Maltese professor questioned in Russia probe eluded arrest thanks to Papadopoulos: Court filing
FBI agents in the Russia probe had thoughts of arresting a mysterious Maltese professor, but he left the United States before they had gathered sufficient evidence, according to a court filing by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mr. Mueller said the FBI located the professor, Joseph Mifsud, in D.C. but did not have enough information to detain him because his contact, former Trump volunteer George Papadopoulos, misled agents.
Mr. Papadopoulos pled guilty to a charge of lying about the professor when the FBI first interviewed him in January 2017. Mr. Mifsud skipped town a few weeks later.
The court filing recommends a prison sentence of zero to six months when Mr. Papadopoulos is sentenced on Sept. 7. The special counsel said the defendant should spend some time in prison and noted a similar case brought a 30-day sentence.
While working at a think tank in London after being told he was officially a Trump adviser, Mr. Papadopoulos met with Mr. Mifsud in the spring of 2016. Mr. Mifsud is a somewhat mysterious figure who teaches in his native Malta and circulates among think tanks in Europe, including Russia.
At that time, the public did not know that Russia had hacked and stolen thousands of emails from the Democrat Party and would be posting them through Wikileaks later that summer.
What the public did know is the Hillary Clinton had destroyed 30,000 of her emails that could have had relevance in the probe into her mishandling classified information as secretary of state. There was speculation that perhaps China or Russia or Wikileaks had stolen copies.
Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos he had just returned from Moscow where he heard that the Kremlin possessed “thousands” of Clinton emails.
What Mr. Mifsud meant by that statement has never been made clear.
Mr. Papadopoulos lied, the court filing said, by saying the meeting occurred in February before he joined the campaign instead of the actual April date.
“Rather than acknowledging these contacts and communications, the defendant concealed them from the FBI. He lied about their timing, extent, and nature,” Mr. Mueller said.
He added, “The lies were material to the investigation. The defendant’s lies to the FBI in January 2017 impeded the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Most immediately, those statements substantially hindered investigators’ ability to effectively question the Professor when the FBI located him in Washington, D.C. approximately two weeks after the defendant’s January 27, 2017 interview. The defendant’s lies undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the Professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States. The government understands that the Professor left the United States on February 11, 2017 and he has not returned to the United States since then.”
Mr. Papadopoulos self-appointed mission in London was to set up a meeting between candidate Trump and the Kremlin. He asked Mr. Mifsud for contacts and talked to a Russian woman who had ties to the Foreign Ministry. Such a meeting never happened.
There has been no evidence he tried to obtain Clinton emails. He has not been charged with any collusion.