Bolstered by online donors fronting the money for legal costs, WikiLeaks on Monday announced its plans to pursue a lawsuit against The Guardian newspaper over an article that alleged the antisecrecy group had ties to President Trump’s former election campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
“WikiLeaks fund to sue the Guardian for publishing fabricated front page stories has hit $50,000. Thanks to all 1270 donors so far. Legal action will now commence (but more is required to complete),” WikiLeaks said on Twitter.
Published by The Guardian on Nov. 27, 2018, the article alleged that Manafort held “secret talks” with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange during the 2016 U.S. presidential race, essentially creating a direct link between Mr. Trump’s election campaign and the website responsible for releasing stolen documents damaging to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
No other outlets have corroborated The Guardian’s claims, and WikiLeaks and Manafort separately flatly rejected the article as false and libelous.
The Guardian has not returned messages requesting comment on the article.
Jason Maloni, a spokesperson for Mr. Manafort, declined to comment Tuesday, and WikiLeaks did not immediately respond to messages seeking additional details.
Created on GoFundMe by the Courage Foundation, a non-profit organization that campaigns for WikiLeaks, the online fundraiser for legal fees had received over $54,000 as of Tuesday morning. Most of the funds were donated within days of the campaign’s creation, however, and the amount raised so far is only a fraction of the $300,000 sought.
Russian military officials allegedly hacked Democratic targets during the 2016 race and stole sensitive documents subsequently released online by WikiLeaks, according to U.S. officials. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is investigating the matter as part of the Justice Department’s ongoing probe into the election, as well as possible ties existing between Moscow’s efforts and Mr. Trump’s campaign.
The Kremlin has denied Russia hacked Democratic targets, and the White House has denied colluding with Moscow.