Paul Manafort was hauled back into court this week to face charges from the special counsel that he had breached his plea deal by “repeatedly lying.” And now the Guardian has a report that would seem to be something very, very worth lying about.
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.
The source for the story sets Manafort’s visit to Assange in March of 2016. Which puts Manafort’s visit, and his chairing of the Trump campaign, squarely in the middle of the Russian hacking effort.
This is what that period looked like when everything is put together: On February 29, Paul Manafort sent Trump a written “pitch” document explaining how he should direct the campaign. His pitch was backed by a recommendation from Roger Stone. The very next week, Trump senior campaign staffer Sam Clovis told the team that “good US-Russia relations” were a goal of the campaign. The week after that George Papadopoulos, fresh off hearing Clovis describe the campaign’s desire for good Russia relations, first met with the London-based “professor” who claimed to have Russia connections. That was all in March.
So was this: Russians begin a dedicated attempt to hack into the emails of more than 300 employees of the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton campaign using two large teams of specialists. They managed to penetrate the the emails of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, stealing 50,000 emails through a phishing attack. Hackers gained another entrance to other accounts on the campaign that same week, and began sophisticated attacks on the security of servers at the DNC. That was in March.
At the end of the month, two things happened: Trump met with his campaign team, where Papadopoulos discussed Russian help and the possibility of meeting with Putin. And Paul Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign.
If Paul Manafort was meeting with Julian Assange in March 2016, it shows that every part of the Russian plan, from stealing Democratic emails to distributing them through WikiLeaks, was planned in advance. And that the campaign chair of the Trump campaign was at the dead center of that plan.
One key question is when the Trump campaign was aware of the Kremlin’s hacking operation – and what, if anything, it did to encourage it. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion.
The March 2016 meeting wasn’t Manafort’s first visit with Assange. The use of both stolen emails and social media campaigns was something Manafort relied on heavily in his actions in Ukraine.
Why did Paul Manafort lie? Because it increasingly looks like the origin of the plan to attack the United States through stolen emails, false media accounts, and social media pressure didn’t originate with Moscow, it came from Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.
Manafort did for Trump what he did for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. And with the same assist from Moscow. That’s worth lying about.
And based on how Robert Mueller waited until Trump turned in his written responses before calling Manafort on the carpet, it’s going to be interesting to see how many of his lies Trump repeated.
What’s that word? Boom.