by WorldTribune Staff, May 13, 2019
A Maltese professor reportedly in the know on the 30,000 emails that Hillary Clinton ordered destroyed played a little-reported but key role in the launching of the Trump investigation.
Joseph Mifsud, an academic from Malta with alleged high level connections to the Russian government, was, according to some reports, shopping “information” on Clinton’s emails to Trump campaign associate George Papadopoulos.
“The Maltese man of mystery told the 20-something Trump adviser on April 26, 2016, that Moscow owned ‘dirt,’ ” on Clinton, Rowan Scarborough reported for The Washington Times on May 12.
What followed was a series of events which culminated with anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok opening the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
Papadopoulos said he has little doubt Mifsud was a Western intelligence operative, possibly FBI, a topic which observers say was conveniently left out of the Mueller report.
Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is suspicious about why special counsel Robert Mueller left out references to Mifsud’s Western contacts. He sent a letter this month to intelligence chiefs asking for their files.
“If he is in fact a Russian agent, it would be one of the biggest intelligence scandals for not only the United States, but also our allies like the Italians and the Brits and others,” Nunes told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “Because if Mifsud is a Russian agent, he would know all kinds of our intelligence agents throughout the globe.”
FBI agents interviewed Papadopoulos in early 2017 “as if he owned the keys to the kingdom — how Donald Trump and Moscow colluded,” Scarborough wrote. “Convivial agents urged the campaign volunteer to fill them in on the new president’s Kremlin capers.”
But, Scarborough noted, “in a microcosm of the entire three-year FBI investigation, the agents went down the wrong alley. Two judicial entities have cleared Papadopoulos of election interference. He weathered at least two FBI-placed spies, physical surveillance, search warrants, interrogations, threats and possibly wiretaps.”
A U.S. District Court judge first cleared him at his 2018 sentencing. He had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the circumstances of meeting a London professor.
“I don’t have any reason to believe and I don’t think there’s any reason in the record to conclude that Mr. Papadopoulos had any desire to aid Russia in any way, to do anything that was contrary to the national interest,” said Judge Randolph D. Moss, a Barack Obama appointee.
Then came Mr. Mueller’s final report and a one-sentence verdict among its 448 pages: “No documentary evidence, and nothing in the email accounts or other communications facilities reviewed by the Office, shows that Papadopoulos shared this information with the Campaign.”
Papadopoulos had, in fact, volunteered to FBI interrogators that Mifsud broached the email topic, Scarborough’s report noted.
A month after his contact with Mifsud, Papadopoulos met with Alexander Downer, the Australian ambassador to the United Kingdom, who was accompanied by his aide, Erika Thompson.
“She arranged for the increasingly in-demand Papadopoulos to meet her boss at a wine bar on May 10, 2016,” Scarborough wrote. “It would become the most momentous chitchat in Trump-Russia history. Papadopoulos said the former Australian foreign minister spent most of the encounter bashing candidate Trump.”
Afterward, Downer filed an intelligence report that said, according to the Mueller report: “Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.”
After WikiLeaks dumped its first huge batch of Russian-stolen Democratic Party emails on July 22, 2016, the Australian government sent Downer’s Papadopoulos cable to Washington.
The FBI by then knew the Russian military was hacking Democratic computers in 2015 and 2016. Papadopoulos did not.
On July 31, 2016, Strzok, whose text messages to his lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, revealed a deep dislike of candidate Trump and a vow to “stop” him, used Downer’s words to open “Crossfire Hurricane.”
Papadopoulos wrote in his memoir, “Deep State Target,” “In [Downer‘s] version of events, he asks me a question about Russia and Trump. I then tell him that the Russians have a surprise or some damaging material related to Hillary Clinton. I have no memory of this. None. Zero. Nada. In my version of events, Downer brusquely leaves me and Erika at the table, and we go our separate ways. I remember feeling completely disappointed by the meeting and pissed off about being treated so rudely.”
He added: “The most widely reported sequence of events is that within forty-eight hours of our meeting, Downer sends a cable to Australian intelligence reporting my alleged remark. With that single act, he upends my life.”
Papadopoulos said he believes Mifsud and Downer were acting as Western agents to spy on him.
“He has reason to be suspicious,” Scarborough noted.
At least two known FBI informants — Cambridge University professor Stefan Halper and his supposed research assistant, Azra Turk — tried to coax Papadopoulos “into admitting to Russian election meddling. Halper also established conversations with Trump volunteer Carter Page,” Scarborough wrote.
After being named in “Deep State Target,” Turk, likely a pseudonym, was identified by The New York Times as an FBI informant.
Mifsud had also introduced Papadopoulos to Olga Polonskaya, an aide to Mifsud and the “niece of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.” Papadopoulos said he believes she too was a plant.
The Mueller report suggests that Mifsud and Polonskaya had a romantic relationship.
By October 2017, Papadopoulos found himself in federal court pleading guilty to lying to the FBI when he met agents without an attorney in Chicago on Jan. 27, 2017. He had lied about whether he started on the campaign when he first met Mr. Mifsud, and the Mueller team said he lied about the extent of his communications.
At his 2018 sentencing, the prosecutor said the falsehoods hamstrung its chances of conducting a thorough interview with Mifsud when they encountered him a month later in a Washington hotel lobby.
Mueller wanted the judge to harshly punish Papadopoulos with a six-month prison term. The judge sentenced Papadopoulos to two weeks in a minimum-security prison.
Papadopoulos said it was his pride, not a strategy to harm the investigation, that motivated him to downplay Mifsud.
“Was that a mistake? Maybe, but that is the truth!” he wrote in his memoir. “Mifsud was an embarrassment to me. Everything he told me turned out to be smoke and mirrors. The man fabricated Putin’s niece for me, and I fell for it! Can you imagine how stupid I felt about the whole thing?”
The report’s 12-line, one-paragraph profile of Mifsud has him linked to an unidentified Russian, a former employee of the Internet Research Agency, the now-indicted St. Petersburg firm that carried out anti-Clinton social media trolling. Some words are redacted, but it appears that this Russian is linked to a Facebook account used by the Russian front DCLeaks, now defunct.
Mueller notes that Mifsud taught at the London Academy of Diplomacy. There, the profile ends.
“Mifsud and his aide bragged to Papadopoulos about substantial connections with senior Russian officials. But they never produced a single contact, including a promised meeting with the Russian ambassador in London,” Scarborough noted.
To make his argument that Mifsud is a Western agent, Papadopoulos recalls the blank faces of two FBI agents in his hometown of Chicago when he brought up the professor and the emails.
“They don’t blink,” he said. “They don’t budge. It was as if I’d told them two plus two equals four or that the sky is blue. So what else is new, George? I will never forget the lack of response or interest as long as I live. It’s as if they already knew what Mifsud told me.”
Soon after his exit from Washington, the professor disappeared. An Italian newspaper reported that he is in hiding in Rome.
Stephan Roh, a Moscow-linked Swiss lawyer, told The Daily Caller news site that he last saw Mifsud in May 2018 at his law office in Zurich to sign a power of attorney.
Roh also has suggested that Mifsud was acting as a Western agent, possibly for the FBI.
If Roh’s suggestion is true, then Mueller, “a former FBI director with expansive access to bureau secrets, would have known this,” Scarborough noted. “It is doubtful that he would have thrown up smoke screens to make Mifsud appear to be a Russian spy.”
The Mueller team said in one court filing that they wanted to have Mifsud arrested. An FBI agent asked Papadopoulos to go back to London, wear a wire and try to entrap Mifsud. Papadopoulos refused.