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Trump aide who protected Maltese ‘professor’ should be jailed – US investigation

joseph mifsud
Russiagate, mystery professor Joseph Mifsud

The former campaign aide to US President Donald Trump should be jailed up to six months for lying to investigators about the enigmatic Maltese professor in relation to the criminal investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The comments of George Papadopoulos prevented the FBI from detaining the enigmatic Maltese Professor Joseph Mifsud when he was traveling in the United States in 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in a memo to a federal judge on Friday. 

Mueller was appointed one year ago to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. Mifsud’s name emerged in the charges against Papadopoulos, who claimed that the Maltese academic and former diplomat told him in 2014 that the Russians were in possession of “compromising material” regarding presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“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 sentencing memo said. “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.“

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.

Mifsud, who heads the international relations department at Rome’s Link University, has gone under the radar for almost a year now with with a Ukrainian woman saying she hasn’t heard from him since news on his links to Russia broke in October 2017. He had denied these claims, saying the former aide was lying. And yet, he disappeared.

It was Papadopoulos‘ description of his interaction with Mifsud to an Australian diplomat that ultimately led the FBI to open the Russia investigation in July 2016.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to making false statements to the special counsel’s team, becoming the first person to admit guilt to Mueller’s federal prosecutors. The FBI accused him of lying to to investigators when it asked him about whether he had advance knowledge that Russians had obtained emails connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign — and whether they intended to distribute them.

According to his plea agreement, he admitted to lying about the timing of his contacts with Mifsud in London. He told investigators that Mifsud had informed him that he had “substantial connections to Russian government officials” and promised “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” obtained by the Russian government. But Mueller said Papadopoulos repeatedly denied that he interacted with the professor before to joining the campaign team.

“The government does not take a position with respect to a particular sentence to be imposed, but respectfully submits that a sentence of incarceration, within the applicable guidelines range of 0 to 6 months’ imprisonment, is appropriate and warranted,” Mueller wrote in a government sentencing memorandum to the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

He lied repeatedly over the course of more than two hours, and his lies were designed to conceal facts he knew were critical.

“The defendant’s crime was serious and caused damage to the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The defendant lied in order to conceal his contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries during the campaign and made his false statements to investigators on January 27, 2017, early in the investigation, when key investigative decisions, including who to interview and when, were being made.”

Papadopoulos “repeatedly lied throughout the interview in order to conceal the timing and significance of information the defendant had received regarding the Russians possessing ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, as well as his own outreach to Russia on behalf of the campaign.” His false statements were intended “to harm the investigation, and did so.”

“His lies negatively affected the FBI’s Russia investigation, and prevented the FBI from effectively identifying and confronting witnesses in a timely fashion,” Mueller said. “His lies were not momentary lapses. He lied repeatedly over the course of more than two hours, and his lies were designed to conceal facts he knew were critical.”

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