Italy’s prime minister said Wednesday that Attorney General William Barr visited Italy twice in recent months as part of his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
Giuseppe Conte said at a press conference that in meetings with Italian intelligence officials Aug. 15 and Sept. 27, Barr largely inquired about U.S. intelligence agents’ activities in Italy in 2016.
Barr asked the Italians to “verify the operations of American agents,” Conte said, according to The New York Times.
“That is, his question was to verify what the American intelligence did.”
Conte said U.S. officials submitted the meeting requests through normal diplomatic channels in June, and that he did not speak with President Donald Trump or Barr about the matter.
Barr met during his first trip with Gen. Gennaro Vecchion, a top Italian intelligence official. He was accompanied on the second trip by John Durham, the U.S. attorney he tapped earlier in 2019 to investigate FBI and CIA intelligence-gathering activities related to the Trump campaign.
Barr tapped Durham earlier this year to conduct an inquiry into FBI, CIA and foreign governments’ intelligence-gathering activities directed at Trump associates. Barr said April 10 that he believes “spying” occurred against the Trump campaign, and that information he was provided about the origins of the Russia probe did not add up.
Barr also asked his Italian counterparts about Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious Maltese professor who alleged told Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Mifsud has not been seen in public since November 2017, shortly after Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s probe. The special counsel’s investigation portrayed Mifsud as a possible Russian asset, while Papadopoulos has alleged that Mifsud was working with Western intelligence agencies.
Barr and Durham listened to a deposition that Mifsud gave recently as part of a request for police protection, The Daily Beast reported.
Conte said Barr did not inquire about whether Italian intelligence agencies were involved in any Trump-related efforts.
“The meeting clarified, after this was verified, that our intelligence is unrelated to the affair,” Conte said.
Italy was the site of several key meetings in 2016 that are central to the Russia probe.
Papadopoulos met Mifsud for the first time in Italy on March 14, 2016, shortly after he joined the Trump campaign. Mifsud, who was born in Malta, was affiliated with Link University, a Rome-based school that has ties to Western intelligence agencies.
Rome was the location for former British spy Christopher Steele’s first meeting with the FBI regarding his investigation of Trump.
On July 5, 2016, Steele briefed Michael Gaeta, an FBI official based in Rome, on information he gathered on Trump that would later form the infamous dossier.
Victoria Nuland, a top Russia official at the State Department, approved the Steele-Gaeta meeting.
The FBI would later use Steele’s dossier to obtain surveillance warrants against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
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