Muslim Times(Web Desk) – US President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had tried to convince Ecuador officials to detain WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and hand him over to America, according to a new report.
Manafort raised the issue with Ecuadorian officials in May 2017, when he traveled to the country to establish political ties with incoming President Lenín Moreno, The New York Times reported Monday, citing three sources familiar with the discussions.
The trip was mainly focused on arranging a deal that would see China invest in the South American nation’s power system, the report said.
However, Manafort attended at least two meetings about Assange, where Moreno and his assistants talked about ridding themselves of the controversial whistleblower who has been staying in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012.
The Times alleged that Moreno and his team had even suggested to Manafort that they would extradite Assange if the US agrees to make concessions such as debt relief.
The former Trump aide suggested at the time that he could help Ecuador negotiate a deal along those lines, the report added.
Manafort’s final meeting in Ecuador came days before the US Justice Department appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller as the head of a high-profile investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged “collusion” with Russia during the 2016 election.
The ongoing probe is based on US intelligence reports that Moscow stole Democratic secrets in a series of email hacking attacks and leaked them through Assange’s platform.
The Times noted there were no indications that Manafort was working on behalf of the Trump administration back then. It also suggested that the negotiations failed to yield an agreement.
The report added that there was no evidence Manafort’s negotiations were in any way related to the Russia investigations.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told the paper that it was Moreno who first floated the idea of a deal on Assange.
“[Manafort] listened but made no promises as this was ancillary to the purpose of the meeting,” Maloni said. “There was no mention of Russia at the meeting.”
Manafort has been convicted of eight counts of bank and tax fraud. He has reached a plea deal with Mueller which requires him to cooperate in exchange for a watered down sentence.
Mueller office announced late last month that Manafort faced jail time for allegedly lying to prosecutors.
According to a report by the Guardian last month, Manafort met with Assange multiple times before the 2016 presidential election. WikiLeaks and Manafort have both denied the claims.