As he departed the White House for Florida, where on Wednesday he played his 162nd day at a golf course that he owns, as MSNBC reporter Kyle Griffin reports on Twitter, Donald Trump was asked by reporters for his opinion about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is now reportedly a target of the Robert Mueller Russia collusion investigation.
In response to an inquiry from a reporter asking, “Should Julian Assange go free?” as Vox writer Aaron Rupar reported via Twitter, Trump’s initial response was to discuss the daughter of Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, whose daughter is an employee of Facebook.
“Well, Schumer’s daughter works for Facebook, I just found out today,” Trump said. “If you look at what Facebook has been doing, they have explaining to do… I hear Schumer’s daughter works for Facebook, nobody knew that until now.”
Schumer’s daughter Alison is a product marketing manager at Facebook, according to the New York Post, though that fact has been widely reported, contrary to Trump’s claim that “nobody knew that until now.”
Trump then said of Assange, “I don’t know much about him, I really don’t.”
But during the final month of his 2016 run for president, Trump repeatedly praised Wikileaks on the campaign trail, bringing up the site that had published thousands of Democratic emails supposedly stolen by Russian computer hackers 164 times in 31 days — an average of more than five public statements praising Wikileaks every day, according to Vox.
Trump, whose closing campaign message in 2016 was all about WikiLeaks, now says of Julian Assange, "I don't know much about him, I really don't." pic.twitter.com/yUeQBGpbG9— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 20, 2018
Trump had good reason to be grateful to Assange and Wikileaks in 2016. On October 7, 2016, the Washington Post published what came to be known as the “Access Hollywood tape,” on which Trump is heard making highly sexist comments and appearing to brag about his ability to “grab (women) by the p***y,” because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”
Just one hour after The Post released the disturbing Trump tape, according to PolitiFact, Wikileaks released the first batch of thousands internal emails stolen by Russian hackers from the server of Hillary Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta.
Earlier that summer, Wikileaks had released thousands of emails also stolen by Russian military intelligence agents, according to a July 13 indictment filed by Mueller, from Democratic National Committee servers, causing turmoil in the Clinton campaign and forcing the DNC’s then-Chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz to resign.
Trump also mentioned Wikileaks during each of his three presidential debates against Clinton, Think Progress recounted.
In a court filing last week, the United States Justice Department revealed that Assange is a possible target for indictment, according to CNBC, a revelation thought to be the result of a clerical oversight, but that was nonetheless a bombshell.