Julian Assange Met Repeatedly With Lobbyist for Russian Oligarch Linked to Donald Trump’s Campaign Manager

An American lobbyist who worked for a Russian oligarch connected to Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at least nine times last year, according to reports.

Adam Waldman, a Washington lobbyist who worked with Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska for almost a decade, met with Assange in his hideout in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London more than almost anyone else last year, according to meeting records seen by The Guardian. The WikiLeaks founder, an Australian national, has been staying in the Ecuadorean Embassy since 2012 in order to avoid extradition to the U.S. He is wanted under the U.S. Espionage Act for having leaked classified government documents through his organization WikiLeaks.

It is unclear what Waldman discussed with Assange or if their meetings were connected to Waldman’s work with Deripaska. Text messages between Waldman and a member of Congress leaked to Fox News last year suggested the lobbyist may have been discussing matters of Assange’s extradition. Nevertheless, the meetings are likely to raise questions about Assange’s ties to Russia and his connection to individuals in Trump’s orbit.

The U.S. intelligence community determined that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Trump, and special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating whether members of the Trump campaign collaborated with Russia in this endeavor. Mueller’s team has already indicted former Trump campaign adviser Manafort and his adviser Rick Gates for money laundering and acting as unregistered foreign agents, among other crimes.

Manafort has long-standing ties to Waldman’s client Deripaska. The Russian oligarch recently sued Manafort and Gates for $25 million for allegedly stealing $1.1 million from his company. Manafort and Deripaska have business ties going back more than a decade, and in 2016 Manafort allegedly offered to give the oligarch private briefings on the U.S. presidential election. It is unclear whether the briefings ever took place, or if Deripaska even received the offer.

The U.S. intelligence community also determined that WikiLeaks had worked with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign. The organization released damaging emails stolen from the campaign of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The e-mails were believed to have been stolen by a Kremlin-linked hacker and then handed to WikiLeaks for publication. The hack is believed to have been part of Russia’s efforts to assist the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile, Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. both received emails in 2016 in which they were offered a decryption key to access documents hacked by WikiLeaks. Additional reports revealed that Donald Trump Jr. had exchanged a private Twitter message with an account linked to WikiLeaks, and longtime Trump associate Roger Stone had asked Assange for information about Clinton obtained through the hacked emails. 

Several analysts have accused WikiLeaks over the years of being linked to the Russian government, as the organization often releases documents that are damaging to the Kremlin’s enemies.