Possible middle man between Trump campaign and Russia vanishes - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Possible middle man between Trump campaign and Russia vanishes

Professor Joseph Mifsud, right, is thought to have told Trump advisor George Papadopoulos that Russians have 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton. (Source: CNN) Professor Joseph Mifsud, right, is thought to have told Trump advisor George Papadopoulos that Russians have 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) - Another wrinkle has appeared in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

A man suspected of being a tie between the Trump campaign and Moscow is nowhere to be found. 

Professor Joseph Mifsud, a middle-aged Maltese lecturer in diplomacy, fits the description of Foreign Contact 1 in the FBI's affidavit against candidate Trump's former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

He was last seen around Rome's Link University, where he was working three days after the affidavit was unsealed.

The FBI affidavit alleges in the spring of 2016 Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russians had "thousands of emails" relating to Clinton. 

The day before he disappeared, Mifsud told Italian magazine La Repubblica that Papadopoulos' claim was "baloney."

"I absolutely exclude the fact that I spoke of secrets regarding Hillary Clinton," he told them.

Yet his denial flies in the face of what a former associate of his said, that Mifsud had in fact bragged to him that Russia had a whole bunch of stuff on Hillary Clinton right around the time Mifsud was meeting Papadopoulos in April last year.

The associate said Mifsud seemed to enjoy being the center of attention.

Indeed, Mifsud had been getting a lot of attention from the Russians for several years, photographed with the Russian ambassador to London in 2014, to whom he introduced Papadopoulos days after he'd become an adviser to Trump.

Mifsud was a participant in the Kremlin connected Valdai Club, attending conferences in Russia occasionally given speaking roles often reserved for more qualified delegates. 

It was following a Valdai Club engagement in Moscow April 19 last year that Papadopoulos alleges Mifsud told him the Russians had "dirt on Hillary."

The FBI affidavit states, "The Russian government and its security and intelligence services frequently make use of non-governmental intermediaries to achieve their foreign policy objectives."

That description of non-governmental intermediary may fit Mifsud. His former associate said Mifsud's proclivity for name dropping, self aggrandizement and willingness to pass on anything he was told could in his opinion easily have led Mifsud to be used as a go between.

Until Mifsud hit the headlines last week his career had been unremarkable in the extreme, with a checkered professional track record.

His relationships with several academic institutions have ended badly.

He left his position as president of Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia in 2012 with the university claiming he owed 39,000 Euros in unexplained expenses. 

However, Mifsud's credentials were enough for him to be offered a teaching position at the University of Stirling in Scotland.

Since being dragged into limelight as a controversial link to possible Russian malfeasance, Mifsud has become an object of ridicule in Russia, one TV host calling him "a retired bottom-feeder diplomat."

For many Russia watchers, such character assassination is suspicious and further clouds Mifsud's already shaky reputation.

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