WikiLeaks and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort denied reports that Manafort met with the site’s founder Julian Assange several times after he sought asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the most recent just a few months before WikiLeaks began publishing emails pilfered from the DNC by Russian operatives and intended to sway the U.S. presidential election.
“I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him,” Manafort said in a statement in response to a Guardian report that he had visited the WikiLeaks founder in the embassy in 2013, 2015 and 2016 right after he became the head of Trump’s campaign. “I have never been contacted by anyone connected to WikiLeaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or WikiLeaks on any matter.”
And in a series of tweets, WikiLeaks said the meeting never took place and threatened to sue the Guardian, starting a gofundme to raise money for legal costs.
But the report cited “a well-placed source” as saying the two last met in March 2016 just a few months before WikiLeaks began releasing emails damaging to Clinton.
“If true, the revelation that Paul Manafort repeatedly met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London raises serious new questions about Mr. Manafort’s relationship with WikiLeaks,” Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. “It is essential that Ecuador’s current government publicly and swiftly confirm whether former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and his administration allowed these meetings to take place.”
He also called for a briefing on a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Valencia Monday. “The State Department and the intelligence community must immediately brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Mr. Manafort’s interaction with Mr. Assange, as well as the Ecuadoran government’s role in any meetings,” Menendez said. “Similarly, as evidence continues to mount about WikiLeaks interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Ecuador’s government must reevaluate the risks of harboring an individual who has damaged democratic processes around the world.”
Rumors have swirled that members or associates of the Trump campaign potentially coordinated with WikiLeaks, particularly since adviser Roger Stone seemed to indicate he knew in advance that the emails would be published, perhaps acting on information obtained through rightwing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi. Both Stone and Corsi have denied coordinating with WikiLeaks though both have met extensively with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with members of the Trump team.
On Monday, Corsi said he was going to reject a plea deal with Mueller’s team that would let him to admit to perjury in exchange for probation. He has claimed that he had no prior knowledge of the email dump, but had simply “connected the dots.” Late Tuesday, however, NBC News said it had obtained draft court documents that included emails between Corsi and Stone that suggest otherwise.
“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” according to a Corsi email dated Aug. 2, 2016. “One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”
Another email on July 25, 2016 apparently from Stone to Corsi said, “Get to (Assange at) Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending emails.”
A little more than a week later, Corsi wrote, “Time to let more than (Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta) to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC (Hillary Rodham Clinton), according to NBC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about.”