In May 2017, Paul Manafort met with then-incoming Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno to broker a deal that involved Chinese investment in Ecuador’s power system and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, The New York Times reported.
Manafort was reportedly primarily interested in earning some commission from China if he was able to pull off the arrangement — in order to pay off some legal bills — but the discussions quickly shifted to Assange’s fate. According to three people familiar with the conversations who spoke to the Times, Moreno suggested a possible swap in at least two meetings with Manafort; trading Assange — who’s been living in Ecuador’s Embassy in London for at least six years — for some type of financial break from the U.S.
Talks dissolved after it became evident that Manafort’s financial dealings were a focal point of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. There’s no indication that the meeting played any role in the Russia election interference investigation, according to the Times.
Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloney did not dispute the Times report and told NBC News in a statement that while Moreno raised the possibility of an Assange deal, Manafort made no promises.
Manafort spox does not dispute NYT report that Manafort discussed deal between Ecuador and U.S. over Julian Assange pic.twitter.com/bmmL5yLTNN
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) December 4, 2018
Read the full Times report here.