Stefan Halper and the origins of the FBI counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign

The true story of how senior officials in the FBI and intelligence community conspired to spy on the Trump campaign and presidency on suspicion of nefarious dealings with Russia is starting to emerge, and with it, the possible role of a shadowy figure: Stefan Halper.  The counterintelligence investigation at the FBI was officially launched, as Sundance notes: 

On July 31st, 2016 [as] the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation against the Trump campaign. They did not inform congress until March 2017. •At the beginning of August (1st-3rd) 2016 FBI Agent Peter Strzok traveled to London, England for interviews with UK intelligence officials.

We have no explicit information about whom Strzok met with in London immediately after the investigation was launched, but given what follows below, it seems quite likely that Stefan Halper was on his agenda and that generating a plan to ensnare unwitting dupes into incriminating-looking behavior had something to do with the trip.

•On August 15th, 2016 Peter Strzok sends a text message to DOJ Lawyer Lisa Page describing the "insurance policy", needed in case Hillary Clinton were to lose the election.

But what led up to the formal opening?  An "E.C." (electronic communication) apparently "was generated by CIA Director John Brennan and passed on to FBI Director James Comey.  The EC initiated the FBI Counterintelligence Operation" and now is the subject of demands by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, as the Washington Post reported:

At one point, Nunes had threatened to impeach top Justice Department officials when they did not immediately hand over an unredacted document detailing the origin of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.  The department later gave Nunes access to a version with modest redactions, and Nunes thanked Rosenstein for his cooperation.

Still secret is the name of someone at the heart of the so-called "raw intelligence" that Brennan passed on to Comey, which resulted in the FBI counterintelligence investigation that began on the last day of July 2016, three months before the presidential election.

For the intelligence agencies, Nunes's request threatened to cross a red line of compromising sources and methods of U.S. intelligence-gathering, according to people familiar with their views.  Intelligence officials fear that providing even a redacted version of the information Nunes seeks could expose that person and damage relationships with other countries that serve as U.S. intelligence partners.

Yesterday, Clarice Feldman laid out the case that:

... there was collusion between certain members of the U.S. and British intelligence communities to spy on the Trump campaign.  This may explain, in large part, the reluctance of the Department of Justice to reveal what it knows publicly.  After all – with rare exceptions – the two countries' intelligence services have long had important information gathering and sharing agreements, and exposure of this may harm the traditional reciprocal relationship.

And that the likely suspect is shadowy Stefan Halper...

... someone who worked with U.S. and apparently British intelligence, with a record of trying to spy on lowly campaign workers and even trick them into compromising actions, a U.S. citizen with strong ties to British intelligence who lived in the U.K.: Stefan Halper, a former advisor to three Republican presidents (and therefore, had perfect cover), a Cambridge Fellow, who, as we detail, interacted with various Trump campaign workers ostensibly to assist them.  On November 3, 2016, he publicly stated that Hillary would be the best option for U.S.-U.K. relations.  It's reasonable to assume, therefore, that the "help" was not for the Trump campaign, but for Hillary

"I believe [Hillary] Clinton would be best for US-UK relations and for relations with the European Union. Clinton is well-known, deeply experienced and predictable. US-UK relations will remain steady regardless of the winner although Clinton will be less disruptive over time," Halper, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs and senior adviser to the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, said.

Here's how Halper "helped" the Trump campaign from publicly available information:

  • On July 16, 2016 he invited Carter Page to a Cambridge symposium 
  • On September 11, 2016 he met with a senior Trump official 
  • On September 13-16 he met with Papadopoulos.

Halper is a close associate of former MI6 head Richard Dearlove, who in a recent video interview, cagily refused to acknowledge the veracity of the Steele dossier.

It was previously reported that Halper had conducted a data-gathering operation to collect inside information on Jimmy Carter's foreign policy during the 1980 campaign, a charge he strongly denied. But if that charge were true, he certainly had experience in such things.

If Halper was not a person we'd consider a mole in the campaign, as he never was actually part of the campaign team – just someone trying to fish for dirt (or lure people like Page and Papadopoulos into some compromising acts) – why the weasel description in the report Nunes is examining?

Photo credit: VOA via Wikipedia.

Since the publication of Clarice's column, some fascinating information has come to light.  Twitter bloggers Jacob WohlDeplorable Lori, and Deplorable Jeff dug up public records indicating that Stefan Halper, who is said to have some sort of title connected with Cambridge University, has been receiving fat contracts from the federal government for "Research and Development in the Social Sciences and Humanities":

Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller News Foundation has uncovered some of Halper's pre-election maneuvering of a key figure in what was used to justify the FISA warrant:

Two months before the 2016 election, George Papadopoulos received a strange request for a meeting in London, one of several the young Trump adviser would be offered – and he would accept – during the presidential campaign.

The meeting request, which has not been reported until now, came from Stefan Halper, a foreign policy expert and Cambridge professor with connections to the CIA and its British counterpart, MI6.

Halper's September 2016 outreach to Papadopoulos wasn't his only contact with Trump campaign members.  The 73-year-old professor, a veteran of three Republican administrations, met with two other campaign advisers, The Daily Caller News Foundation learned.

Papadopoulos now questions Halper's motivation for contacting him, according to a source familiar with Papadopoulos's thinking.  That's not just because of the randomness of the initial inquiry but because of questions Halper is said to have asked during their face-to-face meetings in London.

According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, Halper asked Papadopoulos: "George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?"

Papadopoulos told Halper he didn't know anything about emails or Russian hacking, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.  The professor did not follow up on the line of inquiry.

Halper first contacted Papadopoulos by email.  In a Sept. 2, 2016, message sent to Papadopoulos's personal email account, he offered the Trump aide $3,000 to write a policy paper on issues related to Turkey, Cyprus, Israel and the Leviathan natural gas field.  Halper also offered to pay for Papadopoulos's flight and a three-night stay in London.

I have heard through an intermediary from a veteran D.C. foreign policy figure who described Halper as "a hanger on around D.C. conservative circles who claims he worked for Ford, Nixon, and Reagan."  In 1983, according to Leslie Gelb of the New York Times:

Stefan A. Halper, a campaign aide involved in providing 24-hour news updates and policy ideas to the traveling Reagan party, as the person in charge.  Mr. Halper, until recently deputy director of the State Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs and now chairman of the Palmer National Bank in Washington, was out of town today and could not be reached.  But Ray S. Cline, his father-in-law, a former senior Central Intelligence official, rejected the account as a ''romantic fallacy.''

Halper's father-in-law, Ray S. Cline, who recently died, was one of the most influential members of the intelligence community and was chief CIA analyst during the Cuban Missile Crisis, going on to head the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies.

My source adds that "[t]hen, with no apparent connections in the U.K., he went to Cambridge and became very left-wing."

I can't claim to know any details of Halper's compensation (if any) from Cambridge University or his responsibilities (if any) there.  But I do know that what looks like a $200,000-a-year income from the United States government would be enough to maintain an agent useful to the intelligence community in various capacities in an overseas location.

If and when President Trump starts tweeting about Halper and his role in the abuse of our intelligence apparatus to spy on and accuse his campaign and presidency of collaboration with Russia, I suggest he adopt the nickname "Shadowy Stefan Halper" for this man.