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DNC: Papadopoulos's UK contact may be dead
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday raised the prospect that the London-based professor who told former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that Russia had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton may be dead.
DNC lawyers wrote in court filings Friday that Joseph Mifsud, who spoke to Papadopoulos during the 2016 presidential election, "is missing and may be deceased," Bloomberg News reported. The lawyers did not elaborate.
The DNC stood by its claim in a statement to The Hill on Friday. The committee indicated that an investigator had been used to find Mifsud, who has been missing for months, and was told the Maltese professor may be dead.
"The DNC's counsel has attempted to serve Mifsud for months and has been unable to locate or contact him. In addition, public reports have said he has disappeared and hasn't been seen for months," DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.
Mifsud was reportedly teaching at a private university in Rome before he vanished late last year, shortly after his name emerged as a key figure in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The professor had reportedly not been in contact with prosecutors in Italy seeking to question him over allegations of financial wrongdoing and his fiancee told Business Insider earlier this year that she could not reach him.
The DNC's revelation came in court filings Friday in their lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. According to Bloomberg, the DNC said it believed all of the defendants in the case had been served, with the exception of Mifsud.
A hearing in that lawsuit is scheduled for next week in federal court in New York.
Papadopoulos was sentenced in a separate legal case Friday to two weeks in prison for lying to FBI investigators about his contacts with Mifsud during the campaign, the first sentence for a former campaign aide as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election interference.
Mifsud was reportedly known to have high-level contacts in the Russian government, including with Sergey Lavrov, Russia's current foreign minister. During the campaign, Papadopoulos told President Trump and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Russia was interested in setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sessions testified last year that he rejected Papadopoulos's suggestion of a meeting, though the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser alleged in a CNN interview Friday that Sessions was "enthusiastic" about such a meeting.
Sessions "was actually enthusiastic about a meeting between the candidate and President Putin," Papadopoulos told CNN, adding that Trump "gave me a sort of a nod" but "wasn't committed either way" to the idea.
Trump officials have long downplayed Papadopoulos's role within the campaign in public statements, while Trump has long denied any collusion with Russia during the election.