The Justice Department watchdog found no evidence that a mysterious Rome-based Maltese academic who played a central role in the genesis of the Trump-Russia investigation was an FBI source used to entrap a Trump campaign adviser.
Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who has not made a public appearance since 2017, has been described as having ties to Russia or being a Western intelligence asset.
Trump campaign foreign policy George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to federal agents, told investigators that Mifsud is the person who informed him in the spring of 2016 that the Russians had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, a claim he conveyed to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, whose account of that conversation spurred the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into President Trump’s campaign.
In his report released on Monday, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his team investigated Papadopoulos’s allegation that the FBI used Mifsud “to pass information to Papadopoulos in April 2016 as a set up, so that the FBI could predicate the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” which is the codename for the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.
“The FBI’s Delta files contain no evidence that Mifsud has ever acted as an FBI [confidential human source ], and none of the witnesses we interviewed or documents we reviewed had any information to support such an allegation,” the report added.
Much has been speculated about Mifsud’s role in the Russia investigation, but not much has been confirmed. Horowitz’s report does little to quell the rumors that Mifsud was working as an asset of an intelligence agency of some sort.
The man who claims to be Mifsud’s lawyer, Stephan Roh, claimed the professor was a Western intelligence asset, but special counsel Robert Mueller said in his Russia investigation report only that Mifsud had ties to the Kremlin.
Mueller repeatedly mentions Mifsud in his 448-page report but does not call Mifsud an agent of Russia. The special counsel stated that Mifsud had “connections to Russia” and noted that he “traveled to Moscow in April 2016” and “met with high-level Russian government officials” while he was there before telling Papadopoulos in London about the Clinton “dirt.”
Mueller’s report also said “Mifsud maintained various Russian contacts while living in London,” “offered to introduce Papadopoulos to European leaders and others with contacts to the Russian government,” and worked with two Russian nationals, including Russian International Affairs Council member Ivan Timofeev, to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian government that never came to pass.
Others have accused Mifsud of working with Western intelligence, perhaps even with the CIA.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Mifsud likely has links to Western intelligence and accused Mueller’s team of deciding to “cherry-pick” information from news reports to portray him as a Russian agent, leaving out that he was described as a Western intelligence asset.
Roh acknowledged to the Washington Examiner that Horowitz found no evidence that Mifsud was an FBI source, but he claimed witnesses in the inspector general’s report had “a general amnesia” about the professor.
“One should ask the question who Mifsud really is, and not just retain what he might not be (in this case he seems not to be a registered [confidential human source] in an FBI registry — a quite narrow definition) — to avoid a misleading headline and article,” Roh said in an email.
Under the supervision of Attorney General William Barr, U.S. Attorney John Durham is conducting a global inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation and has been seeking information about Mifsud.
This effort has led to multiple trips to Italy, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he made clear to the United States that his country’s intelligence services had no ties to Mifsud.
In audio obtained by Italian media last month, a person claiming to be Mifsud denied having any links to “intelligence” or “secret” services.
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