George Papadopoulos, the 30-year-old former foreign policy campaign adviser now at the center of the Donald Trump Russia scandal investigation, met with a "professor" based in London who claimed to have high-level Russian contacts, according to statements Papadopoulos made to investigators. That mysterious "professor" appeared to know about the thousands of Democratic emails hacked by the Russians — months before the public or even United States intelligence agencies learned about them.
At a meeting in London on April 26, 2016, the professor told Papadopoulos that he had just returned from a high-level meeting in Moscow where he learned that the Russian government possessed "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — "dirt" that came in the form of "thousands of emails."
Russian hackers had infiltrated the email account of Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta on March 19, 2016, stealing thousands of emails. But those emails were not released until October 7 when they began appearing on the document-dumping site WikiLeaks.
And it was not until May 19 that then-director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced the U.S. intelligence suspicion that Russian hackers had hit at least one presidential campaign.
In an article published on Monday, just hours after the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation revealed that Papadopoulos had already pled guilty to a charge of making false statements to the FBI – and was now cooperating with Trump Russia investigators — the Washington Post revealed the name of the man identified as that professor by Papadopoulos himself: Joseph Mifsud, an academic from Malta and honorary director of the London Academy of Diplomacy.
Here's "the Professor" Joseph Mifsud meeting an official from the Russian embassy in London just before George Papadopoulos was arrested. pic.twitter.com/K5yU4vH14E
— X Soviet (@XSovietNews) October 30, 2017
But also on Monday, Mifsud, 57, quickly denied that he is the professor who met with Papadopoulos, though he admitted knowing the young Trump adviser, telling the Daily Beast online magazine, "For me, it's a laughing matter."
As described in the court filings released Monday, Papadopolous told Mueller's investigators that he met the professor in March of 2016 while on a trip to Italy. Despite the professor's initial coolness toward him, their friendship suddenly took a turn for the better when Papadopoulos told the man that he was about to become a member of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.
But a now-deleted profile of Mifsud on the London Center For International Law Practice shows that he was affiliated with that organization at the same time as Papadopoulos was listed on the LCIDL site as the institute's "director of the Center for International Energy and Natural Resources Law & Security." That was in March of 2016.
— Furkan Haber (@furkanhaber) November 17, 2016
Mifsud told the Daily Beast that he is not connected to anyone in the Russian government and had never acted as a conduit for communication between Russian officials and anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign.
"I do not know anybody from the Russian government, let's put it this way," Mifsud told the Daily Beast. "I am an academic."
Papadopolous, however, named Mifsud as the Russian-linked professor in an earlier email that was among the 20,000 turned over to congressional investigators by the Trump White House over the summer, according to the Post's reporting. In addition, a statement by an FBI investigator described Papadopoulos's contact as "a particular professor of diplomacy based in London... a citizen of a country in the Mediterranean and an associate of several Russian nationals."
Mifsud is a citizen of Malta who once worked for that country's Foreign Affairs Ministry and is described in a biography by the European Parliament as "a prime mover of Malta's entry into the European Union."
Mifsud has participated in talks held by the Russian think tank known as the Valdai Club, and on the Valdai website, he is quoted as saying, "I know Russia well."
Trump and his associates have been attempting to distance themselves from Papadopoulos over the past day. Although Trump described him as an "excellent guy" when he first named him as a member of his campaign's foreign policy team last year, in a message posted Tuesday to his Twitter account, Trump ridiculed Papadopoulos as a "young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar."
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) November 2, 2017
And in a Tuesday interview, former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo — who himself worked for the Russian government in the 1990s and later performed political consulting work for the pro-Vladimir Putin Russian firm Gazprom Media — derided Papadopolous as a "coffee boy."
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]