When Donald Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos met in London in April of 2016 with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who claimed to have elite Russian government connections, Mifsud told the Trump adviser that Russia possessed "dirt" on Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton — in the form of "thousands of emails."
Now, according to an NBC News investigative report Wednesday, Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing when Trump himself found out about those hacked and stolen emails, which began appearing online and on the site WikiLeaks in July of 2016.
But as Mueller digs into the question of what Trump knew about the Russian email hacks and when he knew it, Mifsud himself has simply disappeared, according to a blockbuster report by the site BuzzFeed published on Tuesday.
BuzzFeed interviewed the 57-year-old Mifsud's 31-year-old fiancee, who says that she gave birth to Mifsud's child six weeks ago — though she has heard nothing from him since shortly after his name surfaced in connection with Papadopoulos and the Clinton emails last November 1.
The fiancee — identified by BuzzFeed only as "Anna" — confirmed to the site that Mifsud often boasted of his high-level contacts in Russia. He even spoke of dining with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, showing her a photo of himself with Lavrov to prove it.
It was Lavrov who met in the Oval Office with Trump on May 10, 2017 — a meeting from which all United States personnel and press were barred — when Trump revealed classified information about a highly sensitive foreign intelligence operation. Also, in the "Steele Dossier" detailing numerous alleged Trump-Russia ties, Lavrov is connected to the Russian operation to interfere in the 2016 U.S presidential election on behalf of Trump.
According to court documents filed by Mueller, Mifsud met with Papadopoulos in April of 2016, telling the then-29-year-old who had recently been named to Trump's foreign policy team that he possessed high-level contacts in the Kremlin — contacts who had told him that Russia had "thousands" of Clinton-related emails that could be used as "dirt" to damage the Democratic candidate.
It would be another three months before the Clinton-related emails were released online by Russian hackers.
But whether Papadopoulos ever told Trump or anyone close to Trump in the campaign about Mifsud's stunning revelation remains unconfirmed, at least publicly. Shortly after July of 2016 when Trump became the Republican presidential nominee, the FBI warned him that Russians would attempt to infiltrate his campaign, according to an NBC News report.
And now Mueller wants to know whether Trump knew that Russia was in possession of the Clinton "dirt" emails — and even if Trump himself ordered their release to Wikileaks. Mueller has posed questions about Trump's knowledge of the stolen emails and possible involvement with the hacking operation to several witnesses recently grilled by the special counsel and his team of investigators.
Mueller has been trying to find out what Trump may have known when, in July of 2016, he publicly called on Russia to hack Clinton's emails and release 30,000 emails that were supposedly missing from Clinton's server.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said during a campaign press conference. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
Trump's spokesperson at the time, Sean Spicer, claimed that Trump was "joking" when he made the call for Russia to hack Clinton. But a longtime Trump adviser and close ally, political "dirty tricks" specialist Roger Stone, appeared to know in advance that Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta, would suffer a massive hack and theft of his emails. Stone was also in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to an expose published this week by The Atlantic magazine online.
Stone had previously denied under oath in congressional testimony that he had direct contact with Assange, but the Atlantic report appears to show that his testimony was not truthful.