Spygate gets an irresistible story element: a femme fatale

We are in the midst of a battle of rival narratives.  The GOP narrative is that the Obama administration horrifyingly mobilized law enforcement and intelligence resources to spy on a rival-party presidential campaign and presidency.  The Democrats' narrative is that William Barr is a liar who ought to be impeached and everything done to the Trump campaign was somehow justified.

The GOP's narrative just got an essential element in mystery tales: a femme fatale.  In what is a transparent attempt to "get ahead of the story" and thereby minimize the impact of revelations about to become public, the New York Times described how a female operative — a home-grown Mata Hari — was sent to England, posing as the research assistant of Cambridge Professor Stefan Halper (a longtime CIA and FBI operative) to flirt with and question George Papadopoulos on Trump campaign activities, including possible collaboration with Russia.


The original Mata Hari (photo credit).

The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. But she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant, according to people familiar with the operation. The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.

The American government’s affiliation with the woman, who said her name was Azra Turk, is one previously unreported detail of an operation that has become a political flash point in the face of accusations by President Trump and his allies that American law enforcement and intelligence officials spied on his campaign to undermine his electoral chances. Last year, he called it “Spygate.”

Ms. Turk went to London to help oversee the politically sensitive operation, working alongside a longtime informant, the Cambridge professor Stefan A. Halper. The move was a sign that the bureau wanted in place a trained investigator for a layer of oversight, as well as someone who could gather information for or serve as a credible witness in any potential prosecution that emerged from the case.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Mr. Halper, Robert D. Luskin. Last year, Bill Priestap, then the bureau’s top counterintelligence agent who was deeply involved in the Russia inquiry, told Congress during a closed-door hearing that there was no F.B.I. conspiracy against Mr. Trump or his campaign.

So far, we don't know the real name of Azra Turk and have no idea what she looks like.  Papadopoulos thinks she was working for the CIA, while the Times claims that it was the FBI.  Either way, we, the taxpayers financed her travel and presumably paid for her services.

Mysteries are the perfect way to hype a story — especially a spy story.  My guess is that the coup-plotters' Mata Hari is comely, but I expect that any pictures we eventually see will have her looking as dowdy as possible.  Perhaps even now, pictures of her are being scrubbed energetically from the internet, lest there be any glam shots out there.

We are in the midst of a battle of rival narratives.  The GOP narrative is that the Obama administration horrifyingly mobilized law enforcement and intelligence resources to spy on a rival-party presidential campaign and presidency.  The Democrats' narrative is that William Barr is a liar who ought to be impeached and everything done to the Trump campaign was somehow justified.

The GOP's narrative just got an essential element in mystery tales: a femme fatale.  In what is a transparent attempt to "get ahead of the story" and thereby minimize the impact of revelations about to become public, the New York Times described how a female operative — a home-grown Mata Hari — was sent to England, posing as the research assistant of Cambridge Professor Stefan Halper (a longtime CIA and FBI operative) to flirt with and question George Papadopoulos on Trump campaign activities, including possible collaboration with Russia.


The original Mata Hari (photo credit).

The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. But she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant, according to people familiar with the operation. The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.

The American government’s affiliation with the woman, who said her name was Azra Turk, is one previously unreported detail of an operation that has become a political flash point in the face of accusations by President Trump and his allies that American law enforcement and intelligence officials spied on his campaign to undermine his electoral chances. Last year, he called it “Spygate.”

Ms. Turk went to London to help oversee the politically sensitive operation, working alongside a longtime informant, the Cambridge professor Stefan A. Halper. The move was a sign that the bureau wanted in place a trained investigator for a layer of oversight, as well as someone who could gather information for or serve as a credible witness in any potential prosecution that emerged from the case.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Mr. Halper, Robert D. Luskin. Last year, Bill Priestap, then the bureau’s top counterintelligence agent who was deeply involved in the Russia inquiry, told Congress during a closed-door hearing that there was no F.B.I. conspiracy against Mr. Trump or his campaign.

So far, we don't know the real name of Azra Turk and have no idea what she looks like.  Papadopoulos thinks she was working for the CIA, while the Times claims that it was the FBI.  Either way, we, the taxpayers financed her travel and presumably paid for her services.

Mysteries are the perfect way to hype a story — especially a spy story.  My guess is that the coup-plotters' Mata Hari is comely, but I expect that any pictures we eventually see will have her looking as dowdy as possible.  Perhaps even now, pictures of her are being scrubbed energetically from the internet, lest there be any glam shots out there.