Lawyers for Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, have filed a court motion to compel the Justice Department to hand over two Blackberry devices used by Joseph Mifsud.
“This information is material, exculpatory, and relevant to the defense of Mr. Flynn, specifically to the…agents western intelligence tasked against him likely as early as 2014 to arrange - unbeknownst to him - “connections” with certain Russians they would then use against him in their false claims,” the filing states.
It’s unclear how the smartphones were obtained, although Powell suggests they came into investigators’ possession “very recently”. Attorney General William Barr, who’s currently scrutinising the ‘Trump-Russia’ investigation's origins, flew to Rome earlier this month to meet with Italian intelligence operatives.
Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to making “false statements and omissions” in an interview with the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, accepting a plea deal whereby he’d avoid prison in return for his cooperation. However, he fired the defence team which negotiated the deal earlier this year - Powell claims “there never would’ve been a plea to begin with” if Flynn knew how much information the Justice Department was hiding from him, and alleging her client was improperly pressured into accepting it via “egregious misconduct”.
The federal judge overseeing the case against Trump’s former national security adviser has set a “tentative” date of 18th December for sentencing. Prosecutors have intimated they may recommend imprisonment, contrary to previous pledges - asked by a judge during a court hearing 8th October, prosecutor Brandon Van Grack declined to say their earlier recommendation still stood.
Caught in Crossfire
Maltese enigma Mifsud proved absolutely fundamental to the launch of ‘Crossfire Hurricane’, the FBI’s investigation of potential ties between Trump’s campaign team and the Russian state.
In March 2016, George Papadopoulos was working at the London Centre of International Law Practice as an energy consultant - a job primarily centred around wining and dining diplomats - while also serving as an unpaid policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
Mid-month, he went to a three-day conference at Link Campus University, a privately-owned educational centre in Rome, where he was introduced to Mifsud - after claiming to have high-level contacts in Russia and offering to put them in touch with Papadopoulos, the pair would meet repeatedly over the next two months.
Papadopoulos quickly concluded Mifsud was all talk - despite many long lunches, the academic still hadn’t named a single worthwhile contact, let alone introduced them, by late April. However, on the 26th they met for breakfast at a hotel in London, where Mifsud dropped a bombshell - he stated the Russian government had “dirt” on on Hillary Clinton, in the form of “thousands of emails”.
The specifics of what happened next are murky, but it’s claimed that on or around 10th May 10 2016, he met Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, and allegedly relayed Mifsud’s claims of Kremlin-held “dirt” on the Democratic Presidential hopeful. Whether he actually did or not is a matter of contention, but afterwards Downer reported Mifsud’s incendiary assertions back to Canberra, Canberra then told Washington, and ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ was on.
Australia was already implicated in the Mueller/Russiagate stuff, thanks to Alexander Downer. This phone call was not the catalyst for our involvement at all. https://t.co/v1zIB5lul6— Adam Hill (@adamhillmedia) October 3, 2019
Under the auspices of the probe, Papadopoulos was interviewed by the FBI 27th January 2017 regarding Trump campaign connections with Russia. Mifsud claims he was also interviewed by Bureau investigators in the US the next month, after flying into the country to attend an event sponsored by the US State Department.
He departed for Rome 11th February - Papadopoulos was arrested 27th July upon arrival at Washington-Dulles International Airport for obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. In a 17th August 2018 sentencing memorandum, prosecutors stated Mifsud would’ve been challenged, detained, or arrested had Papadopoulos not lied about their interactions.
Despite this, Mifsud’s name was suspiciously and conspicuously absent from the list of indictments to arise from Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel probe. This lacuna is especially curious given Mueller alleges in his investigation’s final report Mifsud made false statements to investigators when they interviewed him in February 2017 - for which Flynn and Papadopoulos were of course both indicted - and the former FBI Director goes to great lengths to insinuate Mifsud acted as a Kremlin agent and/or intermediary, without making direct accusations or providing supporting evidence.
Also suspiciously and conspicuously absent is any mention or consideration of Mifsud’s extensive ties to Western intelligence and diplomatic circles. He’s been photographed with Boris Johnson, now UK Prime Minister, and was familiar with veteran British intelligence official Claire Smith, to the extent he taught a course with Smith for Italian military and law-enforcement personnel at same Link University Campus, where he met Papadopolous - the educational facility was founded by Vincenzo Scotti, Italian interior minister 1990 - 1992.
If Mifsud is - or was - a Russian agent, he’s perhaps the most successful infiltrator in history, successfully penetrating academic, diplomatic, legal and political apparatuses the world over and making a large number of very important, influential contacts in the process. Yet neither the individuals nor institutions with which he interacted over the course of his lengthy career have expressed any apparent desire to investigate how they were so intimately and efficaciously compromised by an undercover foreign intelligence operative for so long.
Adding to the intrigue, Mifsud famously vanished without trace in November 2017 after an Italian newspaper named him as the “professor” who’d told Papadopoulos the Kremlin possessed Clinton’s emails. A September 2018 court filing in the case Democratic National Committee v. Russian Federation stated he was "missing and may be deceased" - that same month, an Italian court described his location as "unknown". More recently, it’s been claimed he’s alive and well in Rome.
An intelligence operative he may have been, but if so it’s abundantly clear Moscow wasn’t his controller - Stephan Roh, a Zurich-based lawyer who communicates with the media on Mifsud’s behalf, maintains Mifsud “is not a Russian spy but a Western intelligence co-operator”.
“He has only one master: the Western Political, Diplomatic, and Intelligence World, his only home, of which he is still deeply dependent,” Roh has written.
If Roh’s words are accurate, Mifsud may be in a position to know a lot about the surreptitious machinations of certain individuals and agencies in the months following Trump announcing his Presidential run in June 2015. Indeed, he may know too much - which would explain both his precipitous disappearance, and apparent immunity from prosecution. Still, whatever the truth of the matter, it's almost certain irrespective of what Mifsud's Blackberry devices contain, their contents will offer at least partial resolution to a number of burning questions, and shed significant light on one of RussiaGate’s biggest and most enduring mysteries.