The Latest: Manafort denies meeting WikiLeaks’ Assange

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort (all times local):

3:40 p.m.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is denying that he ever met WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Manafort says in a statement that a Guardian report saying he met with Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy is “totally false and deliberately libelous.” Manafort says that he has never been contacted by “anyone connected to WikiLeaks, either directly or indirectly.”

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He also says the Guardian published the story after being told by Manafort’s representatives that it was false.

The British newspaper reported that Manafort met with Assange “around March 2016,” the same month he joined the Trump campaign. The newspaper also said that Manafort had met with Assange previously in 2013 and 2015.

The report didn’t identify the sources for its reporting.

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2:45 p.m.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says she’s unaware of any conversations about a potential pardon for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office accused Manafort on Monday of lying to them and said he had violated a plea agreement struck in September.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani (joo-lee-AH’-nee) had previously suggested Manafort and others could be eligible for pardons at the end of Mueller’s Russia investigation. The allegation Manafort had lied to prosecutors in the last two months has fueled speculation he might be angling for a pardon.

Manafort cut a deal with prosecutors in September, agreeing to plead guilty to two felonies and cooperate with Mueller’s team “fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly.”

Manafort’s lawyers have denied that he misled investigators.

Sanders spoke at the White House on Tuesday.

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Noon

A British newspaper alleges that Paul Manafort secretly met WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London within days or weeks of being brought aboard the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

If confirmed, the report Tuesday suggests a direct connection between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which released tens of thousands of emails stolen by Russian spies during the 2016 election.

The campaign seized on the emails to undermine Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

The Guardian, which did not identify the sources for its reporting, said that Manafort met with Assange “around March 2016” — the same month that Russian hackers began their all-out blitz to steal emails from the Clinton campaign.

Manafort’s lawyers did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press.

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