Trump disavows past enthusiasm for WikiLeaks after Julian Assange's arrest

VIDEO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - United States President Donald Trump, who repeatedly praised WikiLeaks for releasing damaging material on rival Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race, on Thursday (April 11) sought to disavow his past enthusiasm following the arrest of the organisation's founder, Julian Assange.

"I know nothing about WikiLeaks," Mr Trump told reporters.

"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."

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Mr Trump said he didn't "really have an opinion" about Assange's arrest by British authorities in response to a US extradition request. He said the matter was being handled by Attorney-General William Barr.

In an indictment unsealed earlier on Thursday, Assange was accused of conspiring in 2010 with Chelsea Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst then known as Bradley Manning, and others to illegally obtain secret US military and diplomatic documents.

It was WikiLeaks' later publication of hacked e-mails damaging to Mrs Clinton, Mr Trump's 2016 Democratic opponent, that drew his repeated praise.

NBC News tallied that Mr Trump had cited WikiLeaks 141 times at 56 events in the last month of the campaign.

 

"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 e-mails that WikiLeaks had released.

WikiLeaks began releasing hacked e-mails from Mrs Clinton's campaign manager, Mr John Podesta, on the same day in October 2016 as the surfacing of the Access Hollywood tape in which Mr Trump bragged about inappropriately grabbing women.