A Maltese professor who told the Trump campaign in April 2016 that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of e-mails” gave “inaccurate statements” about the extent of his contact with former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, an investigation into Russian interference in the US election shows.
Published on Thursday, the Mueller report reveals how investigators spoke to Professor Joseph Mifsud in a Washington Hotel lobby in February 2017.
During that interview, Prof. Mifsud admitted to knowing Mr Papadopoulos and to having introduced him to two Russian individuals, Olga Polonskaya and Ivan Timofeev.
Ms Polonskaya was introduced by Prof. Mifsud to the Trump campaign official as an individual with connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Mr Timofeev was said to have contacts in the Russian foreign affairs ministry.
The report says the elusive professor denied that he had advance knowledge that Russia was in possession of emails damaging to candidate Clinton, stating that he and Mr Papadopoulos had discussed cybersecurity and hacking as a larger issue and that Mr Papadopoulos must have misunderstood their conversation.
The Clinton e-mails, which the report established were hacked by Russian military intelligence, began to be released two months after Prof. Mifsud made contact with the Trump campaign.
Investigators say in the report that Prof. Mifsud “falsely stated” that he had not seen Mr Papadopoulos since the meeting at which the professor introduced him to Ms Polonskaya.
Mr Papadopoulos was convicted in 2018 of lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with go-betweens for Russia while he was working for the Trump campaign.
The Mueller report laments that the “false information and omissions” by Mr Papadopoulos during a January 2017 interview undermined investigators’ ability to challenge Prof. Mifsud when he made these “inaccurate statements”.
Trump official ‘lied’ about extent of Mifsud contact
Mr Papadopoulos “lied” to investigators about the about the timing, extent, and nature of his communications with Joseph Mifsud, Olga Polonskaya, and Ivan Timofeev.
With respect to timing, Mr Papadopoulos acknowledged that he had met Prof. Mifsud and that the professor told him the Russians had "dirt" on Ms Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails."
But Mr Papadopoulos stated multiple times that those communications occurred before he joined the Trump Campaign and that it was a "very strange coincidence" to be told of the "dirt" before he started working for the campaign.
“This account was false”, the Mueller report states.
‘Mifsud is a nothing’
Mr Papadopoulos met Prof. Mifsud for the first time on approximately March 14, 2016, after he had already learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the campaign, the report says.
“Mifsud showed interest in Papadopoulos only after learning of his role on the Campaign. And Mifsud told Papadopoulos about the Russians possessing "dirt" on candidate Clinton in late April 2016, more than a month after Papadopoulos had joined the Campaign and Papadopoulos also made false statements in an effort to minimize the extent and importance of his communications with Mifsud.
“For example, Papadopoulos stated that "[Mifsud]'s a nothing," that he thought Mifsud was "just a guy talk[ing] up connections or something," and that he believed Mifsud was "BS'ing to be completely honest with you."
“In fact, however, Papadopoulos understood Mifsud to have substantial connections to high-level Russian government officials and that Mifsud spoke with some of those officials in Moscow before telling Papadopoulos about the "dirt”, the report says.
Mr Papadopoulos also engaged in extensive communications over a period of months with Prof. Mifsud about foreign policy issues for the campaign, including efforts to arrange a "history making" meeting between the campaign and Russian government officials, investigators established.
In addition, Mr Papadopoulos failed to inform investigators that Prof. Mifsud had introduced him to Mr Timofeev, the Russian national who Mr Papadopoulos understood to be connected to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, despite being asked if he had met with Russian nationals or "[a]nyone with a Russian accent" during the campaign.