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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

During meetings with Ecuador's then-incoming President Lenín Moreno in May 2017, Paul Manafort suggested he could help negotiate a deal that involved the South American country handing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over in exchange for debt relief from the U.S., the New York Times' Kenneth Vogel and Nicholas Casey report.

Details: Manafort, who served as President Trump's campaign chairman during the summer of 2016, reportedly met two times with Moreno to try and make the deal, which could have resulted in a large commission for Manafort who was under mounting pressure to pay off debts and legal bills at the time.

According to the report, Ecuador wanted Assange out of its London embassy, where he's lived under asylum since 2012.

  • But the talks reportedly fell apart once Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel in the Russia investigation and it became clear that Manafort would be one of Mueller’s key targets.
  • The Times wrote that there’s no indication Trump or other members of his administration were aware of the negotiations with Ecuador, but noted that Manafort was hoping to cash in on his ties with Trump.

Flashback: The Guardian reported last week that Manafort met with Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Both men have denied the report. The Times noted that there's no evidence Manafort's discussions were motivated by WikiLeaks' role in Russia's interference campaign during the 2016 election. 

Go deeper: Mueller investigation says Paul Manafort violated plea deal

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.