Paul Manafort attempted to broker a deal in 2017 for Ecuador to hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to US authorities in exchange for debt relief from the USA government, the New York Times reported Monday night.
At the meetings, which took place in mid-May 2017 in Ecuador, Manafort reportedly suggested he could help broker a deal that would include the handover of Assange to the United States, the sources tell the Times.
Manafort had arranged the meeting to offer a deal to help secure Chinese investment in Ecuador's power system.
But the talks instead turned to a diplomatic point between the USA and Ecuador: the fate of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In at least two meetings, however, Moreno and his aides talked about ridding themselves of Assange, who had been staying in an Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012.
Manafort offered to arrange for Assange to be handed over to the USA, where he has been investigated for the leak of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables in 2010.
The talks ultimately came to nothing, as within a few days of the meeting Robert Mueller was appointed the Justice Department's special counsel to investigate allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, and it soon became clear that Manafort would be a target of the investigation.
And during that trip, the spokesman said, Ecuador's president raised the possibility of a deal that would remove Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from the country's embassy in London. The Times said there was no indication that Trump or other administration officials were briefed by Manafort on the negotiations, but noted the incident highlighted Manafort's role as an worldwide influence broker hoping to cash in on his ties with Trump.
Several days after the last meeting Mr Manafort held in Quito, Robert Mueller was announced as a special advisor in charge of a probe to investigate the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 USA elections. Manafort's spokesperson also specified that "there was no mention of Russian Federation at the meeting' with the Ecuadorian president".
Manafort and WikiLeaks have both denied a recent report in The Guardian that the former campaign chairman visited Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in 2013, 2015 and 2016.