Reporter, plagiarist and preeminent British Russiagate nut Luke Harding on Tuesday took to the Guardian with a story reporting that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange three times in London before the 2016 presidential election.
The latest smear attempt comes at a precarious time for Assange, who has maintained asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012. In mid-November an inadvertent court disclosure revealed the existence of a sealed indictment targeting Assange and apparent preparations to extradite him to the United States for criminal charges.
Harding and co-author Dan Collyns desperately want to tell a story about a “non-state hostile intelligence service” colluding with a repressive foreign government and a corrupt American real estate baron, but their preferred narrative is all too often put before the facts.
Glenn Greenwald was critical of the Guardian report, pointing out that the embassy is extremely heavily surveilled. Had Manafort visited on three occasions, there should be some record of it beyond anonymous sources (none of Harding’s sources are named), whether in the form of video footage or sign-in documents.
The Guardian, Greenwald also noted, has track record of hostile or misleading reporting on Assange.
The next day the Washington Times ran a piece throwing more cold water on the Guardian report. According to the Times, Manafort’s passports don’t indicate that he traveled to London any of the times the British newspaper claimed he did.
Wikileaks issued a harsh denial of the claims made in the Guardian story, tweeting “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation. WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.”
Then came Politico, which decided to publish whatever this is on November 28: a speculative article which posits that if the Guardian report is false—a safe bet—perhaps it was secretly planted there by Russia! Not a shred of evidence is adduced to support the idea, but, much like Harding’s work, the argument plays neatly into the Russophobic hysteria that’s dominated much of mainstream news media since the 2016 US election.
And lest it be forgotten: The author of the Politico piece? An “ex”-CIA spook with a fake name.
Try as one might, the scenario is almost impossible to parody.
Greenwald had more to say about it on Twitter:
Why do attacks on the US media—calling it “Fake News”—resonate so widely? Because of utterly fabricated and reckless articles like this one from politico, by a former CIA officer allowed to write under a “pen name”. The whole thing is a fraud.
The only point of the article is to invent out of whole cloth a wild conspiracy theory: that perhaps Russia-controlled operatives caused the Guardian to publish a false story—its viral Assange/Manafort story—in order to discredit Luke Harding for his Russia reporting.
The whole conspiracy theory is made up with no evidence. Worse, it relies on blatant fabrications, such as the one highlighted here. Everyone knows I didn’t work with [Wikileaks] to report the Snowden story. It’s a lie. But US media outlets are willing to lie if the targets are right.
POLITICO also allowed this ex-CIA agent’s to falsely claim that the only people raising doubts about the Guardian’s story are people who are part of “Russia’s disinformation network.” [Emphasis in original]