President Trump responded to the arrest and indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for the first time on Thursday, telling reporters he knows "nothing about WikiLeaks" despite repeated praise for the group that released hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump made the remarks seated alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Oval Office Thursday afternoon.
"I know nothing about WikiLeaks," Mr. Trump told a reporter who asked if he still "loves" WikiLeaks, as he said he did during his campaign. "It's not my thing. And I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange. I have been seeing what's happened with Assange. And that will be a determination, I would imagine mostly by the attorney general, who is doing an excellent job, so he will be making a determination. I know nothing really about them. It's not my deal in life."
Assange had been hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. He was arrested Thursday and faces possible extradition to the U.S. on a charge of conspiracy related to the disclosure of documents leaked by Chelsea Manning in 2010.
During the 2016 campaign,of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, as well as emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Assange was not charged in relation to the 2016 hacks in Thursday's indictment.
Mr. Trump not only mentioned WikiLeaks repeatedly during the 2016 campaign, but praised the group for its "treasure trove" of information. Mr. Trump was also skeptical Russia had anything to do with the releases, saying the hacker could be a 400-pound person sitting in a basement.
At an Oct. 10, 2016, campaign rally, Mr. Trump, buoyed by emails that showed the internal workings of Democrats leading up to the 2016 election, declared, "WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks."
Two days later in Florida, Mr. Trump said, "This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable," Trump said. "It tells you the inner heart, you got to read it."
"Another one came in today," Mr. Trump said at yet another campaign event on Oct. 31, 2016. "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove."
He also tweeted about WikiLeaks by name nearly a dozen times in 2016, according to his Twitter archive.
"WikiLeaks proves even the Clinton campaign knew Crooked mishandled classified info, but no one gets charged? RIGGED," Mr. Trump tweeted on Oct. 17, 2016.
Mr. Trump's own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA,in 2017, comments that raised eyebrows after Mr. Trump's praise of the group. At the time, Pompeo said the CIA found the "celebration of entities like WikiLeaks to be both perplexing and deeply troubling."