President Donald Trump on Thursday is now pretending not to know anything about WikiLeaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, was arrested earlier in the day in the UK — despite the fact that the president has publicly professed his “love” for the organization in the past.
“I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Thursday. “It’s not my thing,” he added.
But it is his thing. Very much so.
In 2010, Trump casually mentioned to Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade that Assange should get the death penalty for leaking sensitive US government documents he received from then-US Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning.
And six years later, during the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump praised WikiLeaks’s consistent releases of emails related to his opponent, Hillary Clinton. “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!” Trump professed during a speech on October 10.
As ThinkProgress has documented, in the final month before the 2016 presidential election, Trump mentioned WikiLeaks and the hacked emails it published at least 164 times during speeches, media appearances, and debates.
And Trump’s own intelligence officials have publicly acknowledged time and time again that WikiLeaks was who published the emails that were stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign by Russian hackers.
TRUMP: "I know nothing about WikiLeaks -- it's not my thing... I know nothing really about [Assange] -- it's not my deal in life."— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 11, 2019
(Trump mentioned WikiLeaks about five times a day in October 2016) https://t.co/xRqPiwpW5f pic.twitter.com/A7SBhraSPY
It’s worth noting that Trump has denied knowing Assange before. Asked last November about whether he thought the WikiLeaks chief should go free from his self-imposed exile at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Trump replied, “I don’t know anything about him. Really, I don’t know much about him, I really don’t.”
And now that Assange is in deep trouble — and may even be extradited to the US to face criminal charges — the president has repeated a similar mantra.
Which means one of two things: Either he spoke about loving WikiLeaks solely because it targeted Clinton despite knowing nothing about the organization, or he’s trying to distance himself from his past statements about the organization now that its founder is in legal jeopardy.
Whichever it is, it’s a bad look for Trump.