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Trump was joking about loving WikiLeaks, Sarah Sanders says

"Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign," Sanders said. "Certainly we take this serious."
Julian Assange gives the thumbs up from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court in London on April 11, 2019.Jack Taylor / Getty Images
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By Allan Smith

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."

Sanders spoke about Trump's WikiLeaks remarks after the Department of Justice charged the website's fugitive founder Julian Assange with computer hacking following his arrest in London partly in connection with a U.S. extradition warrant. Assange had been living for nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition.

The Department of Justice indicted Assange on a charge of conspiring with former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to hack a classified government computer. Manning provided WikiLeaks with a trove of secret government documents that the website published in 2010. Assange has insisted the U.S. is trying to infringe on journalistic freedom.

Assange and WIkiLeaks were at the forefront of leaking stolen emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, including from 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta.

At the time, Trump routinely name-dropped WikiLeaks, praising the organization.

“I love WikiLeaks,” Trump said in October 2016.

But on Thursday, when asked about Assange's organization, Trump told reporters at the White House: I know nothing about WikiLeaks."

"It's not my thing," he added.

On Sunday, Sanders said the Trump administration was "the only one to do anything about" Assange and WikiLeaks.

"Let's not forget that the reason Julian Assange is being looked at is because of the engagement he had with Chelsea Manning," she said before adding that Trump "was making a joke during the campaign" when he expressed love for the organization.

Allan Smith

Allan Smith is a political reporter for NBC News.

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