Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte punctured Attorney General Bill Barr’s global dirt-digging mission, reportedly telling him that Italy did not play a role in the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.
“Our intelligence is completely unrelated to the so-called Russiagate and that has been made clear,” he also said.
Barr met with Italian intelligence officials in Rome twice in recent months – once on Aug. 15, and another time on Sept. 27.
He traveled there as part of an investigation being conducted by U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham into the origins of the Russia probe. The Italian thread of the investigation appears to be based on self-serving speculation from Trump campaign coffee boy George Papadopoulos, who has claimed that he was entrapped by unnamed Western intelligence agencies.
Papadopoulos – a foreign policy buff – made his name in 2016 by hearing from Maltese professor Josef Mifsud that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton, before promptly (and drunkenly) telling Australia’s top diplomat to the U.K. about the revelation. That information made its way to the FBI, and Papadopoulos has come to allege that Mifsud was, in fact, a Western plant.
Conte told reporters that the first, August meeting “was meant to decide the extent of the collaboration,” but that his government told Barr in September “that our intelligence is unrelated to the affair.”
“This extraneousness has been acknowledged,” he added. Conte also told reporters that Barr had asked Rome to “verify the operations of American agents.”
“His question was to verify what the American intelligence did,” Conte reportedly added, while saying that “the meetings were fully legal, correct and didn’t remotely harm our national interests.”
Conte went on to suggest that he felt some pressure in acceding to Barr’s requests for meetings.
“If we had refused to sit around a table we would have damaged our intelligence operations and it would have been serious disloyalty and discourtesy to our historic allies,” he said.