Attorney General William Barr met at least twice with Italian intelligence officials in Rome on Friday as part of the Department of Justice’s investigation into the origins of the Obama administration’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, an Italian media outlet reported Wednesday.
According to the newspaper, Barr and John Durham, the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut whom the attorney general assigned to examine the origins of the FBI’s probe into the 2016 Trump campaign, met with officials after Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, authorized the sit-down. Gennaro Vecchione, head of the DIS intelligence service, is among the officials whom Barr and Durham met with, both in August and this month, reports say.
“I respect and take notice of what is reported in the media but if I have to make things clear I will do it exclusively in the appropriate forums. On the rest, no comment”, said Vecchione in a statement.
The Guardian UK reports:
The scope of Barr’s investigation in Rome was to find out whether Italy had played a role in the so-called Russiagate affair, whether secret documents had been obtained and, in particular, to collate information on Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who allegedly told Trump’s former campaign aide George Papadopoulos in 2016 that the Kremlin was in possession of thousands of emails that revealed “dirt” about Hillary Clinton that could help Trump’s campaign.
Papadopoulos later served a jail sentence for lying to the FBI about the claims that Mifsud, who has been missing since October 2017, was the source of his information on Russia. Papadopoulos also said, without evidence, that Mifsud was an agent of the Italian secret service who had sought to entrap him. Barr was reportedly also trying to find out whether Italian secret service agents had helped Mifsud to find a safe hiding place.
Though U.S. officials in Italy could not confirm the meeting, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Durham was in contact with foreign countries as part of his review. Kupec said:
As the Department of Justice has previously announced, a team led by US attorney John Durham is investigating the origins of the US counter-intelligence probe of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Mr Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries. At attorney general Barr’s request, the president has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the attorney general and Mr Durham to appropriate officials.
The report comes after the New York Times revealed Barr asked President Donald Trump to request Australian prime minister Scott Morrison assist with sourcing information regarding the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into now-debunked collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
Morrison’s office has confirmed the report, saying in a statement that it is committed to assisting the Trump administration with its request for information about the Mueller probe.
The statement read:
The Australian government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation. The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the president.
President Trump has repeatedly criticized the Russia probe as a “witch hunt” and “presidential harassment.”