LONDON — There was much confusion Thursday when Nigel Farage was spotted by BuzzFeed leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy in London — the residence of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Asked why he was there, Farage replied that he couldn't remember what he was doing in the building, adding, "I never discuss where I go or who I see."
Emails leaked to Business Insider, however, reveal that UKIP under Farage's leadership had long-standing links to Assange.
In February 2011, after a European Arrest Warrant had been issued in a case in which prosecutors sought to question Assange in connection with a sexual-assault allegation, UKIP repeatedly reached out to Assange to see how they could work together. Assange has not been charged in the case.
The office of UKIP MEP Gerard Batten contacted Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens about "the possibility of meeting Mr Julian Assange."
They added: "So far, UKIP London has been only British political party to openly support Mr Assange fight against EAW and his freedom of speech, and we would very much like to continue doing so."
Leaked minutes of a subsequent meeting between Batten and Stephens reveal that Batten promised to table a motion in support of the WikiLeaks founder in the European Parliament. The party also offered the opportunity of a joint video press conference in Brussels.
The Farage-led Europe of Freedom and Democracy group subsequently tabled a motion attacking "the possible abuse of the European Arrest Warrant for political purposes."
Sitting alongside Farage, Batten called for the Parliament to debate Assange's arrest warrant.
"Is the Assange case about the alleged crimes committed or is it about the desire of America to extradite him from a compliant European country?" Batten asked MEPs.
When the European Parliament denied the chance for a debate on Assange, Batten later called them "contemptible."
In an appearance on the Russian state broadcaster Russia Today, Batten also labelled the attempts to extradite Assange as a "legalised kidnap."
A month later, the party organised a House of Lords event on the European Arrest Warrant with Assange's lawyer as the star guest.
Senior UKIP figures including Farage and Steven Woolfe met with potential UKIP donors and journalists to speak out against the warrant.
One leaked email, sent by Farage's former assistant Annabelle Fuller, suggests that he spoke with Assange's lawyer at the event.
The Trump Connection
Farage has also advocated on behalf of Assange since WikiLeaks' involvement in the US presidential election.
Speaking on his LBC radio show in January, Farage repeated Assange's denial of Russian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton during the election.
"Julian Assange ... is absolutely clear that all the information he has got is not from Russian sources," Farage said.
The question of Farage's trip to meet Assange was raised at a White House press conference on Thursday.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, was asked whether Farage had visited Assange "on behalf" of Trump. Spicer did not answer the question, saying only that "I don't keep [Farage's] schedule. I generally don't worry about what's going on across the pond."
A representative for Farage was contacted for comment.