This article was originally published with Disobedient Media, and is my own intellectual property.
Disobedient Media previously reported our conversation with UK political analyst Chris Blackburn, whose research raises serious questions regarding the media's portrayal of the Maltese 'scholar,' as a central pillar of the Trump-Russia collusion scandal. This article continues the conversation between this writer and Blackburn, focusing specifically on the media response and lack thereof to the information presented by Chris in our previous report.
Disobedient Media: You have pointed out that journalists have been aware of the connections between Mifsud and Claire Smith, Pittella and others. Do you care to comment on members of establishment media who know about the pertinent facts surrounding this issue but have remained silent?
Chris Blackburn: "When the George Papadopoulos story broke back in October, The Washington Post had already been in contact with Joseph Mifsud. They had received emails between the 'professor' and the former campaign advisor to Donald Trump. The Post was also the first media organization to name Mifsud publicly. I would be interesting to know who leaked the investigation before FBI Special Agent Robert Gibbs submitted the indictment against George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI. Mueller's team is often touted as being leak free."
"In a rush, American and European journalists started digging into Joseph Mifsud. The reporting was excellent to begin with. As The Washington Post had an unfair month-long head start, they were the first to focus on Mifsud's ties to Italy, 'Mifsud helped to establish in Rome [Link Campus]with a senior Italian politician who had been implicated in a series of scandals. The university later withdrew its participation.' But they failed to elaborate on the scandals or the fact they involved Italian intelligence services. Mifsud was certainly more than a humble academic."
"The Guardian then picked it up, 'Link Campus had a reputation for being closely connected to some elements within the Italian intelligence services.' It was an understatement. Link Campus is intelligence central. It attracted foreign intelligence organizations. The CIA worked there."
"While legacy press were frothing at the mouth over a new Watergate-style scandal. I was loosely collaborating with Jon Worth, A European blogger and Brian Whitaker, the former Middle East Editor at The Guardian. Worth was blogging about Joseph Mifsud and getting way a head of the mainstream media. He created charts to show Mifsud's ties to politicians."
"I found Mifsud's link to Gianni Pittella and the Democratic National Committee on the 3rd November and tweeted it to a BBC journalist. Jon wrote 'Gianni Pittella and his 'caro amico' Joseph Mifsud' on his blog a few days later. Journalists were interested in our loose alliance because we were churning out large amounts of linkages and stories that hadn't been covered. But, the interest in Mifsud's ties to European intelligence figures began to drop off rapidly."
"Luke Harding of The Guardian wrote a profile on Simona Mangiante in January. She was connected to Gianni Pittella, George Papadopoulos, and Joseph Mifsud. He had wanted to examine the claim in Jon Worth's blogs and my research that Pittella was a fulcrum, 'She was introduced to Mifsud in about 2012 by Gianni Pittella, a well-known Italian MEP who in 2014 became president of the Socialists and Progressive Democrats group. “I always saw Mifsud with Pittella” claimed Mangiante, she also said the London Centre for International Law Practice Mifsud’s was a "facade. “I never met any Russians there … But the center certainly wasn’t what it pretended to be" Harding tries to make LCILP sound like a Russian front, 'she acknowledged to the Guardian that she might have inadvertently been sucked into a Russian intelligence plot.'"
Chris continued: "The problem is there is nothing Russian about LCILP or the London Academy of Diplomacy; both organizations have ties to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Pittella's links to the Democratic National Committee were well known to 'Mifsud scholars' in Europe, so why was Harding omitting a rather pertinent part of the story and pushing it toward Russia?"
"Harding is the author of Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and how Russia helped Donald Trump Win. He is also closely connected to Chris Steele, the former MI6 officer and editor of the infamous ' Steele dossier,' the contents of which are still being fought over and spun in US Congress."
Disobedient Media: What do you make of Buzzfeed's latest attempt to salvage the Mifsud-as-Russian-spy narrative by claiming he visited Russia just before being named (but not indicted) by Robert Mueller?
