Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald J. Trump, met with the founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange multiple times in London between 2013 and March 2016. This was around the time Manafort was named the campaign’s convention manager.
The report cited unnamed sources, and it came the morning after special counsel Robert Mueller accused Manafort of breaching his plea agreement by lying to investigators. Mueller has already indicted the Russians who were accused of hacking the DNC and other Democratic individuals and entities. The hacked emails were released by Wikileaks and other websites leading up to the 2016 election.
The Guardian reports it is unclear why Manafort and Assange met in 2013, which is when he was lobbying for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Two sources stated that Manafort visited Assange, who sought asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, again in 2015. Manafort visited Assange again in March 2016. A “well-placed source” told The Guardian that Manafort’s visits to the embassy where not logged. This is typical practice according to Ecuadorean sources.
Additionally, The Guardian reviewed flight records that revealed Manafort sometimes flew through London on the way to Kiev, where his Ukrainian lobbying operation was based.
Manafort denied involvement in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. He referred to the claims about his connection to the Wikileaks hacks as “100% false.” Mueller has brought charges against Manafort, however, none of the charges tie him to Russia’s interference. His attorneys refused to answer any questions from The Guardian. Wikileaks, however, denied the report on Twitter:
Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.
Prosecutors are ready to move into sentencing proceedings for Manafort and stated in a court filing on Monday that they would detail “the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement” ahead of the sentencing hearing.
Julian Assange Appears to Be Defacto Prisoner at Embassy
It has been six years since Australian Julian Assange jumped bail and sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He was escaping an international arrest warrant for alleged sex abuse and rape in Sweden. Assange has obtained Ecuadorian citizenship and the charges in Sweden have been dropped. However, if he leaves the embassy, he risks an arrest for breaching bail and possibly extraditions to the United States, where secret charges appear to have been filed against him.
Assange is suspected of acting on the behalf of GRU, a Russian intelligence agency to distribute emails and other hacked documents that belonged to the DNC during the presidential election in 2016. In April 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo referred to Wikileaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
The staff at the Ecuadorian embassy are apparently growing tired of hosting Assange and are trying to “squeeze him out” by forcing him into isolation. The embassy reportedly has turned off his internet – “his lifeline” and will not allow many visitors to see him. Apparently, people who try to leave Assange messages, such as Roger Stone, a presidential advisor to Trump, are turned away. Not even his ardent supporter, “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson who was a frequent guest and suspected lover is allowed to see him.
Last week, journalists from the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, who visited Assange annually for the past six years, were able to gain access to Assange, but it was on the condition they do not print an interview that might place more pressure on Ecuador to kick him out of the embassy.
What they found was a depleted man on the verge of going mad.
The La Repubblica reporters stated:
As soon as we saw him, we realized he has lost a lot of weight. He is so skinny. Not even his winter sweater can hide his skinny shoulders. His nice-looking face, captured by photographers all around the world, is very tense. His long hair and beard make him look like a hermit, through not a nutter: As we exchange greetings, he seems very lucid and rational.
His cramped quarters do not allow him access to the garden, therefore, he does not go outside. Even prisoners serving life sentences are afforded sunshine. Assange only talks to his lawyer and the security guards. His phone service is limited and is mail is monitored.
The embassy has been reinforced with window grates to ward off anyone who might wish to attack Assange, which gives it the feeling of a high-security prison and decreases the natural light that would shine through the windows. Even the cat is gone that kept him company and “diffused tension,” according the La Repubblica.
Assange preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.
The journalists from La Repubblica say Assange is spending his time preparing for his criminal defense against charges that are believed to have been filed in the United States. In the middle of November, there was a filing in an unrelated sex-crime case that inadvertently revealed Assange had already been charged under seal in the United States.
There have been subsequent and unsuccessful attempts by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to have the case unsealed, though the Justice Department told The Daily Beast that Assange’s name was in the document erroneously.
Reportedly, on Monday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia filed a brief explaining why the Reporters Committee’s request to unseal the case should not be granted.
This matter arises out of an unintentional error by the government in a filing in the case United States v. Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, 1:18mj406, which led to speculation about whether charges have been filed against Julian Assange, and prompted the application that is currently before this court. The government accepts full responsibility for that mistake. Even though that error may have triggered speculation by the Reporters Committee, the plaintiff’s application lacks merit and should be denied in light of established law and precedent.
While the government has admitted that the aforementioned court filing was made in error, it has not confirmed or denied whether charges against Julian Assange exist, which is what the plaintiff seeks to learn through its application. Neither the First Amendment nor the common law require that the government provide such confirmation or denial.
According to reporters with La Repubblica, Assange assumes the U.S. government has charged him. However, even his lawyers, who were denied access to the Ecuadorian embassy last weekend, say they do not have a secure confirmation.
By Jeanette Smith
Talking Points Memo: Report: Manafort Met With Assange Multiple Times, Including In 2016
The Daily Beast: Unkempt, Heavily Bearded Julian Assange No Longer Has Embassy Cat For Company
Image by Paasikivi Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons License