Italy’s Connection to the Russia Investigation, Explained

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr has said he is reviewing

Mr. Papadopoulos was eventually convicted of lying to federal investigators and served 12 days in prison.

Since leaving prison, Mr. Papadopoulos has promoted unfounded assertions and outright conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation. He wrote a book, “Deep State Target,” accusing the Obama administration of mounting a coordinated effort to spy on the Trump campaign and keep Mr. Trump from being elected and asserting that he was a pawn in that operation.

Mr. Papadopoulos has posited that Mr. Mifsud was “an Italian intelligence asset who the C.I.A. weaponized” as part of the unsubstantiated “deep state” plot. The president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has claimed, also without evidence, that Mr. Mifsud was a “counterintelligence operative, either Maltese or Italian.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia last week alleging that one of its former diplomats who met with Mr. Papadopoulos was involved in the supposed plot. Australian officials rejected Mr. Graham’s characterization of the diplomat’s role in the episode.

On Friday, Mr. Trump also raised the specter of the conspiracy. “They think it could have been by U.K. They think it could have been by Australia. They think it could have been by Italy,” he said, without elaborating on the accusations themselves or who was making them.

Mr. Mifsud worked for neither the F.B.I. nor the C.I.A., former American officials said. If he had been an F.B.I. informant, prosecutors could have easily found and questioned him. If Mr. Mifsud were working for the C.I.A., the agency would have had an obligation to tell the F.B.I. as it investigated Mr. Papadopoulos.

So to believe the conspiracy that Mr. Mifsud was secretly working for the C.I.A. is to believe that either the intelligence community withheld from prosecutors that he was one of their agents or that prosecutors conspired to deceive federal courts.

To believe that another Western government secretly employed Mr. Mifsud as part of a plot against the president is to believe that an elaborate conspiracy entirely eluded the special counsel’s office in its exhaustive investigation, which included more than 2,800 subpoenas, nearly 500 search warrants, 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviews of about 500 witnesses.

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