Stirling academic tied to Trump-Russia probe quits post

Professor Joseph Mifsud allegedly set up meetings with contacts in Moscow.

Joseph Mifsud: Academic quit post at Stirling University last week. OEA - OAS/Flickr

An academic who allegedly set up a number of meetings between a Donald Trump campaign aide and Russian officials has quit his post at Stirling University.

Professor Joseph Mifsud was in communication with George Papadopoulos, an adviser to Trump's presidential campaign.

A US criminal indictment quotes a number of emails and summarises verbal communications in 2016 between the Trump aide and an anonymous academic, who was later named as Prof Mifsud.

The interactions between the pair include Prof Mifsud allegedly informing Papadopoulos of "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, an accusation he denies.

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Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to wilfully misleading FBI agents about his relationship with the professor.

Stirling University confirmed to STV News that the Maltese academic resigned from his position as a full-time professorial teaching fellow on November 23, almost four weeks after the indictment was first released.

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Prof Mifsud had been in the role full-time since May, although he also worked for the university on a part-time basis for at least a year before that.

He was working for the university on April 26, 2016, when the US indictment claims he told Papadopoulos the Russian government had damaging information on Trump's Democratic rival Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails".

In March last year, Prof Mifsud is said to have set up a meeting in London between the Trump aide and a woman he falsely claimed to be Vladimir Putin's niece.

Then on April 5, 2016, he allegedly confirmed a visit to Russia had been "agreed" by Russian officials for Papadopoulos, adding: "I am flying to Moscow on the 18th for a Valdai meeting, plus other meetings at the Duma [Russian parliament]."

Prof Mifsud has said he is "upset" at Papadopoulos' allegation that he offered "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, describing it as "nonsense".

He told Italian newspaper La Repubblica on October 31: "I never got a penny from the Russians, my conscience is clean."

The academic's present whereabouts are unknown, with CNN reporting on November 10 that he had "disappeared" from another university in Rome, Italy, where he also teaches.

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In correspondence obtained by STV News, Stirling University management boasted to staff in the politics department of the academic's links to Putin.

A university official claimed Prof Mifsud "regularly 'flies the University of Stirling flag' at high-profile international events", listing as an example a meeting attended by the Russian president.

The event was described as a "Valdai board meeting", which is a Moscow-based think tank with connections to key Kremlin officials.

A second email, sent by the university's retired former deputy principal John Gardner, said the professor had "truly global contacts in the world of diplomacy and is on first name terms with a wide variety of ambassadors from across the globe".

The university has said it employs professorial teaching fellows from a range of academic, professional and public life backgrounds to contribute in teaching and advisory capacities.

A spokeswoman for Stirling added of Prof Mifsud: "His portfolio encompasses international affairs and diplomacy reflecting his academic and professional background in this field."

Address book: Prof Mifsud pictured with the Russian ambassador. Russian UK Embassy

He has no known qualifications or degrees in diplomacy, international relations or related fields, however, with record of his academic background limited to the field of education.

A former international politics lecturer at Stirling described Prof Mifsud as someone who "announced himself by virtue of his address book but was never formally backed by research, publications or any of the normal ways an academic presents himself".

Labour MP and former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has written to Stirling principal Gerry McCormac asking about Prof Mifsud's previous role at the university and "on what basis" he had been given it.

His involvement with the Scottish institution stretches back to at least 2014, when Stirling became affiliated to the London Academy of Diplomacy (LAD), of which Prof Mifsud was the director.

Stirling University provided accreditation to masters degree courses taught at LAD under the arrangement.

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