The Malta Independent 24 June 2018, Sunday

Fiancée of man at centre of Russia-Trump links accuses Maltese professor of manipulation

Julian Bonnici Sunday, 7 January 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 7 months ago

The Italian fiancée of George Papadopoulos, who last October was revealed as the first campaign adviser to plead guilty and cooperate with the special counsel’s Russia probe, has claimed that he was manipulated by Professor Joseph Mifsud (above), the Maltese academic suspected of being a link between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Papadopoulos was arrested by the FBI when he arrived at Dulles International Airport on 27 July and charged under seal. In his US affidavit, Papadopoulos claimed that Mifsud told him in April 2016 that the Russians could provide “thousands of emails” with damaging information about Trump’s rival, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Speaking to American news network ABC News, Simona Magnate claimed that Mifsud had reached out to Papadopoulos after he joined Donald Trump’s foreign policy team.

Tellingly, both Magnate and Papadopoulos worked for Mifsud, who was Director of the London Academy of Diplomacy, at different periods.

In fact, court records filed by special counsel Robert Mueller have shown that an unnamed professor – who Magnate has identified as Mifsud – had met Papadopoulos after joining Trump’s campaign to discuss obtaining negative stories from the Russians on Trump’s election contender, Hilary Clinton.

The documents indicate that Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to a woman referred to as a ‘female Russian national’, whom he falsely presented as Putin’s niece and who he said could serve as a potential link to the Russian government.

In October, Mifsud would confirm with The Daily Telegraph that he was the professor described in the documents. Email correspondence obtained by The Associated Press would also confirm that Mifsud is the professor.

Describing Mifsud further, Magnate said she had long doubted Mifsud’s role as a professor.

“He was opaque,” she explained, “it was never clear to me, his role. He doesn’t strike me as an academic. He always [was] someone networking [with] people from different governments,” she said.

Mifsud was once a regular on the foreign policy circuit, attending conferences the world over. However, he has since vanished after being identified as a key figure in the US special counsel investigation into Russian influence over the 2016 US presidential election.

It has been reported that he had made repeated visits to Russia in recent years, including participating in conferences at a Russian think tank favoured by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Online postings on Russian academic sites show that he has visited Russia at least once a year since 2014 and has taken part in events at the Valdai Discussion Club, favoured by the Russian leader, and has lectured at Moscow State University.

Mifsud’s most recent visit to Russia appears to have been in late September, when he moderated panels at the faculty’s two-day Global Studies Conference.

Casting further doubt on his academic standing, prominent British academics also say they have had little or no contact with Mifsud.

“I’ve never heard of him,” said Robin Niblett, the veteran director of Chatham House, the prominent London think-tank.

“He seems to be a classic case of someone floating around on the fringes of the academic world and the think-tank world without landing anywhere,” Niblett said. “It would strike me that most of these positions are not paid, which raises questions. No doubt Russia cultivates certain academics. There’s no reason to assume he was consciously part of a disinformation operation, but he may have been unwittingly used for that purpose.”

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