Donald Trump’s administration has taken a tough stance on WikiLeaks in recent weeks.
US officials told CNN last week that the Justice Department has prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference on Thursday that Assange’s arrest is a “priority” of the administration.
But no Trump administration official went further in condemning the group than CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who, in a speech two weeks ago, called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.”
Pompeo’s comments immediately drew attention to a tweet from July 2016 in which he linked to the WikiLeaks document dump of emails from the Democratic National Committee. Critics used the tweet to call out Pompeo for his dramatic reversal on WikiLeaks.
When Pompeo was asked about the tweet at his confirmation hearing in January, he said he never viewed WikiLeaks as a “credible source of information.”
Pompeo, however, repeatedly cited the group to attack Hillary Clinton during the campaign, a CNN KFile review of his tweets and media appearances shows. He claimed the emails were proof of DNC collusion against Bernie Sanders, and cited emails released by the group to argue that Democrats should call on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the presidential race.
In an appearance on Fox Business during the Democratic National Convention in July, Pompeo dismissed the Clinton campaign’s concerns at the time that Russia was behind WikiLeaks release of the hacked emails.
“Well, it’s classic Clinton, right? When you find out you got a problem, you deflect, you deny,” Pompeo said. “You create a contretemp where there really is none. Frankly, it’s pretty clear who invited the Russians to do damage to America, and it was Hillary Clinton. She put classified information on a private server, inviting the Chinese, the Iranians, the Russians, all have access to it. I hope they didn’t get it, but even the former director of the CIA said he thinks they probably did. So, the person who’s put American national security risk isn’t Donald Trump, it’s Hillary Clinton.”
That same week, Pompeo told the Washington Examiner that the emails released by WikiLeaks showed that President Obama and Clinton colluded against Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
“We can now see the fix was in for President Obama and Secretary Clinton to make sure that Bernie Sanders would never be elected. That’s embarrassing to many Democrats, so they’re flailing about trying to find separate storyline to deflect from the true substance of what was in those emails,” he said.
When WikiLeaks released Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails in October of 2016, Pompeo sent five tweets citing the revelations from the emails to attack Clinton and also mentioned the emails in media appearances.
“.@HillaryClinton team emailed anti-Catholic bigotry & said evangelicals are even worse. She must explain how thats okay & disavow,” Pompeo wrote in one tweet on October 19, referencing an email exchange released by WikiLeaks showing top Clinton aides making critical comments about Catholics and evangelicals.
Pompeo also seized on an email containing excerpts of Clinton’s paid speeches, tweeting on October 26: “.@HillaryClinton said in a private speech that she wants open borders. This may work in Brazilian boardrooms, but is bad for Kansas families.”
One tweet from Pompeo previewed an upcoming Fox appearance to discuss “newly released emails of @HillaryClinton & her cronies.” Pompeo noted during the appearance that “what you see in these emails is the people closest to Hillary Clinton don’t trust her either.” Pompeo made similar comments speaking with local Fox affiliate in Kansas.
In October, Pompeo was quoted by the Wichita Eagle as citing the emails about Catholics to argue that Democrats should call on Clinton to withdraw from the presidential race.
A spokesperson for the CIA pointed CNN’s KFile to a written response Pompeo sent to Sen. Angus King following his confirmation hearing.
“The tweet I sent in July 2016 was not meant as an endorsement of Wikileaks or its practices, but rather remarked on the content of the material now in the public domain,” he wrote. “I understand the concern over the tweet’ s reference to Wikileaks, given how disclosures by Wikileaks have targeted American institutions and democracy. The tweet was sent in reference to political issues in the middle of a hard-fought campaign. Based on additional briefings and information, including the reports released by the Intelligence Community, I now have a much deeper understanding of Wikileaks and its harmful activities.”