Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has concluded, the Trump team continues to face the pressure of the Russia scandal. President Donald Trump tried to address that in recent days by claiming he knows “nothing” about WikiLeaks, and following up with CNN, Vice President Mike Pence made outlandish leaps trying to rectify that with Trump’s campaign season assertions he “loved” the organization.
As he put it:
‘I think the president always — as you in the media do — always welcomes information, but that was in no way in endorsement of an organization that we now understand was involved in disseminating classified information from the United States of America.’
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) April 12, 2019
Really? What would the bar for an endorsement be then, Pence? Would it have to include getting the target’s name tattooed across your forehead or something? You can’t really get more passionate in your defense and elevation of an organization than how Trump related to WikiLeaks during the lead-up to the 2016 elections.
At one rally among many available examples, he excitedly told the crowd:
‘As I was just 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. I love reading those WikiLeaks.’
In the time since those comments, there’s been a good reason for the president’s dramatic tone change. This past week, the organization’s founder Julian Assange was arrested in the U.K., where he’d been hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy for years until they decided to cancel his asylum provisions. The United States put an extradition request in place for him, seeking to prosecute him for the help he provided Chelsea Manning in her efforts to access hundreds of thousands of classified documents covering the country’s military operations overseas that WikiLeaks eventually made publicly available.
The charges don’t even cover what Assange and WikiLeaks are most recently most infamous for — the distribution of stolen Democratic emails that Trump loved so much during the 2016 campaign season. The emails originally procured by Kremlin hackers shone a harsh light on the inner workings of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party at large. One of the drops even sparked the abrupt resignation of the Democratic National Committee’s head, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fl.), over showing preference to Clinton above her primary election challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The leaks were also weaponized as part of a disinformation campaign against the Democrats. Online interests went so far as to allege that the Clinton camp was involved in international child trafficking based off a completely outlandish reading of the material that WikiLeaks made public.
As for the Manning case, Pence asserted to CNN’s Dana Bash this week that American authorities would seek to hold Assange accountable for the alleged role in the “one of the greatest compromises of classified information in American history.”
There are other similarly high-profile cases involving similar issues making their way through the justice system right now too. Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone, for instance, is facing a trial later this year covering an array of charges centering on his scheme to conceal his efforts to connect and coordinate with Assange’s organization’s stolen Democratic email dumps.
Featured Image via screenshot