Manafort reportedly visited WikiLeaks' Assange in lead-up to election

Federal courthouse in Alexandria VA where hearing took place

Tuesday's report that Manafort visited Assange multiple times, and that he's been acquainted with the WikiLeaks founder since 2012 or 2013, paints a picture of a Trump campaign manager with close ties to the organization that published highly damaging information about Trump's opponent.

"Which is true? The Guardian's anonymous claims or WikiLeaks' vehement denials?"

Manafort has so far denied involvement in the hack and asserted that the claims were false.

Assange has been holed up at the embassy since 2012 out of fear that should he leave, he would be extradited to the United States and face charges for leaking thousands of classified documents. He went there demanding political asylum after he failed to block his extradition to Sweden where he was wanted on rape charges.

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While U.S. officials have declined even anonymously to pull back the curtain on what Assange may have been charged with in Virginia - where the CIA is headquartered, and where the agency's hacker files were stolen from and later published in 2017 by WikiLeaks as "Vault 7" - one official told ABC News any charges against Assange are unlikely to be for activities defensible as journalism and protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The only specific details offered are related to the length of the alleged 2016 meeting-"about 40 minutes"-and Manafort's alleged attire-"sandy-colored chinos, a cardigan, and a light-colored shirt".

In 2016, Manafort reportedly visited the embassy again, possibly in March. The second visit, according to the sources, took place in 2015.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and stayed until August, when he resigned.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued that the inadvertent disclosure by prosecutors about charges against Assange obliterates the usual need for secrecy. And weeks before that, his son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort had met with Russians at Trump's campaign headquarters in NY after the Russians had promised "dirt" on Clinton.

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Also in March, at the end of the month, Russian hackers successfully sent a spearphishing email to Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The Democratic emails were released months later.

And WikiLeaks said on Twitter that it was "willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange".

Last week a team of journalists from Italian newspaper La Republica managed to gain access to Assange, despite a strict ban on visitors from his landlords.

'But Assange has preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life'.

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For more than a year now, Manafort has been at the heart of several unresolved threads of the Mueller investigation. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and witness tampering on September 14, nearly a year after he was first charged and following his conviction by a jury in a separate but related case on eight tax and banking crimes.

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