Joseph Mifsud, an elusive professor considered a missing link between President Trump’s election campaign and Russia, may have died during the course of being sought in connection with Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 race, attorneys for the Democratic National Committee claimed Friday.
One of more than a dozen defendants named in a lawsuit filed by the DNC in April, Mr. Milfsud “is missing and may be deceased,” attorneys for the committee wrote in a status report filed in Manhattan federal court.
“Plaintiff continues to monitor news sources for any indicia of Mifsud’s whereabouts and will attempt service on Mifsud if and when he is found alive,” said a corresponding footnote.
“The DNC’s counsel has attempted to serve Mifsud for months and has been unable to locate or contact him,” added DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson. “In addition, public reports have said he has disappeared and hasn’t been seen for months,” she said in a statement sent to The Hill following Friday’s filing.
Russian state-sponsored hackers breached the DNC’s computer network and other Democratic targets during the 2016 race and stole emails and other documents later released by outlets including the WikiLeaks website and a pseudonymous internet persona known as Guccifer 2.0, according to U.S. federal law enforcement and intelligence officials.
Separate from the Department of Justice investigating the hacks as part of its probe into alleged Russian election interference, DNC attorneys sued Mr. Mifsud along with a cast of co-defendants including the Russian government and WikiLeaks, as well as members of the Trump campaign accused of colluding with either prior to the president’s victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, recently admitted in a separate criminal case that Mr. Mifsud contacted him months prior to the release of the stolen material and told him that Russians had obtained “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” He pleaded guilty last year to having lied to FBI investigators about his contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries during the race, and on Friday he was sentenced to serve two-weeks behind bars.
“The defendant’s lies undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the Professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States. The government understands that the Professor left the United States on February 11, 2017 and he has not returned to the United States since then,” special counsel Robert Mueller said of Papadopoulos in a court document last month.
In addition to Papadopoulos, the special counsel’s office has brought criminal charges against more than 30 other people since Mr. Mueller, a former FBI director, was appointed to investigate the race on behalf of the Justice Department last May, including more than a dozen suspected Russian state-sponsored hackers and other members of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.
Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 race, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly decried Mr. Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt.”