This week, British authorities (finally) arrested Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, which helped distribute emails that Russian hackers stole from Democrats in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Despite his repeated past praise for the organization, President Donald Trump responded to the news this Thursday at the White House by trying to distance himself from the organization. Considering the dramatic break from his past rhetoric surrounding WikiLeaks, maybe he’s either got something to hide or knows that what’s already in the public sphere should never have come out, no matter his frenzied attempts to clean up the mess.
Asked to comment, Trump told reporters this week:
‘I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing. I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange. I’ve seen what’s happening with Assange, and that would be a determination I would imagine mostly by the Attorney General, who is doing an excellent job.’
“I know nothing about Wikileaks, it’s not my thing,” Pres. Trump says when asked if he “still loves Wikileaks” following arrest of founder Julian Assange. Then-candidate Trump repeatedly praised the organization during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign. https://t.co/EDXbyTbtEx pic.twitter.com/eEqMMJWCIb
— ABC News (@ABC) April 11, 2019
Although British police arrested him on a charge of skipping bail related to a years-old sex crimes allegation, they’re not the only ones after the high-profile figure. There’s an extradition request in place from the United States, where authorities have revealed a criminal charge over the help he provided Chelsea Manning in cracking into the security system blocking off hundreds of thousands of classified files that Assange’s organization eventually leaked. At the time, that drop was the largest to date of such material.
Manning already went to prison for her role, although towards the end of her sentence, then-President Barack Obama commuted her sentence, allowing her to walk free. She has since returned to prison for refusing to testify in the growing government case against Assange. All because of her refusal to provide potentially compromising information, authorities held her in solitary confinement for nearly a month before moving her to the general population. She’s maintained a high profile in the time since her original release outside of that incident, having even run in the Democratic primary for a Maryland U.S. Senate seat, although she only garnered a comparatively small minority of votes.
Multiple times, Trump has explicitly praised the work that brought Manning back to jail and could eventually land Assange there.
At multiple rallies ahead of the 2016 elections, he asserted everything from “I love WikiLeaks!” to:
‘This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable, it tells you the inner heart. You’ve gotta read it.’
On Twitter, he’s shared things like the October 2016 message:
‘I hope people are looking at the disgraceful behavior of Hillary Clinton as exposed by WikiLeaks. She is unfit to run.’
TRUMP in 2016: “I love WikiLeaks! … This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable! … We love WikiLeaks! … We’ve learned so much from WikiLeaks.”
TRUMP today: “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing … I know nothing really about them.” pic.twitter.com/Y4twF5kLGB
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 11, 2019
The organization has brushed up with his team numerous times besides via his public commentary. Donald Trump Jr. briefly interacted with them via direct messages on Twitter, and more widely, longtime Trump associate Roger Stone tried to get the organization to send him some of the stolen material they had, an effort the Trump campaign was in on. He’s faced criminal charges for his scheme to cover that up. Although they didn’t explicitly outline collusion with Russia, the original incidents in the first place make the appropriateness of continued concerns about the president’s foreign ties abundantly clear.
Featured Image via screenshot