WikiLeaks said that it was suing the British newspaper The Guardian and added Tuesday that the company “is willing to bet The Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange" a day after The British newspaper published an article stating the two had done so, in what could be used to back arguments that Assange did in fact support Trump's presidential bid.
Luke Harding and Dan Collyns of The Guardian reported that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and United States President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort had met in secret in 2013, 2015, and 2016.
“Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange,” WikiLeaks tweeted.
The article did not give much evidence to support the claim, stating only that “a well-placed source said that ‘Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.’”
Meanwhile, Manafort, who was found lying repeatedly to officials about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election Monday said the claims were false. “This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him," Manafort said through a spokesman.
"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.”
A Guardian spokesperson said that the "story relied on a number of sources. We put these allegations to both Paul Manafort and Julian Assange's representatives prior to publication. Neither responded to deny the visits taking place. We have since updated the story to reflect their denials."
According to WikiLeaks, Assange has instructed his lawyers to sue the Guardian over libel for the story, which Assange says is a fabrication. The organization has also launched a legal fund campaign on GoFundMe which has already garnered US$26,129 of their US$300,000 goal in the first 19 hours.
This plot twist comes as U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller finalizes a report on an investigation into whether Russia and Trump's campaign colluded in the 2016 presidential election.
Part of that probe involves whether any of Trump's associates had advance notice prior to WikiLeaks’ publication of Hillary Clinton's emails, which had been stolen by Russian hackers from Democratic computer networks.