U.S. President Donald Trump’s former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort denied ever meeting with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after the Guardian newspaper published a story alleging the two met at least three times.
“This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him," Manafort said through a spokesman on November 27.
"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.”
Manafort’s statement came one day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office told a U.S. judge that Manafort had breached his cooperation agreement with prosecutors by lying repeatedly to the FBI. Manafort has denied lying or breaching the agreement.
Part of Mueller’s investigation has involved looking into whether any of Trump’s associates may have had advance notice before WikiLeaks published e-mails allegedly stolen by Russian hackers from Democratic computer networks to damage Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in mid-2016.
In recent months, Mueller’s team has subpoenaed Manafort’s former business partner, Roger Stone, who has denied having access to the e-mails.
In the Guardian’s story published on November 27, the paper reported that Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2013, 2015, and March 2016 – all before the damaging e-mails were released in the midst of the 2016 election campaign.
Clinton has blamed the leaks in part for her unexpected loss to Trump.
WikiLeaks also denied the Guardian’s allegations on Twitter, saying it was "willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange."
Wikileaks also reported that it has launched a legal fund to sue the newspaper for publishing a "fabricated story."