Manafort denies meeting with Assange as Mueller zeroes in

WASHINGTON — Now that special counsel Robert Mueller has said President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort is lying to federal investigators, the only thing that can keep the 69-year-old from spending the rest of his life in prison is a pardon from Mr. Trump.

That action is something White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed Tuesday.

“I’m not aware of any conversations for anyone’s pardon,” Sanders said at a press briefing.

Adding to Manafort’s troubles, The Guardian reported Manafort held secret meetings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, including one in 2016, just months before WikiLeaks released a trove of stolen Democratic emails. Manafort and Assange say the article is false and have threatened legal action over the story.

In September, Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel in exchange for other charges being dismissed. It was Mueller’s biggest victory to date, since Manafort could provide valuable information about any cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In a court filing Monday night, prosecutors did not reveal what Manafort lied about, but promised to issue a report detailing Manafort’s “crimes and lies.”

His lawyer said he has met with the special counsel’s office several times and provided truthful information.

Former Whitewater investigator Solomon Wisenberg said Manafort may be playing the long game.

“I would say it’s a good hypothesis that he never intended to cooperate and that he’s angling for a pardon at some point in time,” Wisenberg said.

Manafort has a history of lying in this case and was convicted of lying to banks and the government. He was also accused of lying about writing an op-ed and tampering with witnesses. Even if Mr. Trump grants him a pardon for all of this, he could still face state charges.

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