The Department of Justice (DOJ) has obtained two phones of Joseph Mifsud, one of the central figures of the 2016 Russia investigation, and the lawyer of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has requested them, saying they likely contain exculpatory evidence.
The phones, two BlackBerry models, “only recently” came into the governments possession, said Flynns lawyer, Sidney Powell, a former prosecutor, in an Oct. 15 court filing (pdf).
Data and metadata on the phones “is material, exculpatory, and relevant to the defense of Mr. Flynn,” she said.
Mifsud allegedly told a Trump campaign aide in April 2016 that Russians had “dirt” on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” This information was ultimately used by the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation that involved extensive spying on Trump campaign staff.
Mifsuds lawyer, Stephan Roh, confirmed to The Epoch Times that the DOJ obtained the cellphones and said he was informed that Mifsud used them to communicate with “at least one person in the U.S.”
“I was also told that it was possible to retrieve a lot more data and information from the phones,” he said.
Neither Roh nor Powell would say how they learned about the phones or who gave them to the DOJ.
It isnt clear how Mifsud obtained the phones, although Powell wrote in an Oct. 15 tweet that the phones “had been given to Mifsud to use.”
“Of course, pretty sure bad actors knew of them previously—certainly the operation that gave them to him!” Powell wrote.
The emergence of the phones follows the late-September trip Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made to Italy, where they met with security officials and, among other things, inquired about Mifsud.
Barr confirmed that the Trump campaign was spied on by the government in 2016 and said he would look into whether that surveillance was properly predicated.
Mifsud has been affiliated with Link Campus University, a Rome-based institution frequented by Western intelligence, security, and political figures and led by Vincenzo Scotti, Italys former interior minister.
Powell noted in her filing that she first requested Mifsuds phones on Oct. 11 by email to the prosecutors, but they only responded after she informed them she would file a court motion for the evidence to be produced.
“If we determine that they contain information that is discoverable or that is relevant to sentencing, we will produce them to you,” the prosecutors responded on Oct. 15, the filing states.
Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to one count of lying to FBI agents during a Jan. 24, 2017, interview.
The interview was related to an FBI investigation of Flynn “based on his relationship with the Russian government,” according to the final report by then-special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation in 2017.
The probe failed to establish that anybody from the Trump team colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election, the report stated (pdf).
Powell said the phone data is specifically relevant “to the OCONUS LURES and agents that Western intelligence tasked against [Flynn] likely as early as 2014.”
The agents were “to arrange—unbeknownst to him—connections with certain Russians that they would then use against him in their false claims,” she said.
Powell has said that the investigation of Flynn was improper, specifically that he was targeted for “concocted and political purposes.”
“OCONUS lures” refer to offensive counterintelligence operations outside the continental United States, according to Chris Farrell, a former counterintelligence officer who ran double-agent operations for the U.S. Army.
A “lure” is an operation in which a counterintelligence operative will pretend to be compromised by money, ideology, coercion, or extortion, and therefore be “open to manipulation and recruitment,” said Chris Blackburn, political analyst and counterterrorism expert. If a foreign intelligence service takes the bait and attempts to recruit the operative, the relationship could then be used for various purposes, such as to identify the recruiting agents and collect information.
Text messages between former high-level FBI attorney Lisa Page and former FBI counterintelligence lead on the Russia probe Peter Strzok indicate that Strzok was trying to get approval for multiple “OCONUS lures” in December 2015. At the time, he was working on the investigation into Clintons use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
Some aspects of Mifsuds background would fit the description of a “lure,” according to Blackburn. Mifsuds name was in the media repeatedly for alleged financial misdeeds, but it never seemed to affect his career. He was repeatedly granted distinguished positions and access to important people in the Western political, diplomatic, intelligence, security, and counterterrorism circles.
Powell suggested that Mifsud may have been involved in spying on Flynn and may have attended a Dec. 10, 2015, dinner hosted by the Russian state-backed RT television network for its 10th anniversary.
Flynn said his speakers bureau, Leading Authorities Inc., asked him to give an onstage interview at the event. He did and was paid $33,000 for it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech and sat briefly next to Flynn before coming on stage, according to two people who attended the dinner.
Flynn reportedly received a defensive briefing from the DIA before attending the dinner and was debriefed by the agency after, providing “moderately useful” information.
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