We haven’t heard much from prosecutor John Durham, who is leading the investigation into the origins of the Russian collusion fraud, but his team has recently made a key connection. If the latest allegations made by investigative reporter John Solomon are true, we may have found our “smoking gun” at last.
The FBI has claimed they opened their investigation into candidate Donald Trump’s campaign (on July 31, 2016) upon learning that the campaign’s foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, had told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton over drinks at a London Bar on May 10, 2016.
Downer claims he thought it was just “bar talk” until Wikileaks released damaging DNC emails on the eve of the Democratic convention in July. He then alerted embassy personnel who relayed the information to the FBI.
At the center of this story is a Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud who “met” Papadopoulos in March at the Link University campus in Rome. (The faculty of Link University is closely connected to the British intelligence community. And lo and behold, the FBI happened to hold a training program at Link as well, which the Mueller report omits.)
The two met again in London in April and, according to Papadopoulos, Mifsud told him that the Russians had damaging information on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.
On Tuesday night, the well-connected and highly regarded John Solomon reported that John Durham’s team has been in contact with Mifsud’s Swiss attorney, Stefan Roh. He and his team are hoping to either “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.”
Solomon wrote that multiple sources and contemporaneous emails have confirmed this information.
In the Mueller report, Mifsud is portrayed as having extensive Russia ties.
The report claims Mifsud 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.
But unlike others accused of misleading Mueller — including Papadopoulos, former Trump adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — Mifsud was not charged with a crime.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who led the House Intelligence Committee’s Trump/Russia investigation in 2017 and 2018, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee have said the Mueller report’s assessment of Mifsud doesn’t add up. The two have long suspected that rather than being connected to Russian intelligence, Mifsud was a western intelligence asset.
Roh told Solomon:
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.
Roh has defended Mifsud in the media against various allegations, steadfastly denying Mueller’s claim that his client ever told Papadopoulos about Clinton emails in Russia. Roh wrote a book last year that first floated the idea of Mifsud as a Western intelligence op.
If the FBI’s and Mueller’s portrayals are correct, Mifsud’s current story could be simply a Russian disinformation campaign or an exaggeration by a lawyer who seeks media attention and book promotion. Thus, everything Mifsud says must be given careful scrutiny.
However, much of what we’ve already learned from FBI officials who have testified before Congress, the efforts of Republican lawmakers, and investigative reporters, corroborates Roh’s allegations.
And we’ve already discovered several quite serious omissions in the Mueller report and even outright inaccuracies.
On Tuesday, I posted about Eric Felten’s analysis of the report’s footnotes showing the Mueller team used Comey’s memos and New York Times or Washington Post stories as sources.
The report omits a key portion of a voicemail from Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, to Michael Flynn’s attorney, which changes the meaning of the message entirely.
The report states that Flynn was not surveilled by the FBI until December of 2016, yet it was proven several months ago it had actually begun in January of 2016.
Manafort business partner Konstantin Kilimnik is portrayed as having ties to Russian intelligence in the report, but the reality is, from 2012-2017, Kilimnik was a regular informer for the State Department.
Solomon points out that Mueller’s report “never mentions the FBI’s ties to Link. If the bureau feared Mifsud had unsavory ties to Russia, why would it provide training to his academic group?”
The Mueller report portrays Papadopoulos as the instigator who initiated contact with Mifsud and his Russian contacts.
In fact, the contemporaneous evidence shows Mifsud was directed to seek out Papadopoulos at the March 14, 2016, dinner arranged by the LCILP and Link. Papadopoulos didn’t know who Mifsud was when he arrived for the dinner.
A month later, in mid-April 2016, Mifsud initiated introductions to Russian figures, including an email chain with Timofeev.
“Dear George, Ivan: As promised I had a long conversation today in Moscow with my dear friend Ivan from RIAC,” Mifsud wrote in an April 16, 2016, email to Papadopoulos that I authenticated with U.S. officials. “Ivan is ready to meet with you in London (or USA or Moscow).”
Roh said the idea for introducing the Trump adviser to Russians did not come from Papadopoulos or Russia but from Mifsud’s contacts at Link and LCILP. Likewise, Papadopoulos told me he didn’t initially ask to be introduced to Russians, though he eventually engaged in Mifsud’s offer.
To back his story, Roh provided me a page from Mifsud’s 2018 deposition — the one he plans to provide Durham’s team — in which the professor suggested the woman he introduced in April 2016 to Papadopoulos as Putin’s niece was a setup taken from his campus.
“Are you joking?” the deposition quotes Mifsud when Roh asked about Putin’s niece. “The question is not Putin’s niece, in any way or form. She is a student who had just finished the, an MBA program and was like many others, given the possibility of being a stagiaire,” a European term for “trainee” or “apprentice.”
One other Mifsud portrayal in the Mueller report and in court filings has raised eyebrows in intelligence and congressional circles. Mueller portrayed the FBI as being victimized during the Russia probe because Papadopoulos originally lied about Mifsud tipping him to the Clinton emails — and that somehow impeded the Mueller team from adequately questioning the professor in February 2017.
But new documents I obtained show Mifsud was anything but elusive and easily could have been interviewed, before and after Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying.
Mifsud was in Europe in summer 2018 for his deposition, routinely corresponded and met with European political and diplomatic officials for much of 2017, and even was interviewed by media outlets during the Mueller probe, according to email correspondence I reviewed. He also exchanged emails directly with FBI agents.
Multiple American officials confirm — as do contemporaneous emails — that Mifsud was in Washington in December 2016 at the height of the FBI’s Russia probe for a meeting with a State Department-backed group, Global Ties USA.
Mifsud’s contacts that month with senior executives of the group never were revealed to congressional intelligence investigators or mentioned in the Mueller report. Nor was Mifsud’s email thanking Global Ties for meeting with him about a “collaboration.”
An American directly familiar with Mifsud’s contacts with Global Ties said they began in May 2016 and involved arranging diplomatic introductions and meetings around the globe. No one from U.S. intelligence ever warned the group or suggested that Mifsud had improper ties to Russia. The FBI never interviewed the executive who met Mifsud in December 2016, the source said.