Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, D.C. The Guardian has reported that Manafort visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016 about the time be became President Trump's campaign chairman.
It's a huge blow to Manafort, who was already convicted on eight counts of bank fraud and tax evasion, and who is facing fresh media scrutiny following a report that he secretly met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London shortly before he began publishing e-mails stolen from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman in a Russian military hacking operation.
The Guardian on Tuesday reported that Manafort had had multiple meetings with Assange dating back to 2013, including one in March 2016 ― just as Manafort effectively took control of Trump's campaign as he closed in on the Republican nomination. "I've never heard of the Embassy failing to log an Assange visitor, and the Guardian is asking us to believe all three alleged visits, across several years, were not logged". 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.
"I would say it's a good hypothesis that he never meant to cooperate and that he's angling for a pardon at some point in time", Wisenberg said.
Citing a "well-placed source", the Guardian says Manafort went to see Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London around March 2016, though the exact date is "tentative". I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter.
The Guardian based its report on information from unnamed sources and an internal document from an Ecuadorian intelligence agency. US officials have also prepared charges against Assange.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, declined to discuss the report during Tuesday's press briefing, though she reiterated the president was not involved in any "wrongdoing" or "collusion". One of Mueller's most promising witnesses, Paul Manafort, has recently been accused of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, despite a plea deal.
The Guardian said it was unclear why Manafort visited Assange, who has been living at the embassy since he sought refuge in 2012 over a Swedish sexual assault case that was later dropped. An attorney for Manafort didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Manafort has been at the heart of several unresolved threads of the Robert Mueller investigation.
Mueller's investigators have been examining communications between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks as part of the FBI's Russian Federation probe.
A Twitter account for WikiLeaks called the report "completely fabricated", and criticized the paper's reporting.
"Absolutely untrue. He wasn't in London at the time", Giuliani said. "Nobody's dying, nobody's being abused, nobody's being sexually assaulted", he said, calling Mueller's probe "bullshit" and his prosecutors "bozos" for putting Manafort in solitary confinement while awaiting sentencing. "Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers".