WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort denied Tuesday that he has met with WikiLeaks head Julian Assange multiple times, a claim that was reported earlier in the day by the Guardian.
“This story is totally false and deliberately libelous,” Manafort said in a statement. “I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. 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.”
Manafort added that he is considering legal action against the paper.
WikiLeaks on Twitter similarly rejected the report.
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. https://t.co/R2Qn6rLQjn
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018
According to the Guardian, sources said Manafort visited Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Assange has remained at the embassy since 2012, when Ecuador granted him asylum after he unsuccessfully fought extradition charges from Sweden.
The report quickly made waves since WikiLeaks was the entity that released hacked emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and other Democratic officials during the height of the 2016 campaign.
The U.S. intelligence community and Justice Department has determined that the emails were initially obtained by Russian intelligence officials masking their identities online.
Manafort is currently under scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is probing whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to sway the election.
The Guardian report came the morning after Mueller’s team stated in a court filing that Manafort, who has previously been found guilty of eight counts unrelated to the campaign and pleaded guilty to two others, violated a plea agreement by lying to investigators.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declined to address the drama surrounding Manafort during Tuesday’s press briefing.
“I’m not going to get engaged in specifics of that case,” Sanders said.