Chris Blackburn: "Alberto Nardelli of Buzzfeed has been coming up with some amazing stories. He also wrote that the Guardia di Finanza are chasing Joseph Mifsud over alleged financial crimes. What he didn't tell his readers is that Col. Cosimo di Gesu, the head of Guardia di Finanza, Italy's financial crime and anti-mafia agency, is a faculty member of Link Campus alongside Mifsud, Gianni Pittella, and Enzo Scotti." [Emphasis Added]
"Nardelli's spectacular reporting on the Italian ties of Mifsud is beginning to look rather suspect. Mifsud's former colleagues are now charged with hunting him down? It's like the Tom Clancy novel ' The Hunt for Red October', but swapping a Russian submarine for a Maltese academic."
"This new story is the same. Buzzfeed hired Anthony Ferrante, a former FBI agent who also served on the National Security Council under President Obama to look into Russiagate and the Steele dossier. Ferrante is helping Buzzfeed fend off lawsuits brought against them in London. Ferrante has been to a few conferences with Link Campus officials in the last year. Maybe they told him about the CIA and FBI training programmes at Link Campus."
Disobedient Media: "Are there any additional aspects of this story that have been reported in a particularly sloppy fashion?"
Chris Blackburn: "Simona Mangiante has become a media darling, faced with soft-ball questions when interviewed by George Stephanopoulos (ABC News) and then Ari Melber (MSNBC). More importantly, Mangiante has been interviewed by Robert Mueller's team. Her relationship with Gianni Pittella and Mifsud are highly suspect. Did she know Pittella attended the DNC presidential campaign launch for Hillary?"
Disobedient Media: Does it surprise you to see zero coverage or response to the story, despite its obvious implications and also in the face of being tweeted by Wikileaks, making ignorance seem unlikely?
Chris Blackburn: "I think it's a big leap of faith for many. I'm not shocked or alarmed. However, I've had fantastic responses from journalists and academics in private. I think Wikileaks will get a boost because Mifsud is ground zero for Russiagate. Adam Schiff, Trey Gowdy, and Devin Nunes have all said Joseph Mifsud is the start alongside the Trump Tower meting. If the collusion narrative is to be kept alive- Mifsud is the key. The media have to keep coming back to him."
Chris continued: "The lawsuit by the DNC is also focussed on Mifsud and George Papadopoulos. Journalists don't like messy stories that contradict popular narratives. They are also hostile to Donald Trump which is understandable. Unfortunately, they are only going to show their profession in poor light by misconstruing facts in this way. If Trump wasn't such a divisive figure with controversial policies, this Russiagate story would have probably failed at the first hurdle. The media, shell-shocked Democrats and former intelligence leaders (potentially involved in a smear campaign) seem to be the ones giving it oxygen to survive."
Disobedient Media: "Many of those who have consistently called attention to serious problems in the various Trump-Russia collusion and Russian hacking stories are notably not Trump supporters. The significance of this fact is that their objections are not based on ideological grounds, but come from a commitment to truth.
Disobedient Media: What does the overall manipulation of this story by the media say to you about the state of the press?
Chris Blackburn: "I think Russiagate is a unique story. It could only have happened in America. Former President Obama highlighted lobbying as the most corrosive factor in the American political system and vowed to regulate it in his second term. He got shot down by lobbyists."
"All aspects of American political life have been touched by Russiagate. It has shown blatant media bias, undeclared lobbying, money laundering, pay-for-play, law enforcement corruption, mishandling of corruption cases, leaking, manipulation it has it all."
"Journalists that are level headed and balanced are in short supply. Investigative journalism is dying in the legacy press because it is expensive, but it is being picked up by independents. That is a good sign. But how long can it be sustained."
"We live in a Wiki world now. The digital age makes it easy for anyone to check the accuracy of a story. WikiLeaks and others have shown that bad policy and actions can be exposed with ease. Julian Assange is being made to pay a heavy price. Political actors from all sides have tried to resist or outright manipulate the new reality."
"We need honest media and honest policymakers to get with the program. Democracy will die if we don't. The public has now been switched on and is hungry for information. Governments, district, and local councils are opening up by digitizing everything. Openness and accountability are becoming the new reality, realpolitik and manipulation need to be resigned to the history books. Hopefully, the fallout from Russiagate can begin to start that process."