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18 Jan, 2019 10:50

DOJ to question Ecuadorian Embassy staff following Guardian Manafort story – WikiLeaks

DOJ to question Ecuadorian Embassy staff following Guardian Manafort story – WikiLeaks

The US Department of Justice is to question six staff from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London following the Guardian’s controversial article alleging Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange, according to WikiLeaks.

The DOJ issued formal requests on January 7 to “interrogate six former diplomats & staff at Ecuador's London embassy following Guardian's fabricated story of Assange-Manafort meetings,” the whistleblowing organization tweeted Thursday.

The interviews scheduled by Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office are to take place on Friday in Quito, Ecuador.

The report comes after six Democrats, including Senators Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, wrote to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on December 12, demanding Ecuador provide information about the allegations made in the Guardian’s report.

The outlet’s November article alleging Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Manafort secretly visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2013, 2015, and 2016 has been roundly criticized by WikiLeaks, Manafort, and Ecuador’s former Consul at the embassy, who all flatly deny the visits took place.

READ MORE: Guardian challenged over ‘fake’ Assange & Manafort story, as Luke Harding goes AWOL

The article has also been criticized by members of the media, who question its use of anonymous sources and the Guardian’s handling of the story, which included almost immediate edits to lessen the initial strength of the allegations made. The Guardian has been asked to reveal further evidence to back up its report, such as video footage or visitor logs detailing Manafort’s alleged visits, but editor Katharine Viner and the journalists involved have thus far ignored such requests.

WikiLeaks has raised over $55,000 in a fundraising campaign to sue the Guardian over the piece.

“An intentionally planted front page false story in the Guardian has now led to statements in Congress, the activation of the U.S. Secretary of State, the DoJ, Ecuador’s DoJ, and Ecuador’s astonishing agreement to formally let a foreign power interrogate its diplomatic staff,” WikiLeaks tweeted Thursday.

WikiLeaks said in a statement that it’s “highly unusual” to allow foreign governments to conduct “interrogations of former diplomatic officials over their diplomatic work, or to provide foreign investigators information about those who have been afforded political asylum in relation to them.” Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy since seeking asylum there in 2012 and was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in late 2017. 

Also on rt.com US ‘secretly charged’ Assange, prosecutor accidentally reveals – WikiLeaks

The Guardian’s claims were presented as a bombshell, backing up allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election by hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta, and giving the documents to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks reports that some of the people the Department of Justice are seeking to question live in the UK, which suggests London may receive a similar request for access.

"Ecuador's new regime has done a 180 turn in relation to protecting Mr. Assange and is now assisting the U.S. government to prosecute him in flagrant violation of its binding legal obligations to not do so," the WikiLeaks founder's legal team said in a statement to RT.com. "This unscrupulous behavior is entirely contrary to international norms on refugee protection and press freedom."

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