“While most of the political world focused its attention elsewhere, special prosecutor John Durham’s team quietly reached out this summer to a lawyer representing European academic Joseph Mifsud, one of the earliest and most mysterious figures in the now closed Russia-collusion case.
An investigator told Swiss attorney Stephan Roh that Durham’s team wanted to interview Mifsud, or at the very least review a recorded deposition the professor gave in summer 2018 about his role in the drama involving Donald Trump, Russia and the 2016 election.
(…) For those who don’t remember, Mifsud is a Maltese-born academic with a VIP Rolodex who frequented Rome and London for years and engaged at the highest levels of Western diplomatic and intelligence circles.
Mueller’s team alleges that Mifsud is the person who fed a story in spring 2016 to Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos about Moscow possessing purloined emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was the earliest known contact in the now-debunked collusion narrative and the seminal event that the FBI says prompted it on July 31, 2016, to open its probe into the Trump campaign.
Mueller concluded that Mifsud was a person with extensive Russia ties who planted the story about the Clinton emails in Moscow and then lied about his dealings with Papadopoulos when interviewed by the FBI in 2017. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Mifsud.
(…) Conservative defenders of President Trump, including former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have raised recent concerns that Mueller’s portrayal of the Mifsud-Papadopoulos contacts doesn’t add up.
Roh told me the information he is preparing to share with Durham’s team from his client will accentuate those concerns.
Mifsud was a “longtime cooperator of western intel” who was asked specifically by his contacts at Link University in Rome and the London Center of International Law Practice (LCILP) — two academic groups with ties to Western diplomacy and intelligence — to meet with Papadopoulos at a dinner in Rome in mid-March 2016, Roh told me.
A May 2019 letter from Nunes to U.S. intelligence officials corroborates some of Roh’s account, revealing photos showing that the FBI conducted training at Link in fall 2016 and that Mifsud and other Link officials met regularly with world leaders, including Boris Johnson, elected today as Britain’s new prime minister.
A few days after the March dinner, Roh added, Mifsud received instructions from Link superiors to “put Papadopoulos in contact with Russians,” including a think tank figure named Ivan Timofeev and a woman he was instructed to identify to Papadopoulos as Vladimir Putin’s niece.
Mifsud knew the woman was not the Russian president’s niece but, rather, a student who was involved with both the Link and LCILP campuses, and the professor believed there was an effort underway to determine whether Papadopoulos was an “agent provocateur” seeking foreign contacts, Roh said.
The evidence, he told me, “clearly indicates that this was not only a surveillance op but a more sophisticated intel operation” in which Mifsud became involved.” (Read more: The Hill, 7/23/2019)