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Pence defends Trump’s mixed message on WikiLeaks

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 06: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence waves as he arrives at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on April 6, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both Pence and U.S. President Donald Trump spoke at the event. Trump has cited his moving of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal as reasons for Jewish voters to leave the Democratic party and support him and the GOP instead. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday defended what some say is his boss Donald Trump’s puzzling position over the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Repeated past praise for WikiLeaks from Trump was not “an endorsement,” Pence told CNN.

Republicans generally celebrated the capture of Assange, who had been taking shelter at Ecuador’s London embassy for nearly seven years until British police took him into custody Thursday.

But Trump’s first reaction was dismissive, telling reporters “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing.”

“I know nothing really about him,” he said of Assange.

This raised eyebrows because during his 2016 presidential campaign Trump repeatedly lauded and encouraged the hacking and information-dumping platform, which six years earlier had caused a massive scandal by publishing thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.

“I love WikiLeaks,” he said on one occasion, as the platform leaked stolen emails that proved damaging to his opponent Hillary Clinton’s campaign — even though WikiLeaks is alleged to have been working in close coordination with Russian intelligence.

Pence told CNN that Trump simply backed the exposure of information during the election, not the WikiLeaks organization itself.

“I think the president always, as you and the media do, always welcomes information,” Pence said. “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,” he said.

Other Republicans appear less satisfied with Trump’s position on the drama over Assange, who faces extradition to the United States.

“You need to talk to the president about his comments,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said.


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