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Jerry Dunleavy

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Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham met with Italian intelligence and listened to a secret recording of Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious professor at the center of the Trump-Russia saga.

The quiet trip to Rome by Barr and Durham last week as impeachment furor swept Washington, D.C., was part of the “investigation of the investigators.” The Justice Department is looking into the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into Russian election interference in 2016 and any possible ties to the Trump campaign, which later became part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Barr and Durham listened to a taped deposition of Mifsud at the U.S. Embassy in Rome as well as met with Italian security officials who provided them with other information that the Italian government had on Mifsud, according to the Daily Beast. Mifsud explained why he was leaving his job at Rome’s Link University and asked for police protection, claiming that his life might be endangered.

The Trump administration’s interest in Mifsud likely stems from a 2016 conversation in which Mifsud allegedly told Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos about possible Russian dirt on then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos allegedly mentioned this to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, who passed it to the Australian government, who passed it to the United States, leading to the official launch of the Trump-Russia investigation in July 2016.

The Australian government is also cooperating with Barr in his efforts, and the DOJ said last week that Barr and Durham were reaching out to foreign governments for help.

“Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. “At Attorney General Barr’s request, the president has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the attorney general and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials.”

Stephan Roh, a lawyer who says he represents Mifsud and shared a picture of Mifsud allegedly signing a power of attorney in 2018, told the Washington Examiner that Mifsud “is in Italy, at least until recently.” But Roh said Mifsud, whose whereabouts are unknown, hadn’t contacted him in a while.

Mifsud denied he told Papadopoulos the Russians had Clinton’s emails, and Roh claims his client cooperated with Western intelligence, not Russian intelligence, aligning with what some GOP investigators have said. Roh previously said Durham was seeking an interview with Mifsud, but it was not clear if Durham and Barr were doing so.

Papadopoulos has claimed Mifsud has “connections to Italian intelligence.”

The Mueller report confirmed the role information from Mifsud played in prompting the FBI “to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.” The investigation “did not establish” any criminal conspiracy between the Kremlin and anyone associated with Trump.

Mueller’s report said Mifsud “had connections to Russia” and “maintained various Russian contacts.” Mueller also said Mifsud misled investigators when they questioned him, but he was not charged. As part of Mueller’s Russia investigation, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Mifsud and served 12 days in prison late last year.

Republicans have alleged that foreign intelligence agencies, like those in Western Europe, may have played a role in monitoring Trump associates in 2016.

Durham’s investigation is separate from the one just finished by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. The DOJ watchdog investigated allegations of abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the DOJ and the FBI, and Horowitz has spoken with Durham, who is handling any criminal referrals from Horowitz’s investigation.

Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Source: Washington Examiner: Amid impeachment furor, Barr and John Durham flew to Rome to hear a secret tape of Joseph Mifsud, mysterious professor at center of Mueller investigation

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., says there are unreleased transcripts of recorded conversations between FBI informants and former Trump campaign associate George Papadopoulos that “has the potential to be a game changer.”

In a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo on Sunday, the former House Oversight Committee chairman said when the FBI listens in on phone calls or sends in an informant wearing a wire then “there’s a transcript of that” and that “one in particular has the potential to actually persuade people.”

In laying out a series of questions about the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into President Trump’s campaign and the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the operation, Gowdy listed a series of questions he thinks need to be answered, including: “Where are the transcripts, if any exist, between the informants and the telephone calls to George Papadopoulos?”

During special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to and was sentenced to 14 days in jail for lying to the FBI about his conversations with London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, who allegedly told Papadopoulos that the Russians had damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 election. Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor who was working with the FBI as an informant, and Azra Turk, a woman posing as Halper’s assistant and using an alias, met with Papadopoulos in 2016 during the presidential campaign.

Republican lawmakers who have seen the relevant documents believe exculpatory evidence related to Papadopoulos was not included in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“If the bureau is going to send an informant in it’s going to be wired and if the bureau is monitoring telephone calls there’s a transcript of that,” Gowdy said. “And some of us have been fortunate enough to know whether or not those transcripts exist. But they haven’t been made public.”

Gowdy said one still-secret transcript could be a bombshell. “I think one in particular is going, it has the potential to actually persuade people. Very little on this Russia probe, I’m afraid, is going to persuade people who hate Trump or love Trump. But there is some information in these transcripts that I think has the potential to be a game changer, if it’s ever made public,” he said.

Gowdy agreed with Bartiromo’s suggestion that the FBI had concealed relevant details about Papadopoulos from the FISA court, echoing the concerns that Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, has been expressing for months. “Yeah, John Ratcliffe is rightfully exercised over the obligations the government has to tell the whole truth to a court when you are speaking permission to spy or do surveillance on an American,” Gowdy said. “And part of that includes the responsibility of providing exculpatory information or information that tends to show the person did not do something wrong.”

“If you have exculpatory information and you don’t share it with the court, that ain’t good.” Gowdy added. “I’ve seen it, Johnny has seen it, I’d love for your viewers to see it.”

The Justice Department’s presentations to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have been roundly criticized by Republicans, especially the FBI’s reliance on the dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, who was being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC through Fusion GPS via the Perkins Coie law firm. Republicans say the FBI did not verify the dossier before using it and that the bureau hid key facts from the court, while Democrats have defended the FBI’s actions.

In October 2018, Ratcliffe said he had seen all of these documents and calling for Trump to declassify them. “I can tell you, as a former federal prosecutor, my opinion is that declassifying them wouldn’t expose any national security information, wouldn’t expose any sources and methods,” Ratcliffe said. “It would expose certain folks at the Obama Justice Department and FBI and their actions and their actions taken to conceal material facts from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

“The underlying pretext to the entire Trump-Russia investigation, is this idea that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign associate, had a conversation with an Australian diplomat about getting Hillary Clinton’s e-mails from the Russians,” Ratcliffe continued. “Hypothetically, if the Department of Justice and the FBI has another piece of evidence that directly refutes, that directly contradicts that, what you would expect is for the Department of Justice to present both sides of the coin to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to evaluate the weight and sufficiency of that evidence.”

But that’s not what happened, Raticliffe said. “Instead, what happened here was, Department of Justice and FBI officials in the Obama administration in October of 2016 only presented to the court the evidence that made the government’s case to get a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate.”

“Declassification would corroborate what I just related to you,” Ratcliffe claimed.

Trump partially declassified the hundreds of pages of FISA documents related to Page in July 2018. Now that the Mueller investigation has concluded, and as Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s FISA abuse probe is reaching its end, Trump may begin to declassify more information.

In April, Sean Hannity asked Trump whether he would fully declassify the FISA applications, relevant Gang of Eight material, summaries (302s) of interviews with witnesses, and more. Trump said he would. “I’m glad I waited because I thought that maybe they would obstruct if I did it early and I think I was right. So I’m glad I waited,” Trump said. “Now the attorney general can take a very strong look at whatever it is. But it will be declassified and more than what you just mentioned.”

Trump has been promising action like this for nearly a year now. On Sept. 17, 2018, the White House said that “the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.” And Trump also ordered the public release of “all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.”

But he backed away a few days later. “I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents. They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release,” Trump tweeted. “Therefore, the Inspector General has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me — and everyone!”

Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Source: Washington Examiner: Trey Gowdy: FBI withheld ‘game changer’ transcript material from FISA Court

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