During an interview Friday with CNN, Vice President Mike Pence was quick to attack WikiLeaks’ publishing of classified information provided by Chelsea Manning in 2010: “Working with Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange (founder of WikiLeaks) was involved in one of the greatest compromises of classified information in American history.”
But when asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if President Donald Trump’s view of WikiLeaks had changed from when, in 2016, he “welcomed seeing WikiLeaks and the information that they got from Hillary Clinton” Pence dodged the question, suggesting the President “always welcomes information, but that was in no way an endorsement.”
Pence continued by asserting “we now understand (WikiLeaks) was involved in disseminating classified information about the United States of America.”
Facts First: It’s inaccurate to suggest that WikiLeaks’ publishing of classified information is somehow a recent revelation. US agencies have known and publicly reported that WikiLeaks has published classified information for several years now.
In 2010, following the aftermath of WikiLeaks publishing a confidential US diplomatic cable that listed sites vital to national security, a spokesperson for the State Department told CNN the information was classified and condemned WikiLeaks “for what it has done.”
Pence’s comment also comes across as slightly tone deaf given the role WikiLeaks played in distributing the stolen Democratic National Committee emails, even though these emails were not “classified.”
US agencies informed the public in 2016 that the Democratic emails WikiLeaks was publishing that year had been hacked by the Russian government. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security publicly announced on October 7, 2016, that Russia was interfering in the election, that Russian hackers had breached the Democratic National Committee and that those hackers had funneled stolen DNC emails to WikiLeaks for publication.
At that point, it was clear for all to see that WikiLeaks was playing a significant role in Russia’s interference operation. Nevertheless, Trump continued citing WikiLeaks at rallies until the election.
Pence’s suggestion that it is only “now” that we understand WikiLeaks’ involvement in “disseminating classified information” is oddly incorrect.
Though not as odd as Trump’s recent claim that “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing,” which is also incorrect. In 2016, Trump said, “I love reading those WikiLeaks.” He infamously told a campaign rally, “I love WikiLeaks,” and repeatedly encouraged the public to read the leaked emails. In 2010, Trump had suggested on Fox News that WikiLeaks’ actions were “disgraceful” and “there should be like a death penalty or something.”
Clearly, Trump is wrong to state he “know(s) nothing about WikiLeaks.”
We’ll see if the administration continues to twist itself into pretzels as it supports efforts to extradite Assange after his indictment this week on a single charge of conspiring to hack Pentagon computers with Manning.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.