The man at the center of a key allegation in the Russian investigation has suddenly "vanished," according to a new report by CNN. Joseph Mifsud, the academic who supposedly promised former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos some "dirt" on Hillary Clinton from Russian sources via leaked emails, "has gone to ground" after publicly denying that he had ever "spoke of secrets regarding Hillary Clinton."
"Last Thursday [Mifsud] disappeared from the private university in Rome where he teaches," CNN reports. "Repeated attempts to reach him since have been unsuccessful, though he appears to have read some messages from CNN."
In its report, CNN details Mifsud's sketchy dealings, which include several false and exaggerated claims about his own status and connections, and warnings from his associate "about the danger of being played by the Russians."
Mifsud became a central figure in the Russia investigation after being identified by Papadopoulos as "Foreign Contact 1," the man with Russian connections that enticed him with offers of damaging information on Clinton. CNN reports:
In the US affidavit, Papadopoulos claims that Mifsud told him in April 2016 that the Russians had "thousands of emails" relating to Hillary Clinton.
Joseph Mifsud met with the Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko in May 2014.
An associate also told CNN that he repeatedly bragged about how Moscow had "compromising material" on the Clinton campaign in spring 2016, contradicting Mifsud's assertion that he never talked about Russian "dirt" on the Democratic presidential bid.
When Papadopoulos' claim about his role in the Clinton "dirt" story became public, Mifsud refuted it, telling Italian outlet La Repubblica that the allegation was nonsense.
"I absolutely exclude the fact that I spoke of secrets regarding Hillary Clinton," said Mifsud.
CNN notes that those were "his last words in public on the subject."
According to the report, Mifsud is an academic who moved around in important circles and generally presented himself as an international ambassador, though CNN notes that "he has never held such a post." He also claimed to be associated with at least one group that he appears to have invented out of whole cloth.
He once served as president of the now-defunct London Academy of Diplomacy and was connected to the London Centre of International Law Practice, though information on him "has been deleted." He also served as president of Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia, but left in 2012, apparently owing the university 39,000 euros in "unexplained expenses." Afterward, he landed a teaching position at Scotland's University of Stirling.
Mifsud does appear to have ties to some Russian figures, though the extent of those ties are unclear. He recently gave a talk at the Valdai Club, which CNN notes has "close connections to the Kremlin," and Mifsud appears to support opening up trade with the Russian Federation.
CNN notes that his associate "warned Mifsud about the danger of being played by the Russians" and that Russia's most popular talk-show host recently mocked the "fly-by Maltese professor" as "a retired bottom-feeder diplomat."