Was mystery Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud an Italian spy? Here’s the latest Russiagate twist

Trump’s allies posit conspiracy theory that Mifsud acted as CIA or FBI counterintelligence asset to disrupt election

Joseph Mifsud
Joseph Mifsud

In Washington, the United States Attorney General William Barr has been tasked to review the origins of the Russia investigation: the FBI investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the election that saw Donald Trump become president.

But at the heart of this review is an assertion by Donald Trump’s supporters that Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, said to have once told Trump aide George Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, could have been a spy for the Italian secret service.

As part of the review, Barr met recently with secret service officials in Italy, where Papadopoulos met Mifsud, a once academic at the Link Campus University of Rome.

Some of President Trump’s allies have posited an unfounded theory that a cabal of “deep state” American officials have used Mifsud – allegedly a Western intelligence agent under the control of the FBI or CIA – to be a counterintelligence trap for the Trump campaign.

In this role, Mifsud would have told Papadopoulos in the spring of 2016 that the Russians had “thousands” of stolen Democratic emails that could prove damaging to Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton, if they became public.

But to believe this theory means that Mifsud would have been part of an elaborate conspiracy which eluded the FBI’s exhaustive investigation, which included over 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviews of about 500 witnesses.

Mifsud has already been dubbed a Russian agent by James B. Comey, the former FBI director who launched the Russiagate investigation, due to his contacts with Russian associates, one of them a former employee of the Internet Research Agency, which used social media posts to sow discord in 2016 as part of Russia’s election sabotage.

Mifsud has denied having taken any money from the Russians.

He first met Papadopoulos in March 2016 in Italy and a month later in London, where he suggested that the Russian government could assist the Trump campaign through the “anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton” – according to the Mueller report, which took over the Russia investigation in May 2017.

This is known because it was Papadopoulos who reported this conversation in May 2016 to a pair of Australian diplomats, which information was passed on by the Australian government to the United States.

This was the main factor into the FBI’s investigation of July 2016. Papadapoulos was convicted for lying to FBI investigators about his meetings with Mifsud, serving 12 days in prison.

But since leaving prison, Papadopoulos is claiming in his book “Deep State Target” that the Obama administration mounted a coordinated effort to spy on the Trump campaign and that he was a pawn in that operation.

Papadopoulos is suggesting that Mifsud was “an Italian intelligence asset who the C.I.A. weaponized”; Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has claimed, also without evidence, that Mifsud was a “counterintelligence operative, either Maltese or Italian.”

Trump has also followed through on the conspiracy. “They think it could have been by UK. They think it could have been by Australia. They think it could have been by Italy.”

But American officials have said Mifsud has never worked for neither the FBI or CIA – had he been an informant the FBI prosecutors could have easily found and questioned him, and the CIA would be legally obliged to tell the FBI about him.