Mysterious Professor at Heart of Russian Investigation Returns for Impeachment Proceedings

Barbie Latza Nadeau
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

ROME—Joseph Mifsud, the erstwhile professor from Malta whose promise to help then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign aide George Papadopoulos get his hands on Russian “dirt” about Hillary Clinton has reportedly resurfaced. 

On Wednesday, the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera posted a six-minute audio recording in English it says Mifsud sent from an anonymous email account late Tuesday night. A short time later, the Italian news agency Adnkronos published a clip it received. Whether other publications received the Mifsud missive is not clear, nor is the more important question of whether it’s genuine. 

Last summer Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham traveled to Rome twice to learn what they could from Italian secret service officials about the professor as part of their investigation into the Russian investigation led by Robert Mueller. Mifsud has not been seen for two years and speculation has swirled around the question of whether he is still alive and, if he is, who is supporting him.

Barr Went to Rome to Hear a Secret Tape From Joseph Mifsud, the Professor Who Helped Ignite the Russia Probe

The Corriere clip starts with a brief introduction. “Today is the 11th of November 2019” and continues, “I am Joseph Mifsud speaking, this is my voice.” It does sound like other recordings of Mifsud.

He goes on to say that he has had “no contact with friends and family for a number of months now.” While he doesn’t say where he is or where he has been, it is clear that—if this is Mifsud—he hopes that he can come back out from under whatever rock he has been hiding under for the last two years. 

“It is extremely important finally … that I am given the possibility of coming back to life,” the voice says. “It has been very, very difficult for me to live like this, without any human contact, without a human experience, and I believe that I should be given the opportunity to do that. It is extremely important that somebody somewhere decides to let me breathe again.”

He does not say who is keeping him from resurfacing or why he has chosen to go underground. But he does make a laborious attempt to explain that he is “just a networker” who connects people who might be interested in “similar topics.”

“It’s been almost two years to date that the whole issue—blown up issue—has been presented to the world’s media and on the world’s stage, as if I had something to do with issues concerning countries,” the man says, without naming which countries or issues those are. He then goes on to deny infiltrating “programs, contacts or any other institutions of the world.”

The Mifsud voice does not mention that he has been accused of being a Russian asset in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Nor does me mention Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about their interactions. Nor does the man who says he is Mifsud say he has also been accused by deep state conspiracy theorists that he was sent as a lure to trap Trump by then-President Barack Obama. Instead, he calls all accusations that he is anything but an academic absurd.  

“I try to bring one group in contact with another,” he said. “Not, not repeat and underline, nobody in any service, secret service, intelligence service or anybody of this sort.” He then goes on to qualify that if he had met any such spooks, he didn’t know it. “If I had any contact with this, I have not known that this person or that person had any link with any institution,” the man claiming to be Mifsud says. 

Mifsud’s own lawyer, Stephan Roh, has insinuated that his client was forced into hiding by Italian intelligence officials to avoid compromising the investigation into Mueller’s investigation. 

“I think Mifsud is still alive, he was at least until last Spring. I know he was hiding because he feared for his life, I also know that someone forced him to hide,” Roh told Italian news agency Adnkronos last year. “Mifsud had to disappear, because he could compromise the whole investigation of Mueller against Trump.”

Here’s How Dumb Bill Barr’s Great Mifsud Conspiracy Story Really Is

The person on tape doesn’t necessarily seem to agree with that assessment. Instead, he says he was not the bearer of dirt on anyone to anyone. “It was never my intent to try to obtain any information to pass from one side to the other,” the voice says. “I have never done so because II was never in possession with any information which would be useful to one side or another.”

The Adnkronos clip rambles, with the man purporting to be Mifsud seemingly trying to convince whoever is listening that he wants out of hiding. “I have kept out of the limelight. I have tried to keep myself busy—mentally. I'm going to be 60 in April … I need to have contacts with my ailing parents … I’ve been living a very lonely life.”

He goes on to say, “I have never been paid by anybody to commit any intrusion into the privacy of another,” he says. 

As noted, there is no independent verification of the recording’s validity. One might think a video would be far more convincing.

BuzzFeed quotes the investigative journalism website Belingcat’s analysis that it is likely Mifsud based on words Mifsud is known to mispronounce, and the site called his former girlfriend who told it she was “certain” it was her former lover.  Adnkronos, on the other hand, sent the audio tape to Mfisud’s Swiss lawyer Stephan Roh, who says it is not him. 

If the voice does indeed belong to the mysterious professor, or even if it does not, it begs the question why the name Mifsud would resurface on the eve of the open impeachment hearings into Trump over the Ukraine? His broad denials prove nothing. His adamant insistence that he has “been a networker all my life” proves even less. Still, the timing is suspicious and mysterious. Who benefits? Until we know more, impossible to tell.

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