The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that Barr and US Attorney John Durham, who is heading the probe into why Trump’s 2016 campaign was watched by the FBI and CIA, had traveled to Rome last week as part of their investigation. At the Italian Ministry of Justice, they listened to a taped deposition given by Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud before he disappeared into police protection in 2017, explaining why people might want to harm him.
“Mifsud is the key to the whole Russiagate episode - and it’s a very strange episode … Mifsud is the guy who got the ball rolling,” Daniel Lazare, a journalist and the author of three books - “The Frozen Republic,” “The Velvet Coup” and “America’s Undeclared War” - told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Wednesday.
“Robert Mueller tried to paint Mifsud as apparently a Russian intelligence asset, but that is not true, because there is ample evidence ... connecting Mifsud to Western intelligence. So it’s very important to get to Mifsud, to ask him who put him up to this, what they were thinking and why he did what he did. So apparently that is what Bill Barr is doing in Rome,” Lazare told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou.
In March 2016, about eight months before the US presidential election, Mifsud met newly minted Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos at an event at Link University in Rome, a CIA spy school set up to train employees of Italian intelligence services. Papadopoulos told Sputnik this past April that Mifsud offered to become his window to Eurasian politicos, attempting to woo the adviser by telling him that the Russian government had “thousands” of emails belonging to Hillary Clinton, then the Democratic challenger to Trump.
What happened next is in dispute. US special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that a drunken Papadopoulos blabbed the information at a mixer to Alexander Downer, then the Australian high commissioner to the UK, who then tipped off the CIA, which began the Russiagate investigation. However, Papadopoulos maintained he never told Downer, being conscious of staying on his guard that night, since he didn’t trust the diplomat.
That said, Freedom of Information Act requests by Citizens United this past June revealed that the Steele Dossier, another piece of evidence wielded by US intelligence to claim Trump was colluding with Moscow to steal the election, was actually begun well before any such tip could’ve been given. The dossier, really an assemblage of unsubstantiated claims about Trump churned out by a Ukraine-based research firm contracted first by Democrats, then by the FBI, was compiled by an ex-MI6 agent named Christopher Steele. The documents revealed the FBI knew about the political biases of the dossier - something that “should have set off alarms,” Kevin Brock, the former FBI assistant director for intelligence, told The Hill - but pressed ahead in financing its compilation nonetheless.
However, when Mueller’s report was released this past March, it found no evidence of collusion, raising the question: why and how did several US intelligence agencies begin the Russiagate probe in the first place? In May, Barr set out to answer just that.
Lazare said he “strongly suspects” that the impeachment inquiry and attempts to stifle Barr’s investigation are part of a factional feud between two parts of the US ruling class.
The writer noted that “unlike [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo or Mueller, who are both dunderheads, Bill Barr’s a very, very smart guy, a very formidable guy. He seems to be … conducting a very serious investigation, and I think it’s reasonable to suspect that it has the intelligence community scared, and the intelligence community is, therefore, fighting back.”
“It seems that the most important part of this whistleblower’s report, which took … probably a couple weeks to compile with the approval of higher-ups in the intelligence community … it identified Bill Barr as part of Trump’s effort to enlist foreign support in his re-election campaign” for 2020, Lazare told Sputnik. “So it was really a strike against Barr, and I think that may be the most important part of this whole episode - that it’s sort of an attempt to stop Barr, to force him to back off, and to leave the CIA alone, which has a great deal to answer for, great deal, in this whole Russiagate episode.”
“Trump, and presumably Barr as well, are trying to zero in as to how this whole very weird episode got started. It seems that Barr is moving vigorously on this front, and it seems that tremors are being set off in the intelligence community, and I strongly suspect that this whole episode involving this strange whistleblower report is a manifestation - is one of those tremors going off,” Lazare said.
However, Lazare said he thought impeachment would ultimately “backfire” on the Democrats.
“First of all, the amazing incompetence of the Democrats just can’t be overestimated,” he said. “They’re amazing. And essentially what happened here is the CIA barked an order, and the Democrats snapped to attention.”
“But first of all, the first victim is going to be Joe Biden, I mean, Joe Biden is a dead man walking. This corruption involving his son is astonishing. It’s astonishing that Obama never stepped in, it’s a wonder the State Department didn’t raise any flags; they allowed this kind of nonsense to continue,” Lazare said.
“I think this will open up a huge can of worms. This will bring the infighting in the intelligence community up to the surface, and if Barr ever comes out with his report, which of course the Democrats will scramble to discredit, it won’t make the Democrats look good.”