The Guardian’s story on Tuesday, regarding an alleged meeting with Manafort and Julian Assange has not been corroborated by other news outlets. Many skeptics are now wondering if this was a way to discredit the author, Luke Harding who’s also written a book called Collusion and a way to drive a wedge between those who want to believe what the autocrats are calling fake news.
A bombshell report in the Guardian on Tuesday Guardian link claims Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, met directly with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, several times in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
If true, the ramifications are immense. It means the guy running Trump’s campaign met directly with the head of the organization that served as a tool of Russia’s intelligence services, distributing stolen Democratic emails in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential election. It could be the proverbial smoking gun that shows Trump’s campaign knew it was receiving help from Russian intelligence services and perhaps even aided the operation.
It’s an old tactic, used to prime an audience not to believe anything they hear from those whose role it is to hold people in power to account. Autocratic leaders have long planted the seeds of doubt so that no one in their intended audience will believe any information except what the leader himself tells them. The message is simple: Only the leader can be trusted.
Interestingly, Russia’s disinformation network has jumped into the ring to promote skepticism of the story. Sputnik, one of Russia’s propaganda networks, called the story into question and bolstered the skepticism by quoting tweets from Eva Golinger, a former adviser to the government of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and a current contributor to RT’s Spanish-language network; Ivor Crotty, another RT contributor; Glenn Greenwald, who worked with WikiLeaks to distribute the documents stolen by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden; and WikiLeaks itself, which the U.S. government has called a nonstate hostile actor and a tool of Russian intelligence. RT, also a Kremlin mouthpiece, echoed Sputnik and WikiLeaks. Do you see a pattern here?
But even if someone managed to dupe the reporters and plant a false story, that tells us something, too. Namely, that someone is nervous and eager to lay the groundwork for yelling “fake news!” at whatever other stories are about to drop. Either they want you not to believe what is, in fact, a true story, or they planted a fake story because they want you not to believe the journalists and any other information that has yet to come out.
As of this writing, no other news outlet has confirmed the Guardian’s story about Manafort meeting Assange. So is it fake or is it real? If it is real and others confirm it, it would be damning, and many people have an interest in trying to discredit it. On the other hand, if someone managed to dupe Harding and his colleague, it would mean someone was ready to put a lot of effort into discrediting the journalists in order to sow doubt about a wide swath of reporting. In either case, someone has already primed a large audience to dismiss this Manafort-Assange story and any other information that might tie the Trump campaign to Russia. That implies more bad news is coming for Trump and Manafort.
One thing seems clear: Someone is feeling the heat.
From Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources (CNN- Money) newsletter.
Guardian backing away from its Assange story?
Hadas Gold emails: The Guardian’s Luke Harding set off a news explosion on Tuesday when he reported that Paul Manafort had visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. No other news organizations have matched it yet – and WikiLeaks and Manafort have both denied the story. WikiLeaks has started fundraising for what it says will be a lawsuit against The Guardian and Manafort also indicated he’d be open to suing. (Keep in mind lots of people threaten lawsuits, but don’t always follow through.)
Here’s the thing: In a statement on Wednesday, The Guardian said, “This story relied on a number of sources. We put these allegations to both Paul Manafort and Julian Assange’s representatives prior to publication. Neither responded to deny the visits taking place. We have since updated the story to reflect their denials.”
–Oliver Darcy tweeted: “Noticeably missing: A line stating that The Guardian is confident in the accuracy of its story…”
Alex Finley’s piece for Politico: “Did Someone Plant a Story Tying Paul Manafort to Julian Assange?” (same link as above)