Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort tried to get the Ecuadorian government to turn over Julian Assange to the United States government, according to a new report by the New York Times.
Here's what the report said
Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012. He fled there seeking political asylum after failing to block his own extradition to Sweden where he had been accused of rape. Authorities in both England and the United States plan to arrest Assange if he ever leaves the embassy and the U.S. has prepared charges against him.
Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and became the chairman of the campaign in May. By August, he was forced to resign after questions emerged about whether or not he had lobbied in the U.S. on behalf of politicians in Ukraine without disclosing to the U.S. government that he was working as a foreign agent.
In late November, The Guardian had reported that Manafort had visited Assange in the embassy in 2013, 2015, and 2016. Both Manafort and WikiLeaks have denied that these meetings took place.
According to this latest report, Manafort met with then-newly elected Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in May 2017 to discuss a number of deals. Among topics discussed was the possibility of Ecuador giving up Assange to the U.S.
The Ecuadorian government has expressed a desire to have Assange leave their embassy. Since March, it has kept him from seeing any visitors. It has also cut off his access to the internet. Moreno's government had given Assange citizenship in December 2017, and looked into a way to send him to Russia as a diplomat on its behalf.
However, these plans quickly fell apart when British authorities stressed that they would arrest Assange the moment he left the embassy and stepped foot on British soil.
The Times said that they had not discovered any indication that Manafort had been briefing President Trump or his administration while he was meeting with Moreno. If that's true, Manafort could be in violation of the Logan Act, which states:
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
A spokesman for Manafort, Jason Maloni, confirmed to the New York Times that this topic had been discussed, but insisted that Moreno was the one who first mentioned Assange. Maloni said that Manafort had "listened but made no promises as this was ancillary to the purpose of the meeting."
Manafort has been at the heart of several unresolved threads of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and witness tampering on Sept. 14, almost a year after he was first charged and following his conviction by a jury in a separate but related case on eight tax and banking crimes.