Mysterious professor at heart of Trump-Russia scandal heard for the first time


Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious professor at the heart of the Trump-Russia scandal, can today be heard talking about his involvement for the first time in Crossfire, a new podcast from The Telegraph. 

Prof Mifsud, whose alleged remark triggered the investigation into ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin before the 2016 election, disputes the central claim and denies links to the Russia government. 

Asked whether he told a Trump campaign adviser that the Russians had “dirt” on Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, as US officials have claimed, Mr Mifsud is heard saying “absolutely this is not true”. 

The professor, believed to be aged around 60, also pushes back on the suggestion he has Russian connections, noting he does not own a visa that would allow him to travel freely across the border. 

The remarks were made in Oct 2017 to a Telegraph reporter and are being released today as part of a new six-part podcast series from this newspaper called Crossfire, which investigates the UK angles to the scandal. 

Mr Mifsud, pictured below, whose actions and motives have been of intense interest to US investigators, has gone to ground and has never been heard before talking about the meetings in London that kick-started the probe.



Comments allegedly made by Joseph Mifsud to a Trump campaign adviser triggered the FBI’s probe into Russian election meddling

The Russian meddling investigation was launched by the FBI before the 2016 election. It was eventually taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller and hung over the Trump presidency for almost two years. 

Mr Mueller concluded Russia had systematically interfered in the election, trying to help Mr Trump and hinder Ms Clinton, but said there was no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The specific trigger for the probe came when Prof Mifsud met with George Papadopoulos, a young Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, in the five-star Andaz Hotel in east London.

Mr Papadopoulos, pictured below, was trying to set up a summit between Mr Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Prof Mifsud, who had just returned from Moscow, allegedly told Mr Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Ms Clinton.

The meeting was on April 26 2016 – critically, before the release of hacked Democratic emails which roiled Ms Clinton’s campaign.



George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser in 2016, met with Prof Mifsud a number of times in London


Credit: Rupert Thorpe

When Telegraph reporter Robert Mendick contacted Prof Mifsud on Oct 30 2017, the day his involvement was detailed in court filings, he confirmed talking to Mr Papadopoulos, saying “we met a couple of times in London” and “went for a coffee or something like that”. 

However he denied making the comment. “Absolutely this is not true”, Prof Mifsud can be heard saying when told he was being accused of saying Russia had dirt on Ms Clinton. “Absolutely, absolutely”, he adds. 

Prof Mifsud also dismisses the idea he said “we have dirt”. “Why would I say ‘we’”, Prof Mifsud says. “My visits to the Russian Federation are visa by visa because I don’t even have a multiple entry visa to Russia.

“The last visa that I got to Russia was given to me through the Saudis because I was there for the seminar on Yemen. So it has nothing to do with the Russians.”

That account is disputed by Mr Papadopoulos, who gave an interview revealing his recollections for the Crossfire podcast, and US investigators who have since detailed what they believe happened. 

Mr Papadopoulos said Prof Mifsud told him of Russia that “they have thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails”. He also described his reaction to hearing the comment. 

Mr Papadopoulos said: “I was just looking at him thinking, how did you get this information? And what I got was ‘they told me, they told me’. So no names, no, nothing. Just ‘they told me’.” 

He added of his reaction: “There are many thoughts going through your head, many thoughts. And that’s why I call it ‘the bo-mb’, because I had a flash of thoughts going through my head. And most of it was actually panic, at that moment.”

Mr Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian election meddling, published in March 2018, also concludes Prof Mifsud made the comment. 

“Mifsud told Papadopoulos that he had met with high-level Russian government officials during his recent trip to Moscow,” one part read.  “Mifsud also said that, on the trip, he learned that the Russians had obtained ‘dirt’ on candidate Hillary Clinton.”



Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, upending expectations

Mr Mueller’s report also claims Prof Mifud “maintained various Russian contacts”. Names are redacted but one is said to have worked for the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll factory that bombarded US voters with disinformation. 

Prof Mifsud’s current whereabouts are unknown but he remains a focus of constant speculation. Trump allies have suggested Prof Mifsud may have been a Western intelligence agent deliberately compromising the Trump campaign. 

William Barr, the Trump-appointed US attorney general overseeing a probe into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation, recently travelled to Italy where he reportedly asked intelligence figures about Prof Mifsud. 

Prof Mifsud’s comment only became known because Mr Papadopoulos allegedly mentioned it during drinks with an Australian diplomat called Alexander Downer in London.

When Mr Downer later realised its significance he alerted the FBI, who then opened their probe.  Mr Trump has always dismissed the Russia meddling investigation as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” pushed by his political enemies.

Mr Mueller ultimately concluded there was no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 vote. 

Subscribe to Crossfire for free on Apple Podcasts, go-ogle Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts or search ‘Crossfire’ on your podcast app.

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