The FBI used four informants and “a few” undercover agents against Trump campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, according to the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
The FBI told the OIG it was snooping on Page and Papadopoulos because of their contacts with Russia.
But the FBI also had one of the informants reach out to a high-level Trump campaign official who wasn’t investigated. That official appears to have been Sam Clovis.
The informant has been identified by The Epoch Times and others as Cambridge professor Stefan Halper.
All conversations that Halper had with Page, Papadopoulos, and Clovis were monitored by the FBI, the OIG said.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz made the revelations in a Dec. 9 report on his review of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant taken out by the FBI against Page, and other aspects of the related FBI investigation.
The FBI officially opened a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane,” on July 31, 2016. The stated aim was “to determine whether individuals associated with the … Campaign were coordinating or cooperating, wittingly or unwittingly, with the Russian government to influence or interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections.”
Unlike criminal investigations, counterintelligence investigations don’t require any allegation of a crime.
In the following weeks, top FBI officials assembled a small team and opened individual cases on Trump campaign aides Page, Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
The FISA warrant on Page was obtained in October 2016, was renewed three times, and lasted well into 2017.
Horowitz concluded that the warrant contained “at least 17 significant errors or omissions,” saying the errors and other failures constituted “serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents.”
The report describes Halper as a source both long-term and problematic.
The FBI ditched him in 2011 for “aggressiveness toward handling agents as a result of what [Halper] perceived as not enough compensation” and “questionable allegiance to the [intelligence] targets” with whom he maintained contact.
Two months later, however, Halper was recruited back.
His new handler, who later joined the Crossfire Hurricane team, called Halper “mercurial” but said he was kicked out because the previous handler was “not the right match” for Halper.
Since then, Halper hadn’t been aggressive, and there weren’t any indications of “questionable allegiances to intelligence targets” either, the handler told the OIG.
Halper could hardly complain about “not enough compensation” then. Between 2012 and 2017, he was paid more than $1 million by a secretive Defense Department think tank for several papers that prompted a whistleblower to raise red flags about who the think tank was spending its money on and for what purpose.
The handler told the OIG that he initially had approached Halper to only learn basic issues about political campaigns, since Halper has been affiliated with political campaigns since the 1970s.
The agent said it was a coincidence that Halper happened to have met with Page two months earlier, and that he also knew Flynn and Manafort.
“The Crossfire Hurricane team ‘couldn’t believe [their] luck’ that Source 2 had contacts with three of their four subjects,” the agent said.
The FBI tasked Halper to engage Page and Papadopoulos and try to coax out of them whether the campaign was colluding with Moscow.
Halper talked to both multiple times.
In one conversation, he asked Page whether the campaign was planning an “October Surprise”—a bombshell revelation shortly before the election capable of swaying the result.
Page responded that there may be one.
When the topic came up later, Page mentioned “the conspiracy theory about … the next email dump with … 33 thousand” additional emails, but didn’t further explain what he meant.
“Well, the Russians have all that, don’t they?” Halper asked, to which Page responded, “I don’t, I—I don’t know.”
The agent told the OIG that Page’s comment “piqued our interest because it seemed like that he knew of something, but he wasn’t 100 percent sure and was just kind of alluding to something, but he didn’t really give much more information to it.”
It isn’t clear what specifically Page was talking about. But a “conspiracy theory about … 33 thousand” Clinton emails possibly being released by Russia has been a matter of public record since May 6, 2016, when it was claimed by a blogger and then injected into the mainstream on May 9, 2016, when former Judge Andrew Napolitano aired the unsubstantiated rumor on Fox News.
When talking about the WikiLeaks release of emails stolen in 2016 from the Democratic National Committee, Page said, “we were not on the front lines of this DNC thing,” and asked whether the campaign should leave it to the “other forces that be” and let it “run its course,” with the Trump campaign “egg[ing] it along a little bit.”
Halper recommended that “it needs to be done very delicately and with no fingerprints.”
In another conversation, after Page left the campaign, he told Halper he wanted to set up a think tank that would offer a less “hawkish” perspective on Russia and expressed some confidence that Russia would be willing to fund it.
“But that has its pros and cons, right?” Page later said, according to a partial transcript provided by the FBI to the IG.
The OIG said the funding remark brought the supervising special agent with the Crossfire Hurricane team “closer to believing that Carter Page may actually be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”
It isn’t clear how the agent came to such a conclusion. To become an “agent of a foreign power,” an American has to engage in “clandestine intelligence” activities, assume false identity on behalf of a foreign power, or engage in sabotage or international terrorism, according to the FISA.
Running a think tank, even funded by Russia, wouldn’t qualify.
Papadopoulos told Halper multiple times that the campaign had nothing to do with the Russian election interference. But the denials were excluded from the Page FISA warrant.
Another FBI informant, who wasn’t identified, talked to Papadopoulos multiple times after he left the campaign. Another two informants were supposed to talk to Papadopoulos too, but “those attempted contacts did not lead to any operational activity,” the OIG report says.
The report also says that at least one FBI informant worked directly in the Trump campaign, but his handler didn’t learn about it until the source had already left the campaign.
In an email to the handler, the Crossfire Hurricane team said they wanted to use the informant as “a passive listening post regarding any observations [he/she] has of the campaign so far,” but wouldn’t task the source directly.
Trump campaign officials weren’t given a defensive briefing that would have warned them about potential Russian infiltration of their campaign. They were only given unclassified “counterintelligence awareness” briefings. The Crossfire Hurricane team acknowledged they used one of the briefings to snoop on Flynn.