Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort visited the Ecuadorian embassy in London to hold secret meetings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, British daily the Guardian reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, Manafort met with Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016, around the time he joined Trump's presidential campaign.
It is unclear why exactly the former campaign manager made the visit. However, the timing is suspicious as his last visit, in March 2016, came just months before WikiLeaks released of a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers. The leaked emails, Hillary Clinton said, contributed to her defeat.
Manafort staunchly denied ever meeting Assange, saying “This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him."
"We are considering all legal options against the Guardian, who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false.”
The official WikiLeaks Twitter account also refuted the claim, saying that: "This is going to be one of the most infamous news disasters since Stern
published the 'Hitler Diaries.'"
Betting the Guardian
a million dollars that Manafort and Assange never met, another tweet read: "Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange."
Manafort was jailed earlier this year and was thought to be one of the key witnesses in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
On Monday, however, US prosecutors said in a court filing that Trump's former campaign chairman breached his plea deal by lying to federal investigators.
Manafort said in the same filing on Monday that he disagreed with Mueller's assertion that he had lied, but both sides agreed the court should move ahead and sentence him for his crimes.
Without a pardon, the 69-year-old Manafort could spend the rest of his life in prison, experts said.
Manafort was a long-time Republican political consultant who made tens of millions of dollars working for pro-Kremlin politicians in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign in March 2016, promising to work for free.
He attended a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a group of Russians offering "dirt" on Democratic candidate Clinton, who lost in an upset to Trump in the vote that November.
His long-standing relationship with an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin was another reason Manafort's cooperation was seen as important to Mueller's probe.
Manafort started cooperating in September after pleading guilty in a federal court in Washington to conspiracy against the United States — a charge that included a range of conduct from money laundering to unregistered lobbying. He also admitted that he tried to tamper with witnesses.
Mueller said in the filing that, after signing the plea agreement, "Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s Office on a variety of subject matters."
The Special Counsel is expected to finalize a report in the coming months on the findings of his 18-month probe into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.Reuters contributed to this report.
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