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Trump on Assange charges: "I know nothing about Wikileaks"

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2019 @ 2:47 PM

After repeatedly embracing the actions of the Wikileaks website in leaking Democratic Party emails during the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump on Thursday offered little to reporters about the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was charged with conspiring with ex-U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning in efforts to hack into secret Pentagon computer systems.

"I know nothing about Wikileaks," the President told reporters during an Oval Office photo op. "It's not my thing."

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"I know nothing really about him," Mr. Trump said of Assange. "It's not my deal in life," as the President said Attorney General William Barr would be the one in charge of any legal action against the Wikileaks founder.

But it was a different story out on the campaign trail in 2016 in the final weeks before the election, as Assange and Wikileaks made almost daily releases of emails hacked from John Podesta - a top aide to Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton - and those were warmly welcomed by Mr. Trump.

"Boy, I love reading those Wikileaks," President Trump said just days before the 2016 elections during a stop in Wilmington, Ohio, as he joked with the crowd about going back on the plane to read the latest Podesta emails.

"I wanted to stay there, but I didn't want to keep you waiting," Mr. Trump added.

A few days earlier during a stop in Florida, President Trump again noted the releases from Wikileaks, and his excitement about the details.

"This Wikileaks is like a treasure trove," Mr. Trump said approvingly.

While Wikileaks had attracted attention in the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller - labeled as "Organization 1" in different cases brought in the Russia investigation - nothing in today's indictment had anything to do with the Mueller probe.

Instead, the focus of the charges went back to 2010, as federal prosecutors alleged that Assange tried to help Chelsea Manning crack passwords in order to gain access to a 'government network used for classified documents and communications.'

"It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to Wikileaks, including by removing usernames from the disclosed information and deleting chat logs between Assange and Manning," the indictment stated.

But it appeared that Assange was not successful in helping Manning gain access to the secret computer network.

"Assange indicated that he had been trying to crack the password by stating that he had 'no luck so far,'" prosecutors stated.

It wasn't clear if Assange could face additional legal challenges, though some news organizations were reporting Thursday that federal officials indicated more charges against the Wikileaks founder were possible.

In 2017, then CIA Director Mike Pompeo labeled Wikileaks a 'hostile intelligence service,” as the U.S. regards Assange as nothing more than a pawn for Russian Intelligence.

Asked about that opinion of Wikileaks from U.S. Intelligence, President Trump on Thursday seemed unaware.

“I don’t know much about it,” Mr. Trump said.

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