President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE's former campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortCohen released from federal prison to home confinement due to coronavirus concerns Advocates call on states to release more inmates amid pandemic Michael Cohen to be moved to home confinement due to coronavirus concerns: report MORE, reportedly discussed with Ecuador officials brokering a deal that would result in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being handed over to the U.S. 

The New York Times, citing three people familiar with the discussions, reported on Monday that Manafort traveled to Ecuador in May 2017 to offer his services to Ecuador's incoming president, Lenín Moreno.


Manafort made the trip to focus on arranging a deal in which China would agree to invest in the South American nation's power system, the Times reported. 

But the newspaper reports that in at least two meetings, Moreno and his aides talked about ridding themselves of Assange. Assange has been staying in an Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012.

Moreno and his aide reportedly suggested to Manafort that they could hand over Assange in exchange for a concession such as debt relief from the U.S. Manafort reportedly suggested that he could help the country negotiate a deal. 

Manafort's final meeting in Ecuador was followed just days later by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's appointment to lead the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

Manafort's discussions with Moreno concluded without any deal, the Times reported. The newspaper said that there is no evidence that Manafort was working on behalf of the Trump administration in the reported negotiations over Assange. 

It added that there is also no evidence that Manafort's involvement in the talks was part of any concerns about WikiLeaks's role in released hacked Democratic emails during the lead-up to the 2016 election. 

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told the Times that Moreno broached the idea about Assange to Manafort. 

"[Manafort] listened but made no promises, as this was ancillary to the purpose of the meeting,”  Maloni said. “There was no mention of Russia at the meeting.”

Manafort was convicted of eight counts of bank and tax fraud earlier this year. He agreed to cooperate with special counsel Mueller as part of his investigation. 

His cooperation came in exchange for a plea deal that helped him avoid a second federal trial, but he now faces jail time for allegedly lying to prosecutors.

The Guardian reported last month that Manafort met with Assange multiple times before the 2016 presidential election. Both WikiLeaks and Manafort have fiercely denied the details in the report.