George Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, has taken to Twitter to give his side of the story after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press' Department of Justice reporter tweeted that Mueller's team has noticed Papadopoulos' tweets. The special counsel's office responded that Papadopoulos "made a variety of public statements that appear to be inconsistent with his stated acceptance of responsibility at sentencing."
It isn't clear what those statements are, because Papadopoulos has not tweeted that he did not lie to the FBI, the only crime he was ever charged with.
— Eric Tucker (@etuckerAP) November 21, 2018
In February, a previously classified memo released by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee revealed that disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok opened the Russia investigation in July 2016 after he had been made aware of information concerning Papadopoulos, contradicting the narrative that it was started in response to allegations contained in the infamous Steele dossier.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over Strzok's probe in May 2017. Five months later, Papadopoulos became the first person indicted in the investigation.
He pleaded guilty just two days after his indictment and was eventually sentenced to 14 days in jail. He still has not served that time but is scheduled to start doing so on Monday. His lawyers have asked for a postponement, but Mueller's office argued on Wednesday that he was merely trying to delay his time in prison. The special counsel's office pointed to tweets critical of their probe, contrasting them with statements of remorse he had made around his guilty plea.
Before he goes to jail, it appears the one-time low-level foreign policy advisor to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump has a few things to get off his chest. Among them is an encounter with mysterious academic Joseph Mifsud, whom he'd been in contact with and later lied to the FBI about, is no Russian intelligence agent, as alleged in the mainstream media.
"He was western intelligence sent to entrap and make up lies," Papadopoulos tweeted Wednesday.
Mifsud is said to have told Papadopoulos that the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands" of emails.
Papadopoulos is said to have bragged about the alleged dirt to one Alexander Downer while drinking at a swanky wine bar in London. Downer is the Australian High Commissioner to the UK. After WikiLeaks started releasing emails taken from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in June 2016, he reported Papadopoulos' remarks to the FBI, sparking Strzok to kick off what would later become the "Mueller probe."
— Assange Defence (@AssangeDefence) March 22, 2018
"Alexander Downer was not [representing] Australia," Papadopoulos cryptically tweeted on Wednesday.
Mifsud was declared "missing" and maybe "deceased" by the DNC in a court filing for their lawsuit against the Russian Federation. For the most part, Mifsud has been able to avoid the spotlight since the investigation was started and has gone long periods of time without being seen publicly.
While Papadopoulos rejected the notion of Mifsud being a Russian agent, it is frequently alleged in the media that the academic — the former director of the London Academy of Diplomacy — is connected to the highest echelons of the Russian government.
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) November 21, 2018
Mifsud, whose career in academia has been described as an "enigma" by Quartz, has vehemently denied connections to Russian intelligence.
In fact, Mifsud is the furthest thing from a Russian agent one could imagine, as he has collaborated closely with western intelligence in the past, his lawyer Stephan Roh told the Daily Caller last week.
He told his client to cooperate with US authorities, but Mifsud had told him that he had been ordered to lay low until Mueller is done with the Russia probe, Roh told the Daily Caller. It isn't clear who instructed Mifsud to keep his head down, if not his lawyer.
Roh told the same outlet in September, just days after the DNC said Mifsud was possibly dead, that he is not dead but living under a fake identity now.
— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) November 20, 2018
Mifsud also introduced Papadopoulos to a woman whom the Trump advisor went on to claim in campaign emails was "Putin's niece." The woman, who is not, in fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin's niece, is named Olga Vinogradova, according to Politico. Vinogradova is said to have offered meetings with high-level Russian officials.
"‘Putin's niece' is fake," Papadopoulos wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
When asked about her in November 2017, Mifsud told the Italian newspaper Repubblica that Vinogradova is "just a student, a very good-looking one." Papadopoulos' interest in Vinogradova was "very different from an academic one," he said.
Papadopoulos went even further than simply calling Mifsud a spy on Twitter, claiming that Mifsud was on the "payroll" of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, calling the journalist and academic not "ordinary" in their fields. Some have speculated that Khashoggi may have been an asset of the CIA, but without hard evidence, the allegation remains just that: an allegation.
— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) November 21, 2018
While living in Riyadh, Mifsud worked at a think tank run by the former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al Faisal, and even introduced a former CIA agent at a seminar.
Mifsud told Repubblica last year that he is a "left-leaning" member of the European Council on Foreign Relations. "You know which is the only foundation I am a member of? The Clinton Foundation," he said.
Previously, Mifsud's connections to western intelligence were already scrutinized when a photograph surfaced of him standing next to an official of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee, Claire Smith, at a training event for military and police. Smith was at the time a member of the UK Cabinet Office Security Vetting Appeals Panel — a body tasked with screening applicants for UK intelligence communities, so it is difficult to imagine her working on an event with a Russian spy.
Smith has given speeches at at least two universities where Mifsud was employed.
Mifsud has also been photographed alongside former UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and former Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood. The photograph with the former foreign minister was shot in October 2017; Mifsud had been fingered in the papers as a likely Russian intelligence asset almost an entire year prior.
— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) November 21, 2018
In an email viewed by reporters for the Observer, the date of which is unclear, Mifsud once told a colleague he was going to talk Brexit with Johnson before an event, which Johnson turned out to be a guest speaker at. The Foreign Office denied knowing who Mifsud was.
Meanwhile, Alexander Downer, the Australian official, also has ties to western intelligence communities. He is an advisory board member at Hakluyt & Co., an opposition research firm founded by three former British spies "to provide the kind of otherwise inaccessible research for which select governments and Fortune 500 corporations pay huge sums," reported PoliZette.
Henry Williams of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has called the firm "a retirement home for ex-MI6 officers."
Executives at Hakluyt & Co. donated thousands to Clinton's presidential campaign, and the firm has "significant political and financial links" to her, PoliZette reported. Downer also helped secure $25 million in aid to the Clinton Foundation from Australia to help fight AIDS.
Papadopoulos tweeted on Wednesday that his aim is to "expose the corruption of this ‘investigation' for the world to see."
"All must be exposed," he wrote.