Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort offered to help Ecuador’s then-incoming President Lenín Moreno arrange for Julian Assange to be handed over to the U.S. last year, The New York Times reports. Sources cited by the Times said the issue of Assange came up in May 2017, when Manafort visited Ecuador to pitch a deal to Moreno on arranging for China to invest in Ecuador’s power system. He reportedly told members of Moreno’s team that he could broker such a deal and assuage any concerns within the Trump administration, and later offered similar assurances to Chinese officials about the potential deal in Hong Kong. During talks in Quito about the prospective deal with China, Moreno and his aides reportedly suggested that Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, could be handed over in exchange for U.S. debt relief, the Times reports. Manafort is said to have responded by saying he could help negotiate a deal on the matter. The talks ultimately ended without any deals, however, as Robert Mueller was appointed to head the Russia probe at that time and Manafort was immediately seen as a major target in the investigation.
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