On Tuesday, The Guardian published a "bombshell" report alleging that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort held "secret talks" at the Ecuadorian embassy with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, including one alleged meeting that took place around the time Manafort joined the Trump campaign in 2016. The report was based on unnamed sources and the outlet noted that the embassy has no record of Manafort's alleged 2016 visit.
WikiLeaks has since responded to the report by declaring its publication as the moment The Guardian let a "serial fabricator" "totally destroy" the paper's credibility. WikiLeaks is so confident of its claim, that it announced it's willing to put its money — and Assange's life — on the table.
"Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation," the organization said in a tweet. "@WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange."
The organization followed up that tweet by retweeting a post by Hanna Jonasson, stating, "The authors of the bogus Guardian story, Dan Collyns and Luke Harding, were in Ecuador 10 days ago with US-funded Villavicencio, who they have previously bylined with in bogus stories. This picture was taken last week."
"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," The Guardian reports. "It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia."
The Guardian's claim about the alleged spring 2016 meeting, which the outlet "tentatively dated to March," is based on an unnamed "well-placed source." The source says Manafort visited Assange at the embassy for around 40 minutes and provided the detail that Assange was wearing "sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt."
But The Guardian also notes that there's no record of the visit.
"Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged," The Guardian reports. "Embassy staff were aware only later of the potential significance of Manafort’s visit and his political role with Trump, it is understood."
The outlet's sources say the first alleged meeting between Manafort and Assange occurred in 2013; The Guardian cites an internal Ecuadorian intelligence document that lists a "Paul Manaford" as one of the visitors; the list also allegedly cites "Russians." The second visit, according to the sources, took place in 2015.
Manafort's lawyers declined answering The Guardian's questions about the alleged "secret talks" with Assange. Manafort has repeatedly denied any involvement in the hacking and called the claim "100% false," The Guardian reports.
The Guardian's Manafort report comes a day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a complaint against Manafort for allegedly violating his plea deal and being guilty of various "crimes and lies" that were left unspecified. Manafort's legal team denies that he is in breach of the deal. Legal experts say he could face more than ten years in prison.