During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

White House: Trump ‘was making a joke’ about WikiLeaks in 2016

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/12/19, 9:42 PM ET

Pence, defending Trump, apparently only newly aware of WikiLeaks

Rachel Maddow shares video of Mike Pence making excuses for Donald Trump’s praise of WikiLeaks in which Pence claims to only “now” be aware of WikiLeaks’ history prior to 2016.
Just hours after Julian Assange’s arrest, Donald Trump fielded a question from reporters about the developments. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” the president replied. “It’s not my thing.”

Even by Trump standards, this was ridiculously untrue, and the lie led to ample coverage of 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 tried to defend Trump’s nonsensical stance, arguing that the president simply “welcomed information” from WikiLeaks, but never endorsed it. Not surprisingly, this defense didn’t exactly prove persuasive.

And so the president’s press secretary rolled out a new defense yesterday.

President Donald Trump was just joking when commented during his campaign that he “loved” WikiLeaks, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday.

“Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign,” Sanders told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace about Trump’s past praise for WikiLeaks. “Certainly we take this serious.”

According to the transcript, the White House press secretary added, “The president was making a joke during the campaign and was talking about the specifics of the case at that moment.”

If there’s one thing we know about Donald J. Trump, it’s that his comedic stylings are unrivaled, right?

Look, this is absurd. he obviously wasn’t kidding. As we discussed last week, 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.

Sanders yesterday said Trump “was making a joke,” which made it sound as if the future president simply mentioned this once for a laugh. Reality shows otherwise.

But let’s not brush past that other part of her answer: Trump was “talking about the specifics of the case at that moment.” Oh? That makes it sound as if he loved WikiLeaks because it was disseminating materials stolen by Russian military-intelligence operatives “at that moment.”

This wasn’t a story I intended to return to, but Team Trump keeps making it worse.

Donald Trump, White House and Wikileaks

White House: Trump 'was making a joke' about WikiLeaks in 2016

Updated