Convicted felon Paul Manafort, a day after being accused by special counsel Robert Mueller of lying repeatedly to FBI investigators, claims he has never met WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which The Guardian reported on Tuesday.
The Guardian story, however, does not cite any sources by name, although it does quote an Ecuadorian government document that suggests "Paul Manaford" paid a call to its embassy in London. It's unclear what the campaign chairman and the WikiLeaks chief discussed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, according to the Guardian, but the episode could be a key link for investigators probing possible conspiracy between the campaign and the Kremlin to sway the 2016 us presidential election in Trump's favor. Sources in Ecuador tell the publication that Manafort's visit to the embassy was not logged.
WikiLeaks, meanwhile, quickly denied the Guardian's report, indicating Manafort never met with Assange.
His long-standing relationship with an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin was another reason Manafort's cooperation was seen as important to Mueller's probe. An attorney for Manafort didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
"Remember this day when The Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation", said the organization's official account on Twitter.
As whistleblower advocate Naomi Colvin and others pointed out, official Ecuadorian embassy visitor logs make no mention of any Manafort appearances, let alone the three separate appearances reported by the Guardian.
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The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London for the past six years to avoid sexual assault charges in Sweden.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the emails were stolen by Russian intelligence officers.
Manafort himself released a statement later Tuesday calling the article "libelous" and claiming he was thinking of suing The Guardian.
Also in March, at the end of the month, Russian hackers successfully sent a spearphishing email to Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
The Russia investigation is already investigating how hundreds of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee came to be published by WikiLeaks.
That dispute is playing out amid sometimes feverish speculation within Washington, D.C., that Mueller's investigation may be on the verge of unveiling more criminal charges, perhaps against another sub-cast of characters centered on political consultant Roger Stone.