And yet, there was Trump yesterday, responding to Julian Assange’s arrest by telling reporters, “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing.” This, naturally, led a whole lot of media professionals to highlight the Republican’s enthusiastic embrace of WikiLeaks – which was very much his “thing” – when it was disseminating materials stolen by Russia in order to help Trump gain power.
Vice President Mike Pence, however, believes we didn’t fully understand the subtleties of the president’s message.
Vice President Pence asserted in an interview broadcast Friday that President Trump’s enthusiastic reaction to WikiLeaks’ releases of damaging material on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race did not amount to an endorsement of the organization.
“I think the president always, as you and the media do, always welcomes information,” Pence said in an interview with CNN. “But that was in no way an endorsement of an organization that we now understand was involved in disseminating classified information by the United States of America.”
Ah yes, of course. Donald Trump simply “welcomes information.” He’s a voracious reader and news consumer, who simply sees WikiLeaks as one of many online resources.
Naturally, we should see the president’s comments about WikiLeaks as a reflection of his detached and dispassionate views on the online repository. Trump, as Pence put it, certainly wouldn’t “endorse” such a project.
Trump professed his “love” of WikiLeaks. He encouraged Americans to go to WikiLeaks in order to see materials that were stolen by Russian intelligence operatives. He complained when news organizations failed to promote WikiLeaks’ materials to his satisfaction.
He cited WikiLeaks 141 times in the last month of his 2016 presidential campaign.
I can appreciate why all of this is embarrassing for the White House, but unless Pence wants to redefine “endorsement” in comically new ways, this futile attempt at spin does more harm than good.