The Guardian published a bombshell report Tuesday saying that U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Manafort held secret talks with WikiLeak's founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The report says the meeting lasted about 40 minutes and coincided with Manafort's joining of the Trump campaign.
Assange's WikiLeaks were a major player in the 2016 presidential campaign as they slowly released information hacked by Russia's GRU, which Hillary Clinton claims damaged her campaign.
Manafort breached his plea deal by lying to federal investigators, U.S. prosecutors said in a court filing, signaling a potential setback to the special counsel's probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Manafort said in the same filing on Monday that he disagreed with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's assertion that he had lied, but both sides agreed the court should move ahead and sentence him for his crimes.
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Without a pardon, the 69-year-old Manafort could spend the rest of his life in prison, experts said.
The surprise development comes at a critical time for Mueller, who is expected to finalize a report in the coming months on the findings of his 18-month probe into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
An associate of political operative Roger Stone, a long-time ally of Trump, also said on Monday he will reject what he claims is a plea deal offered to him by the special counsel probing Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Jerome Corsi, a right-wing commentator known for promoting conspiracy theories, said the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller wanted him to plead guilty to one felony count of knowingly providing false information in return for a lighter sentence.
At issue in the plea talks were two separate email exchanges from 2016 in which Stone and another associate encouraged contact with WikiLeaks founder JulianAssange, according to Corsi, who said he has never communicated with Assange.
Corsi said he had forgotten about the emails when he initially told Mueller's team there was never any intention to contact Assange. He said Mueller allowed him to amend his testimony to reflect the content of the emails.
"Now they want to charge me for something that they allowed me to amend. That's not fair," said Corsi, who told media last week that he was in plea talks withMueller.