President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort reportedly held secret talks with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, according to the Guardian.
Sources told the British newspaper that Manafort visited Assange at the UK’s Ecuadorian embassy, where the WikiLeaks mastermind has been claiming diplomatic asylum for six years, at least three times — in 2013, 2015, and in the spring of 2016. And although it is still unclear what exactly the two discussed, the last meeting was around the same time he became a prominent figure in Trump’s push for the presidency, making it an event of interest for special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who’s investigating the alleged collusion between the president’s campaign and the Russians.
An insider told the Guardian that Manafort’s 2016 visit happened in March, just months before WikiLeaks released a series of Democratic emails, which were hacked by Russian intelligence officers. The former campaign manager has denied his involvement in the hacking, claiming the accusations are “100% false.” As reported by the BBC, he was arrested in August on financial fraud charges committed when he worked as a political consultant in Ukraine. But he then became one of the stars cooperators in the Russia investigation by agreeing on a plea deal with the FBI.
However, special counsel Mueller said on Monday that Manafort had been untruthful several times since the agreement, and court documents show that he committed “crimes and lies” on a “variety of subject matters.” His lawyers argued that they believed he provided truthful information and had not violated his deal.
On Tuesday morning, President Trump slammed Mueller on Twitter, saying, “The Fake News Media builds Bob Mueller up as a Saint, when in actuality he is the exact opposite. He is doing TREMENDOUS damage to our Criminal Justice System, where he is only looking at one side and not the other.”
According to the Guardian, sources revealed Manafort’s first visit to the Ecuadorian embassy happened one year after the Australian national sought asylum there. A separate document produced by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency also listed Manafort as a “well-known guest” and mentioned “Russians.” He then allegedly paid a 40-minute visit to Assange on his own in March 2016, around the same time as Trump picked him as his convention manager. And while visitors must log in with security officials upon entering the embassy, sources in Quito said his name was not registered.
That summer, WikiLeaks published a stash of emails hacked by Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, which presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton claimed had impacted her campaign and contributed to her defeat. Manafort’s connection to Assange will likely be of interesting to Robert Mueller, who is investigating the meddling of Russian officials in the 2016 election. President Trump has denied all collusion claims repeatedly.