Manafort and Assange deny meetings claimed in Guardian’s widely-criticized piece, threaten to sue
Both protagonists of the Guardian’s ‘sources-based’ story, which claimed that Paul Manafort and Julian Assange secretly met prior to publication of leaked DNC emails, are threatening to sue the newspaper for libel.
On Tuesday, The Guardian ran a story which alleged that Manafort, the disgraced chairman of the Donald Trump campaign, had gone to London, three times over four years, to meet in secret with the founder and editor of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, who is stranded in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
The author of the story, Luke Harding, bases his claim on “sources” and a document “written by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency and seen by the Guardian”, which the newspaper didn’t publish.Also on rt.com WikiLeaks betting ‘$1mn & editor’s head’ against Guardian claims that Manafort met Assange
Harding states that the story may be of interest to special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is charged with investigating the alleged connection between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He also gives an extensive background on why proponents of the ‘Russiagate’ theory were so hopeful that Manafort’s plea deal with Mueller could produce the smoking gun evidence to ruin the US president.
“This story is totally false and deliberately libelous,” Manafort said in a statement. “I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false.”
Similar remarks came from WikiLeaks, which called the core claim of the story false even before its publication. It is also promoting a GoFundMe campaign to support a libel case by Assange.
BREAKING: @WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has instructed his lawyers to sue the Guardian for libel over fabricated Manafort story and launched a legal fund to boost the action https://t.co/VaoMESN5RO— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018
Meanwhile, many journalists and commentators took issue with the story, criticizing its author and the newspaper for failing to meet professional standards, and post-publication edits seemingly meant to distance The Guardian from the claims.
I think the Guardian is an important paper with great journalists. I hope the story turns out true. But the skepticism over this story is very widespread, including among Assange's most devoted haters, because it's so sketchy. If Manafort went there, there's video. Let's see it.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 28, 2018
The Guardian reporter who published the story in question is Luke Harding. That’s the same Harding who cut short an interview w/@aaronjmate when Mate asked him to provide some evidence to support the title of his book, “Collusion” https://t.co/Hty3EI3RhChttps://t.co/90vH3XAcVo— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 27, 2018
Question for @Popehat and the rest of libel law Twitter: Is it still possible to libel Paul Manafort now? I would think not, but I don’t know the parameters of the relevant doctrine. https://t.co/98d7V7wG0I— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) November 27, 2018
Guardian hack Luke Harding was caught plagiarizing me, @yashalevine & others—and it had zero effect on his career advancement. If his latest “scoop” on Manafort/Assange is debunked, there will be zero consequences. Most of us still can’t fully grasp this https://t.co/8AeD8GRXh0— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) November 27, 2018
I offer some caution about that Guardian report everyone is talking about: https://t.co/lu40ql2VWj— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) November 27, 2018
Some of the edits The Guardian has already made to its supposed Manafort-Assange scoop might look small but are significant:These weasel words like "would have," "apparent," and "might have" show the story is weak and relies entirely on anonymous sourcinghttps://t.co/6vEK5TQnIwpic.twitter.com/e0mb6iAc7m— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 27, 2018
I’d like to see some corroboration of this. https://t.co/uIi4YUrblm— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) November 27, 2018
Having been in the Embassy many times to see Assange, I find it nearly impossible that Manafort went there 3 times and was never registered. Everything in the Embassy was recorded on video 24/7, so there would be a record were it true. Senain has long had a grudge against JA.— Eva Golinger (@evagolinger) November 27, 2018
Folks the skepticism to that Guardian report couldn't be more broad-based:@ggreenwald@aaronjmate@auerfeld@pwnallthethings@benjaminwittes@NatSecGeek and me rarely ALL agree. But we do all think that this is sketchy.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) November 27, 2018
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