A report in the Guardian Tuesday said that President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign.
The report quoted unnamed sources who said that Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s campaign for the White House.
It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed during their meetings. But their last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The report quoted “a well-placed source” who said that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers. Manafort denied involvement in the hack and said that the claim is “100-percent false.” The Guardian asked his lawyers for comment, and they declined to answer questions about the visits.
On Monday, prosecutors said in a court filing that Manafort 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, 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.
Manafort attended a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a group of Russians offering “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary 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.”
Prosecutors did not provide details of the alleged lies but said they would do so before sentencing.
Manafort’s attorneys said Manafort met with the government on several occasions and made “an effort to live up to his cooperation obligations,” according to the joint filing, which was submitted to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington.