Last night, Robert Mueller alleged in a court filing that Paul Manafort had lied to him, thus breaking the terms of his plea agreement. This morning brought more bad news for Trump’s former campaign manager. Per The Guardian:
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.
Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 — during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.
A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.
I put “reportedly” in the title because smart folks like Matt Tait and Marcy Wheeler who are clued in to this kind of stuff are skeptical of the report. Jerome Corsi, an operative for Infowars and a supposed backchannel between Roger Stone and Wikileaks, claims he is about to be indicted. If there was a backchannel set up to Assange, why would Manafort need to visit Assange himself?
The Guardian is an A+ journalistic outlet, so if they're willing to publish this, they must have good reason to. As someone who's job it has been to follow every twist and turn of this saga, I can promise you that there have been mistakes made by good journalists. As of right now, there isn't much of a concrete reason to doubt the story, but I would encourage everyone to keep their guard up and keep an eye out for corroborating reports before drawing any big conclusions.
That said, if this is true, boy does it look bad for Manafort. He joined the Trump campaign right around the time he was meeting with Assange—one of the Kremlin's favorite useful idiots—and he was named campaign manager right around the time that Wikileaks started dumping e-mails. That's a whole lot of convenient coincidences for a man who spent the last ten years of his career working for one of Vladimir Putin's most trusted oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska. I have a feeling this won't be the last that we hear of Paul Manafort's legal troubles with Kremlin affiliated outlets and people.
The Guardian has tweaked their report to make it less authoritative. We will keep an eye on this and update this post if this story gets any thinner.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.