Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE has been looking into a 2017 meeting between former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report MORE and Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, according to a report that came the same day news broke that Manafort repeatedly met with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
CNN reports that Mueller is probing whether Manafort and Moreno discussed Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, during the meeting last year in Quito, which was previously revealed by Moreno after facing criticism from Ecuador's former president.
Moreno told reporters of the meeting in November 2017, explaining that the two discussed a bid by Chinese businessmen for a stake in Ecuador's state-owned power company, a plan which was ultimately rejected. He did not say at the time if other topics were discussed, according to The Associated Press.
The meeting occurred before Manafort's indictment later that year on charges related to his lobbying work in Ukraine and efforts to hide profits made during that time from U.S. authorities.
News of Mueller's interest in Manafort's contacts with Moreno comes just hours after The Guardian reported that Assange and Manafort met several times, including once in 2016 months before WikiLeaks would post stolen emails obtained illegally from Democratic officials by Russian intelligence operatives.
Assange, WikiLeaks and Manafort all denied that the meetings occurred.
“This story is totally false and deliberately libelous,” Manafort said in a statement. “I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false.”
"No such meetings took place," Assange's attorney Jennifer Robinson told CNN.
"We have had no contact with the Mueller investigation," she added.
A Twitter account for the website also cast doubt on the meetings, writing that the site was willing to bet "a million dollars" that Assange and Manafort never met.
Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange. https://t.co/R2Qn6rLQjn— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018