What we know about the mysterious new characters in the Mueller investigation

A professor, a Russian foreign ministry connection, and the latest on the surprising plea from Trump's campaign advisor.

One by one, members of Trump's campaign  team are facing indictments. (CREDIT: AP/EVAN VUCCI)
One by one, members of Trump's campaign team are facing indictments. (CREDIT: AP/EVAN VUCCI)

On Monday, we learned that George Papadopoulos, Donald Trump’s former foreign policy advisor, attempted to unearth the “dirt” he believed Russia maintained on Hillary Clinton – one of the clearest attempts at collusion yet revealed.

However, the unsealed indictment identified a handful of other players involved in Papadopoulos’s pursuit of the Clinton emails he believed Russian actors had stolen. The trio of actors – a “female Russian national,” a “professor,” and a “Russian [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] Connection” – remain unnamed.

But in piecing together prior reportage, we can identify both the “professor” and “Russian MFA Connection” – although the identity of the “female Russian national” remains unclear.

In August, the Washington Post reported on a series of emails from Papadopoulos, many of which match the emails cited in today’s indictment verbatim, pointing to Ivan Timofeev, a senior official with the government-backed Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), as the “Russian MFA Connection” named within the indictment. Not only is Timofeev named in the August Washington Post report, but a day after the report Timofeev authored a piece on the RIAC website pushing back at the Post’s reportage about his communiques with Papadopoulos.


The post, in which Timofeev refers to himself in the third-person, criticizes the Washington Post piece for being written “in such a way so as to make [Timofeev’s responses] fit the mantra of ‘Russian meddling.’ Given today’s situation when one conspiracy theory is rapidly followed by another, clear and unbiased work with facts is a must.” Timofeev wrote that he instructed Papadopoulos, who had attempted to coordinate a meeting with Trump and Russian officials, to put together an “official inquiry concerning Mr. Trump or his team members’ possible visit,” but that neither he nor RIAC ever received such request.

Closed Timofeev, who criticized “idle speculation” about his relationship with the Trump campaign, “We understand that the media wants to further exacerbate this issue.”

Neither Timofeev nor RIAC responded to ThinkProgress’s questions about today’s indictment.

The “professor” in question, meanwhile, appears to be Joseph Mifsud, who the Washington Post identified today as the “director of the London Academy of Diplomacy,” which would further align with the indictment’s note that the professor is “based in London.” An additional statement from an FBI agent noted that the Papadopoulos “knew a particular professor of diplomacy based in London,” who “is a citizen of a country in the Mediterranean and an associate of several Russian nationals.”


Mifsud is currently a professor at the University of Stirling, as well as a member of the European Council of Foreign Relations. A biography from the European Parliament notes that Mifsud, who was the president of the Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia, was a “prime mover of Malta’s entry into the EU,” and formerly worked for Malta’s ministry of foreign affairs.

While Mifsud denied that he maintained any contact with the Russian government, the indictment against Papadopoulos pointed that “the professor had told [Papadopoulos] about the Russians possessing ‘dirt’” on Clinton, and that the “professor only took interest in defendant [Papadopoulos] because of his status” with the Trump campaign. The indictment added that Papadopoulos “understood that the professor had substantial connections to Russian government officials.” In 2016, Mifsud said that he “know[s] Russia quite well.”

The relationship between Mifsud and Timofeev remains unclear. The FBI statement noted that the “professor” referred to an individual matching Timofeev’s description as a “dear friend,” while Mifsud has written multiple articles for the website of the Valdai Discussion Club, where Timofeev leads the “Contemporary State” program. And at least one clip, from mid-2016, shows Timofeev interviewing Mifsud at the Kremlin-friendly Valdai Discussion Club in Russia:

Given the raft of questions remaining – including the identity of the unidentified female Russian national, as well as how the president plans on reacting to unfurling revelations – it seems the fallout from the indictments is only beginning. But one thing is clear: Timofeev doesn’t think especially highly of Papadopoulos’s methods of making contact, or broader grasp of relations with Russia. As Timofeev told the Russian outlet Gazeta in August, “It became clear from our conversation that George doesn’t understand the Russian foreign policy landscape very well.” Nor, it appears, did Papadopoulos understand the ramifications of lying to federal officials, either.