After the launch of Crossfire Hurricane, Peter Strozk at the direction of Bill Priestap was dispatched to London to look into the barroom conversation with Downer. One of the cardinal rules of counterintelligence is to look into the frequent contacts of “informants.” Mifsud was an informant in a round-about way since he planted the bug in the ear of Papadopolous about Russia having information on Clinton, but it was Papadopolous who blurted it out to Downer.
One of Mifsud’s most frequent contacts was a British diplomat named Claire Smith. She knew Mifsud since they worked together at the London Academy of Diplomacy, Stirling University, and the Link Campus. Smith was also on the Joint Intelligence Committee that answered directly to the British prime minister while also serving on a board that vetted people for security clearances. This is an important fact since Mifsud has been called a Russian spy, agent, or asset depending on the source. By offering the information to Papadopolous and his introductions of the fake Putin niece and Timofeev, the theory goes that Mifsud was a talent spotter for Russian intelligence. The lure was the information on Hillary Clinton.
This would create a problem, however, and lead to embarrassments all around. For example, how could Claire Smith who sat on a board vetting people for security clearances not know Mifsud was a Russian asset? Most interesting, in 2017 after the election and during the Mueller investigation, he was actually interviewed and denied having ever said anything about dirt on Hillary Clinton in the possession of the Russians.
The question remains: was he a Russian spy? The Democrat report from the House Intelligence Committee states that “…in their approach to Papadopolous, the Russians used common tradecraft and employed a cut-out…a Kremlin-linked Maltese professor…” No one in the IC has disputed that assertion.
However, there is a major problem with the narrative since there is no evidence the assertion is true. He did travel to Russia many times and had many Russian contacts in academic circles, but his closest ties are to Western academics, diplomats, and intelligence people. If he really is a Russian agent, then he is the most open Russian spy in world history. If true, since the CIA and FBI sent agents to a school run by him in Rome, then the potential damage to intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide would be large and dramatic. Yet, there is no evidence of that either. In fact, if true, there would be a concerted effort to arrest Mifsud and every country would be on the look-out for him.
Instead, given his ties to Western governments and intelligence services, coupled with his strong support of Clinton, it is actually more likely Mifsud is an asset of Western intelligence agencies. Think of it this way: if anyone knew he was a Russian spy, why would the FBI and CIA send agents to be trained at his Link Campus? By the time Papadopolous showed up there, both agencies had been sending personnel there for a decade. He knew people high up in the British government and governments throughout Europe and it is inconceivable that if he was a spy, the US would not have warned these allies.
Follow this: the FBI allegedly becomes aware through Downer that Mifsud told Papadopolous about the Russian “dirt.” In early 2017, two weeks after they interviewed Papadopolous, the FBI interviewed Mifsud. How did they “catch” him? He was at an annual Global Ties event in Washington DC hosted by the State Department. Why didn’t the FBI arrest him if he was a Russian asset, agent, or spy? And even after Papadopolous was arrested- not for meeting Mifsud, not for seeking help on getting dirt on Clinton, but for lying to the FBI- and Mifsud is the Russian agent he contacted, still no one in the government contacted any European country about the man being a Russian agent. Even after Papadopolous entered his guilty plea for lying, Mifsud was still meeting with foreign diplomats. He was photographed standing besides Boris Johnson in London at a fundraiser.
As for his alleged contacts in Russia, his lawyer has been clear. Mifsud claims to know Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. The lawyer confided he does know Lavrov, but Lavrov does not know him and their only connection is being together at large gatherings. As for Timofeev, his forte is public relations focusing on academics. He has no known ties to Russian intelligence.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee had a different, probably more correct, assessment of Mifsud: he was part of a sting operation by the Obama administration targeting the Trump campaign as a predicate to open an investigation. It is also possible that Mifsud was not an “oconus lure,” but another counterintelligence term- a “cat’s paw.” Here a person is used to carry out a job for ends and results of which they are unaware. In such a case, his job was simply to pass along information or arrange meetings to “dirty” a target. Or he might have been a man passing along rumor and innuendo trying to look important to another man who was looking to appear important also.
Mifsud may have been a lot of things, but the one thing he appears not to be is a Russian agent, mole, asset, or operative. That destroys the entire FBI/CIA narrative. If, on the other hand, he was an operative- knowingly or not- of Western intelligence, that proves the opposite: Papadopolous was being set up.
It should also be mentioned that Italy seems to play a central role here also, besides the Link Campus and Mifsud’s relationships with Italian politicians. When the Steele dossier started to be used in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, the point man between the FBI and Steele was an FBI agent in Italy- Michael Gaetta.
Gaetta and Steele held a meeting in London and in Rome where Steele gave Gaetta his findings from his research which would form the Steele dossier. During one of those meetings, Gaetta asked Steele if he had ever heard of George Papadopolous; Steele hadn’t. That means the FBI had knowledge of the Mifsud-Papadopolous conversations well before Steele. It is also a fact that at this juncture in time, the Steele documents become less “salacious” and start to concentrate on Carter Page making a series of unsubstantiated and uncorroborated assertions. Gaetta, supposedly a talented FBI agent in Italy, never made any attempt to interview or talk to Mifsud- a central figure in the whole story.
Next: The 2016 campaign rolls into high gear amidst a DNC “hacking” scandal