorian Embassy as part of the court case that the Spanish judge started against the company employed to videotape Julian and me having this conversation. So I’m only telling you that which the NSA already knows. So he had actually sent me a message. I was in Athens and he said: “I need to speak to you. Can you get on a plane and come to London?” Which I did. I did that a number of times on a number of issues, but this is of interest to all of us, especially in the context of the character assassination of calling him a Trumpist. So, you know, almost every discussion we had for years was all about how to get him out, different ways and campaigns and so on, the purpose of which, just like what we’re doing today, is to save his life and get him out of there. And he said to me: “You know, one of the Republican senators came to visit me, recently.” I thought: “Oh my God, that’s big news. A senator going into the Ecuadorian Embassy, along with somebody else.” “And they offered me a pardon. A presidential pardon from Trump.” I said “OK, on condition of…?” “That I reveal that the Hillary Clinton e-mails……” Over which Trump had a problem at the time as you remember. All right? With the Mueller investigation and so on. “…. did not come from the Russians.” And I said “Julian, from what you’ve told me in the past you don’t know where your information comes from. I mean, Wikileaks is structured in such a way that it’s double blind. Nobody knows anything. Even Julian does not know who is sending the stuff to Wikileaks. This is the whole point of the design of the software.” He said: “Yes, that’s true, but this person, who actually gave me the e-mails, the Hillary Clinton e-mails, actually made himself known to me.” Himself or herself, I’m not sure, right? And I said: “So what, can you confirm that it was not the Russians?” He said: “Absolutely.” I said: “Well, why don’t you then?” He said: “That goes against the whole principle of Wikileaks. Non disclosure of sources.” So I said: “What if your source is OK with the idea of being disclosed?” He said: “Well look firstly, it’s very dangerous because if I get in touch with this person they may find out that I got in touch with this person and then therefore he may be found, he or she may be found out. So I don’t want to jeopardize that person. But even if they gave me the OK to disclose that I got the e-mails from them it would be against the principles of Wikileaks to do this.” So I said: “So what did you do? What did you say to the Trump representative?” “I told him to fuck off.” Now this is the man we are talking about, right? I mean I find Julian infuriating many times. I find most of my friends infuriating. I find myself infuriating. You know I clash with them. This is what it means to be friends, right? But he’s a man of principle. He had a chance of being pardoned by telling the truth. But because that would mean disclosing his sources he didn’t do it, and I said: “But you know you may end up in a Supermax prison as a result of that.” He said: “Yeah, I know and the worst thing”, he said to me, “is that because I will have turned the Trump people down they will be even more determined to bring me down.” That was in November 2017. I have the video.
Comment by W. Hall on this account.
The Guardian reports as follows the story of the congressman’s visit to Assange: “Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017 congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the Wikileaks founder that 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 (Democratic National Committee) leaks.”
A few hours later, however, Rohrabacher denied the claim, saying he had made the proposal on his own initiative, and that the White House had not endorsed it.
“At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange” the former congressman wrote on his personal blog. “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.
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 with information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC e-mails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him,” Rohrabacher added.
“At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President.”
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told reporters: “The President barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than that he is an ex-congressman. He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.”
….. “In September 2017 the White House confirmed that Rohrabacher had called the then chief of staff, John Kelly, to talk about a possible deal with Assange, but that Kelly had not passed on the message to Trump. Rohrabacher confirmed that version of events on his blog on Wednesday.”
“I told him that Julian Assange would provide information about the purloined e-mails 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,” he wrote.
“Even though I wasn’t successful in getting this message through to the President I still call on him to pardon Julian Assange, who is the true whistleblower of our time.”
(end of quote)
So it seems that the attitude of all parties in this discussion was more or less exploratory. Assange seems to have been cautious but apparently not as negative as telling Rohrabacher to “fuck off” and certainly not willing to commit himself to anything without being more sure of how authorized Rohrabacher was to speak for anybody other than himself. The fact that he summoned Varoufakis to discuss the issue with him does not suggest that he was giving absolute priority to Wikileaks’ principles of non-disclosure, nor that he would exclude in principle the idea of accepting a “pardon” from Trump.
What the discussion omits is what was actually said in Hillary Clinton e-mails and how the leaking of this information was handled.
Roger Stone wanted to make this the key issue, and he went to prison for that. And he said nothing about it in his speech in Washington a day or two ago either, now that he is out of prison. His speech was electoralist.
7th January 2021