FBI agents working for special counsel Robert Mueller allegedly detained a lawyer with ties to Russia who is closely associated with Joseph Mifsud, the shadowy professor who claimed during the election that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
The revelation was made in a book co-written by that lawyer, Stephan Roh, and set to be published next month. “The Faking of RUSSIA-GATE: The Papadopoulos Case” is the latest in a stream of books aiming to capitalize on the chaos of this political moment. But it sheds new light on the expansive nature of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Moscow. It also highlights Mueller’s interest in answering one of the probe’s biggest outstanding questions: whether the campaign knew in advance that Russia planned to interfere in the election.
Mifsud is one of several key figures among a complicated cast of characters shaping the Russia probe. In the spring of 2016, Mifsud told a young Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to the special counsel’s statement of the offense against Papadopoulos, who was indicted for misleading federal agents about his conversations with Mifsud. Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee months earlier, and would soon break into Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s inbox. It is still not clear how Mifsud seemed to know in advance that Russia sought to compromise Clinton’s candidacy.
The lawyer allegedly questioned by Mueller’s team, Stephan Roh, is a German multimillionaire with ties to Russia. He hired Mifsud as a “business-development consultant” in 2015, and is Mifsud’s “partner and best friend” and “the money behind him,” Papadopoulos’s wife, Simona Mangiante, who worked for Mifsud briefly, told me. Roh’s wife is Olga Roh, a Russian fashion designer who appeared on the British reality TV show Meet the Russians. He’s also in the nuclear-energy business: He acquired a small British nuclear consulting firm from scientist Dr. John Harbottle in 2005, according to the BBC, and invited Harbottle on an all-expenses paid trip to Moscow shortly thereafter, Harbottle told the outlet. Harbottle declined the offer because he “smelt a rat,” he said, and was then fired. Within three years, Severnvale Nuclear Services’ turnover went from under $100,000 to $44 million, per the BBC.
Roh intersected with Mifsud at two institutions: the now-defunct London Academy of Diplomacy and Link Campus University, a private institution in Rome that Roh co-owns, and where Mifsud taught briefly. In April 2016, Mifsud and Roh spoke on a panel together at the Kremlin-backed Valdai Club—a think tank that is close to President Vladimir Putin and hosts him every year for a keynote address. The club is described in the book as “one of the most influential Russian think tanks in Moscow, maybe even the most prestigious.”
Roh and his co-author Thierry Pastor, who also knows Mifsud, write in the book that, upon arriving in New York City with his family in October 2017, “one of the co-authors” was “fished from the passport control” line at John F. Kennedy airport while his family “was retained with armed police force.” (Photos posted by Roh’s wife on social media in October 2017 suggest she was visiting New York in late October.) He was then interrogated for “hours,” they write, by “a team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigating Russia-Gate.” The book alleges that he and his family were then “observed, followed, and taped, at every moment and every place in New York” by the FBI and that his family was assigned to “special rooms at the hotel” while security personnel “patrolled the corridors.”