President Trump, who repeatedly praised WikiLeaks for releasing damaging material on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race, today sought to disavow his past enthusiasm following the arrest of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange.
“I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” Trump told reporters today. “It’s not my thing. I know there is something to do with Julian Assange. I’ve been seeing what’s happened with Assange. And that will be a determination, I imagine, mostly by the attorney general.”
In fact, Trump repeatedly professed his affinity for WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, when it published emails that were stolen from Democrats by Russian hackers as part of Moscow’s effort to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“I love WikiLeaks,” Trump said at an October 2016 rally in Pennsylvania.
“Getting off the plane, they were just announcing new WikiLeaks, and I wanted to stay there, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting,” he said four days before Election Day that year. “Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.”
Trump mentioned WikiLeaks 141 times in the final month of the campaign alone.
WATCH TRUMP MENTION WIKILEAKS 141 TIMES:
In an indictment unsealed today, Assange was accused of conspiring in 2010 with Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst then known as Bradley Manning, and others to illegally obtain secret U.S. military and diplomatic documents.
It was WikiLeaks’ later publication of hacked emails damaging to Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic opponent, that drew his repeated praise.
NBC News tallied that Trump had cited WikiLeaks 141 times at 56 events in the last month of the campaign.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and President Trump meet at the White House in May 2018.
“WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks,” he said at one such event.
“This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove,” he said at another.
“I love reading those WikiLeaks,” he said at yet another event, relaying that he had been delayed in arriving because he had been reading the latest batch of emails that WikiLeaks had released.
WikiLeaks began releasing hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, on the same day in October 2016 as the surfacing of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump bragged about inappropriately grabbing women.
Soon after his arrest, the Justice Department unsealed an indictment accusing Assange of conspiring with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password in order to access classified government materials.
The charge was related to the 2010 release of U.S. diplomatic cables and classified information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not the 2016 disclosures.