A top-secret CIA and FBI source who spied on two Trump campaign advisers and initiated contact with a third was all but outed Friday night.
The New York Times and The Washington Post provided a detailed description of the source in articles published Friday night, but did not identify him by name, citing concerns about his physical safety.
But the reports match up exactly with a Cambridge University professor first described in a Daily Caller News Foundation report from March. That professor, Stefan Halper, contacted Trump advisers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis during the 2016 campaign.
President Donald Trump commented Friday on the existence of an informant, who he asserted was “implanted” on the campaign “for political purposes.”
“Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story. If true — all time biggest political scandal!”
Democrats, liberal pundits and some news outlets blasted Trump’s statement, saying there was no evidence that the FBI planted a spy inside the campaign. He was also accused of coordinating with House Republicans to expose the identity of the source, who has long provided information to the FBI and CIA. The source has also provided information for the Russia investigation both before and after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment on May 17, 2017.
But instead of a GOP-orchestrated exposure, it appears that Halper was essentially outed through leaks from the Justice Department or FBI.
The use of an informant is sure to raise questions on Capitol Hill as well as with Trump supporters. It remains unclear when Halper began conducting surveillance on the Trump team, whether he was paid, and whether he was directed by the FBI, CIA or both.
What exactly prompted the surveillance campaign is also a mystery. Page had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013 when he cooperated with the FBI for its investigation of a Russian spy ring in New York City. One of the Russian operatives met with Page. Page shared some of his academic research with the operative, and said nothing of substance was exchanged.
Page and Papadopoulos joined the campaign together on March 21, 2016. Weeks later, top officials at the FBI and Justice Department considered whether to warn the Trump campaign about Page because of the Russian spy ring case as well as about Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who is now indicted over his lobbying work for a Ukrainian political party.
Then-FBI Director James Comey and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch decided against briefing the Trump team, according to a recent report from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. U.S. officials did not want to offer the warnings for fear of alerting any Russian agents that were circling around the Trump associates, according to various reports.
The government appears instead to have opted for old-fashioned human-on-human spying.
Halper, a veteran of three Republican administrations, first made contact with Page in mid-July 2016 at a conference held at Cambridge. They stayed in regular contact for the next 14 months, Page told TheDCNF
Page also made multiple visits to Halper’s farm in Virginia. The pair also met in Washington, D.C. and maintained contact through email.
Page told TheDCNF that he did not believe at the time of their encounters that Halper was keeping tabs on him. But Page did say that during their first meeting at the Cambridge conference, Halper said that he had known then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort for years. And during an encounter later in the summer, Page and Halper discussed a letter that then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had sent to the FBI accusing Page of being a Russian agent.
Page said he recalled that Halper rolled his eyes at the suggestion.
Contact between Halper and Page ended in September 2017, around the time a surveillance warrant that had been taken out against Page was set to expire.
Halper, 73, reached out to Clovis and Papadopoulos within days of each other in August and September 2016.
He reached out to Clovis first, offering to provide the campaign with foreign policy advice. Halper, who worked in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan White Houses, is a well regarded foreign policy expert. He and Clovis met for coffee on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1. That was their only meeting, although Halper sent Clovis a note congratulating him after Trump’s election win.
As TheDCNF reported back in March, Halper contacted Papadopoulos through email on Sept. 2, 2016, offering to fly him to London to discuss writing a policy paper about energy issues in Turkey, Israel and Cyprus. Halper offered to pay $3,000 for the paper.
Papadopoulos made the trip and had dinner multiple times with Halper and a Turkish woman described as his assistant. Sources familiar with Papadopoulos’s version of their meetings said Halper randomly asked Papadopoulos whether he knew about Democratic National Committee emails that had been hacked and leaked by Russians.
Papadopoulos strongly denied the allegation, sources familiar with his version of the exchange have told TheDCNF. Halper grew agitated and pressed Papadopoulos on the topic. Papadopoulos believes that Halper was recording him during some of their interactions, sources said.
Halper’s assistant, who is named Azra Turk, brought up Russians and emails over drinks with Papadopoulos. Turk also flirted heavily with Papadopoulos and attempted to meet him in Chicago, where he lives, a source told TheDCNF.
Turk recently shut down her phone. Halper has not responded to numerous requests for comment over the past two months. The FBI, Justice Department and CIA declined comment for this article.
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with another professor who discussed Clinton emails. On April 26, 2016, a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud told Papadopoulos during a meeting in London that he had learned that the Russian government had access to Clinton emails.
Two weeks later, on May 10, 2016, Papadopoulos met at a London wine room with Alexander Downer, the Australian High Commissioner to the U.K. An Australian diplomat named Erika Thompson introduced Papadopoulos to Downer. An Israeli diplomat named Christian Cantor introduced Papadopoulos to Thompson.
Downer reportedly told the FBI that Papadopoulos mentioned stolen Clinton emails during that meeting. That information was what the FBI claims sparked the opening of a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. That investigation, nicknamed “Crossfire Hurricane,” started on July 31, 2016.
Halper is not a prominent public figure, but he is well known in foreign policy circles. Some information about his links to CIA and MI6 as well as the British intelligence service is available in the public domain. He is the son-in-law of Ray Cline, a legendary CIA officer who was the agency’s top analyst during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Halper also served on former President George H.W. Bush’s failed 1980 presidential campaign. He worked with a team of former CIA officers on an opposition research team. Halper would go to work on the Reagan campaign. There he was involved in a small scandal called Debategate, in which a small cadre of Reagan aides obtained debate notes from former President Jimmy Carter. Halper denied wrongdoing.
In recent years, Halper has worked closely with Sir Richard Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. They are both partners at the Cambridge Security Initiative, an intelligence consulting group that lists “UK and US government agencies” among its clients.
Halper and Dearlove were in the news in December 2016 when they threatened to resign from the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar over what they said were pervasive Russian ties.