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Paul Manafort, the embattled former campaign chief of President Donald Trump, attempted to broker a deal between Washington and the government of Ecuador over Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the New York Times reported.
During meetings with incoming Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in May 2017, Manafort suggested he could help negotiate an agreement for the South American country to hand over Assange to the U.S., the Times said, citing people familiar with the talks.
Assange has been granted asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012 as he seeks to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces accusations of sex crimes. In exchange for the whistle-blower, Moreno's government would get concessions like debt relief from Washington, according to the Times. But no deal ever materialized and there was no evidence of Manafort working with U.S. officials on the matter, the newspaper said.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment that was sent outside of U.S. business hours.
Last week, CNN reported that special counsel Robert Mueller's team was investigating a 2017 meeting between Manafort and Moreno. Mueller was specifically interested in finding out if WikiLeaks or Assange were discussed during those talks, CNN said.
Manafort faces more than a decade in prison for charges that include money laundering, tax fraud, failing to report foreign bank accounts and witness tampering.