On his first day in Downing Street Boris Johnson has been drawn into the Russian election interference scandal across the Atlantic.
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller was shown a poster-sized image of the new Prime Minister with a Maltese academic accused of being a Russian agent in Washington today.
Republican Representative Devin Nunes asked Mr Mueller: ‘What we’re trying to figure out here Mr. Mueller, is if our NATO allies or Boris Johnson have been compromised.’
‘Russian agent’ Joseph Mifsud (left), then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (centre) and businessman Prasenjit Kumar Singh at a fundraising dinner in October 2017 – at the time Mr Mifsud has already been named in the FBI’s investigation
Devin Nunes asked Robert Mueller: ‘What we’re trying to figure out here Mr. Mueller, is if our NATO allies or Boris Johnson have been compromised’
Today Mueller said he could not ‘get into internal deliberations’ over Mr Mifsud’s role or the origins of the investigation
At the time, the Foreign Office told the Guardian Mr Johnson had never met Mr Mifsud, later altering their statement to ‘never knowingly met’ when the image surfaced.
The Observer further claimed to have seen bombshell emails in which Mr Mifsud was telling a colleague he would be ‘meeting Boris Johnson for dinner re Brexit’ – referring to the event at which the picture was taken.
The FBI came under fire at the time for apparently not warning its UK intelligence allies of Mr Mifsud’s alleged threat.
There were grave fears in parliament that the Russians had also interfered in the Brexit referendum.
Mr Johnson was questioned by the foreign affairs select committee at Westminster over links between the Kremlin and Brexit at the time. He said he had seen no evidence to substantiate a claim of Russian interference in the referendum.
Today American politicians zeroed in on Mr Mifsud as ‘the guy who starts it all.’
He is believed to have made Trump’s team an offer – through George Papadopolous – of ‘dirt’ the Russians had in thousands of Hillary Clinton emails.
Papadopolous served 12 days in prison last year for lying to FBI investigators.
When Mr Mifsud’s name first surfaced in connection Mueller’s investigation, he denied discussing emails with Papadopoulos or having any connection to Russia.
Last year his lawyer told AP that the allegations against him amounted to ‘defamatory departing music.’
In 2000, Mifsud left his post at the University of Malta over claims of ‘financial mismanagement.’ He resurfaced seven years later at Slovenia’s Euro-Mediterranean University.
And most recently – when he met with Papadopolous – Mr Mifsud was working at the now de-funct London Academy of Diplomacy.
President Donald Trump has slammed the investigation against him as a ‘hoax’ – his former aide George Papadopolous served 12 days in prison for lying to the FBI after Papadopolous spoke with Mr Mifsud during the campaign
Mr Johnson entering Downing Street this evening, while his name was being mentioned at a bombshell Capitol Hill testimony on Russian espionage
The third man in the picture of Mr Johnson and Mr Mifsud, businessman Prasenjit Kumar Singh, told the Observer three years ago that Mr Mifsud was a Brexit expert.
Mr Singh told the paper: ‘He is a very good speaker and he’s had a lot of seminars about Brexit at the academy.’
Today Mueller said he could not ‘get into internal deliberations’ over Mr Mifsud’s role or the origins of the investigation.
Mueller’s nationally televised appearance on Capitol Hill was long anticipated as a potential watershed moment in the Trump presidency.
Mr Trump and his fellow Republicans unleashed a barrage of tweets and statements that continued a routine pattern of attacks.
‘The last three hours have been an epic embarrassment for the Democrats. Expect more of the same in the second half,’ said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham at the midway point of the hearings.
As Mr Johnson named his new cabinet, a poster-sized image of him was brought into Mr Mueller’s testimony
Trump in recent days had claimed that he would not watch much, if any, of the back-to-back hearings.
Though the probe did not result in charges of criminal conspiracy or obstruction, there has been growing concern among those close to the president that Mueller’s appearance could push undecided or reluctant Democrats toward impeachment.
But at least early on, the president’s allies seemed happy with the results.
Kellyanne Conway, senior counsellor to the president, tweeted ‘Drop the Mic’ over a video clip of Mueller reading from his opening statement that ‘The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its election interference activities.’