By: Margot Cleveland
“On Tuesday The Guardian ran an exclusive claiming that “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.” According to The Guardian, Manafort met with the WikiLeaks’ founder at the embassy three times—in 2013, 2015, and in spring 2016.
While acknowledging that the purpose of the claimed meeting is unknown, The Guardian implies Manafort’s supposed March 2016 secret rendezvous concerned WikiLeaks’ role in releasing the hacked Democratic National Committee emails. “The revelation could shed new light on the sequence of events in the run-up to summer 2016, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails hacked by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency,” The Guardian wrote.”
(…) “what is clear is that The Guardian’s story was read round the world. Major media outlets quickly regurgitated the tale that “Manafort held secret talks with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange around the time he joined Trump’s campaign.”
The timing of Tuesday’s story suggests a concerted effort to craft a new Trump collusion narrative. Just the day before, in a court filing, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team claimed Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying to federal agents “on a variety of subject matters” that would be detailed later in a sentencing submission.
Manafort, who pleaded guilty earlier this year in a Washington D.C. federal court to two criminal counts related to foreign lobbying, denies lying to the FBI or the special counsel’s office, but The Guardian’s story now gives the public cause to imagine that Manafort’s purported prevarication concerned his supposed meeting with Assange in March 2016.
Tuesday also saw CNN contributor Carl Bernstein furthering the narrative that Manafort served as the Russia connection. According to the former Watergate reporter, Mueller’s team is investigating a 2017 meeting between Manafort and the Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno. Bernstein reported that “according to a source with personal knowledge of the matter,” the special counsel is inquiring whether Manafort discussed WikiLeaks or Assange when he met with Moreno.
While CNN acknowledged that Moreno had previously stated that his 2017 meeting with Manafort involved a group of Chinese investors hoping to privatize the country’s electrical services, the goal of Bernstein’s source seems clear: to connect Manafort to Assange. That goal coincides with the story pushed by The Guardian’s two unnamed sources.
Here, the public would be wise to remember that The Guardian’s story represents the third attempt to connect the Trump campaign to the Russian hacking of the DNC emails in an effort to convince the American public that the Republican presidential candidate colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.” (Read more: The Federalist, 11/28/2018)