During a contentious interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Tuesday morning, former President Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski defended the President’s son for communicating with Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign.
“Don Jr. is a private citizen, can tweet or retweet anything he wants to and doesn’t have a material effect on the outcome of the campaign, and he has the privilege to do that,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“I’ve never communicated with Wikileaks … and I can’t speak to what someone else is doing, why they tweeted or retweeted something they were asked to do,” he said. “Everything I would say would be speculation as to why Don Jr. did it. We don’t have the full context. Let’s give him an opportunity to come out and articulate what happened to why he tweeted or retweeted something.”
Lewandowski’s remarks come after news broke Monday that Donald Trump Jr. exchanged private messages with Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign. While many of the messages sent to Trump Jr.’s Twitter account went unanswered, he did occasionally respond and appeared to act on some of Wikileaks’ requests, according to a report from the Atlantic.
Lewandowski said there was no way to know if the Trump campaign knew of Wikileaks’ ties back then, despite remarks from the Trump-nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo, who has labeled the group a hostile, non-state actor with ties to Russia.
“I don’t know when Mike Pompeo made that statement about Wikileaks. My guess is that since he has only been head of the CIA since January and this occurred in October, I don’t know if we knew back in October if Wikileaks had that same type of notion behind them,” he said. “Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. I don’t think it’s fair to say that looking back a year ago that we would have known what Wikileaks was about.”
However, the same day Wikileaks released a trove of emails from Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta’s account On Oct. 7, national security officials put out a joint statement saying the agencies were confident that the leak of documents had been directed by the Russian government.
“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” the joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence said. “(The hacks) are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”
Lewandowski also pushed back on all of Cuomo’s questions about whether he had knowledge of anyone within the Trump campaign being in communication with Russian officials during the election. He swept aside all allegations that former campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were in communication with Russian officials by saying the two were acting as private citizens, not campaign officials.
“What they’re doing (as private citizens), I can’t control,” he said. “I told (Page) ‘You can do whatever you want to do, you don’t work for the campaign.’”