Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at the US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan/Getty Images
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met secretly on multiple occasions with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London over several years, including one meeting in 2016 just months before Wikileaks published Clinton associate emails hacked by Russian operatives, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
The report does not detail what the nature of their meetings was, but it appears clear that the meetings would be of interest to Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, which on Monday accused Manafort of lying to the investigators “on a variety of subject matters” in violation of his plea deal. In one Ecuadorian intelligence document listing Manafort as a guest of the embassy, “Russians” were also mentioned, according to the Guardian.
The 2016 meeting between Manafort and Assange occurred in March, around the time he joined the Trump campaign, the Guardian reported. His first meeting took place in 2013, a year after Assange took refuge in the embassy to avoid sex crime charges in Sweden. The second occurred in 2015. While it’s not known why he sought out Assange in these meetings, Manafort’s first acquaintance with Assange occurred when Manafort was working as a consultant and influential lobbyist in Ukraine.
The third visit—the one that is likely of interest to Mueller, who has been investigating connections between Wikileaks and Trump associates such as Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr.—lasted about 40 minutes, one source told the Guardian. He showed up alone.
Earlier this year, Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for perpetrating the hack in 2016. Last week, a court filing accidentally revealed that the Justice Department intends to indict or had already charged Assange, though it did not say what Assange would be charged with. In response to the Guardian report, Wikileaks asserted that the story was a fabrication.
Manafort, who pleaded guilty in September to federal conspiracy charges and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation as part of a plea deal, has denied any involvement with the Wikileaks hack and any 2016 meeting with Assange, according to the Guardian. He is currently in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, and still faces sentencing.
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