Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

"There are genuine grounds to be cautious about the report. It is based on anonymous sources, some of whom are connected with Ecuadorian intelligence. The logs of the embassy show no such meetings," argued The New Republic's Jeet Heer.

"There are genuine grounds to be cautious about the report. It is based on anonymous sources, some of whom are connected with Ecuadorian intelligence. The logs of the embassy show no such meetings," argued The New Republic's Jeet Heer. (Photos: Getty Images)

'This Is Sketchy': Critics Warn Against Blind Acceptance of Explosive Guardian Report About Secret Manafort-Assange Meetings

"Which is true? The Guardian's anonymous claims or WikiLeaks' vehement denials? You can pick which to believe based on which one most advances your political narrative, or refrain from forming judgments until evidence is available. I'm going to opt for the latter course."

Jake Johnson

After the Guardian sent the punditry into a frenzy on Tuesday by publishing a bombshell report alleging that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly met with WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London during the 2016 presidential race, journalists and critics were quick to warn against blindly accepting the claims made in the piece due to the story's scant material evidence, anonymous sources, and explosive political implications. 

As independent national security journalist Marcy Wheeler wrote on Twitter, "skepticism" about the Guardian's reporting—which was quickly picked up by corporate outlets—"couldn't be more broad-based" as it brought together journalists and legal experts from an array of political persuasions and opposing views.

While some commentators simply withheld judgment on the report's veracity in the absence of further corroboration, others argued that there are plenty of reasons to doubt that the story's central claims are accurate—such as its heavy reliance on anonymous Ecuadorian intelligence officials who may have political motives and an unverified internal document written by Ecuador's National Intelligence Secretariat (SENAIN), which claims "Paul Manaford [sic]" and "Russians" were well-known guests of the embassy.

As whistleblower advocate Naomi Colvin and others pointed out, official Ecuadorian embassy visitor logs make no mention of any Manafort appearances, let alone the three separate appearances reported by the Guardian.

Instead of citing official logs, the Guardian's latest reporting relies heavily on SENAIN's document, which critics argued is questionable at best given that SENAIN may have political motivations to discredit WikiLeaks for publishing secret agency documents in the past.

"There are genuine grounds to be cautious about the report," argued The New Republic's Jeet Heer. "It is based on anonymous sources, some of whom are connected with Ecuadorian intelligence. The logs of the embassy show no such meetings. The information about the most newsworthy meeting (in the spring of 2016) is vaguely worded, suggesting a lack of certitude."

"There are so many weird aspects to the Guardian story beyond the fact that it doesn't describe its sources or show any evidence. But nobody cares. People will claim it's true or not based solely on whether they want it to be."
—Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

As the Guardian reports, "It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed." The only specific details offered are related to the length of the alleged 2016 meeting—"about 40 minutes"—and Manafort's alleged attire—"sandy-colored chinos, a cardigan, and a light-colored shirt."

For its part, WikiLeaks strongly denied the explosive report on Twitter and said it is "willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange."

The publication also announced on Tuesday that it has launched a "legal fund to sue the Guardian for publishing [an] entirely fabricated story."

If true, the Guardian's report could have major implications for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, a fact that may explain some of the reactive acceptance of the story by a segment of high-profile analysts, including cable news regulars like Malcolm Nance, who treated the thinly-reported story as a smoking gun:

The alleged 2016 meeting between Manafort and Assange, the Guardian notes, may "come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller... A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers."

But the vagueness of the sourcing left many journalists extremely wary of running with such a politically charged story without corroboration beyond an unnamed but supposedly "well-placed" source, an unverified intelligence document, and other anonymous officials.

"There are so many weird aspects to the Guardian story beyond the fact that it doesn't describe its sources or show any evidence. But nobody cares. People will claim it's true or not based solely on whether they want it to be," wrote The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald on Twitter.

"Which is true? The Guardian's anonymous claims or WikiLeaks' vehement denials?" Greenwald asked. "You can pick which to believe based on which one most advances your political narrative, or refrain from forming judgments until evidence is available. I'm going to opt for the latter course."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Chief to New College Grads: To Help Save the Planet, 'Don't Work for Climate Wreckers'

"Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a commencement address to Seton Hall University graduates.

Jake Johnson ·


AOC Blasts Democratic Leaders for Boosting 'Pro-NRA Incumbent' Henry Cuellar

"This was an utter failure of leadership," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said hours after a gunman killed 19 children at a Texas elementary school.

Jake Johnson ·


'This Fight Isn't Over,' Says Cisneros as Cuellar Declares Victory in Razor-Close Primary

"This election is still too close to call, and we are still waiting for every ballot and eligible vote to be counted," said progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros.

Jake Johnson ·


After Kids Killed in Texas, Dems Declare 'Pass Gun Safety Legislation Now'

"Congress has a moral responsibility to end gun violence now," said Sen. Ed Markey. "To those who refuse to act, there are no excuses. Only complicity and shame."

Jessica Corbett ·


At Least 19 Children, 2 Adults Killed in Texas Elementary School Shooting

"This has become part of who we are as a country," said Julián Castro. "The free availability of guns has not made us safer in the United States or here in the state of Texas."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo