Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort engaged in covert talks with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been residing within the walls of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, and the visit came around the time Trump employed him to work for his 2016 presidential campaign, The Guardian reported, citing a number of sources.
WikiLeaks later announced on its twitter page that it was launching legal fund to sue the Guardian for publishing the "entirely fabricated story."
WikiLeaks launches legal fund to sue the Guardian for publishing entirely fabricated story "Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy" — which spread all over the world today. It is time the Guardian paid a price for fabricating news. https://t.co/VaoMESN5RO— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018
The Guardian also cited a separate internal document written by Ecuador’s intelligence agency Senain, which lists 'Paul Manaford [sic]' — spelled with an orthographic mistake — as one of several well-known guests to the embassy, with the visitors’ list also including 'Russians'.
Having subsequently been to the embassy in 2015, as confirmed to the British broadsheet by two sources, Manafort is said to have paid a sole 40-minute visit in 2016. He reportedly exited the embassy in sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light shirt.
Manafort later said that the reports about meeting Assange were "totally false," noting that he was considering "all legal options" against the Guardian.
"This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him," Manafort said. "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."
In summer 2016, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of Democrats’ emails. The DNC subsequently alleged they could have been hacked by Russian intelligence services, with Trump’s Democratic rival in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton, blaming her defeat squarely on the hack. The Kremlin denied the accusations, saying that it never colluded with either candidate and never meddled in the US elections.
Paul Manafort, 69, is meanwhile being closely scrutinized by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, who are investigating the alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, with both mentioned parties vehemently denying it. Trump has even called the probe on more than one occasion 'a despicable witch hunt'.
In the most recent development, the special counsel’s office alleged in a court file on Monday that since his guilty plea earlier in September, Manafort has lied to investigators, which constituted a breach of his deal with Mueller. Trump’s former aide denied the claims shortly afterwards.
Manafort was convicted by a Virginia jury of several crimes relating to fraud, but he was never charged with any crimes related to the alleged collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. After he was found guilty, he issued a guilty plea to separate charges in Washington, DC.