Key Questions Raised by New Spy Revelation Ahead of Horowitz Report

May 3, 2019 Updated: May 8, 2019

News Analysis

The latest leak to The New York Times on May 3 revealed that yet another FBI informant, Azra Turk, had targeted George Papadopoulos, an aide to then-candidate Donald J. Trump’s campaign.

Turk, whose name is fake—her real name is still unknown—claimed she was a research assistant wanting to meet with Papadopoulos to talk about foreign policy. In reality, she was a government investigator sent to London by the FBI to gather intelligence about whether the Trump campaign was working with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.

Turk appears to have flirted with Papadopoulos, sending him emails after their meeting saying it was the “highlight” of her trip to London and that she was “excited about what the future holds for us.”

It’s been alleged that Papadopoulos told Australian diplomat to the United Kingdom, Alexander Downer, about Russia having emails belonging to Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos, however, has denied the claim, asserting that he doesn’t remember sharing the rumor with Downer. This alleged relaying of gossip was seemingly enough for the U.S. government under the Obama administration to send informants to try to entrap Trump campaign officials.

One is left pondering: How many FBI informants were run against Trump’s people? Were there other “honey traps,” such as Turk, sent to flirt with and extract information from Trump aides in the hope of using the information to continue to justify their spying?

We know that this wasn’t the first informant, nor the last, given that Turk was also accompanied by longtime FBI informant and University of Cambridge professor Stefan Halper while attempting to essentially entrap Papadopoulos. It also can’t be forgotten that Halper reached out to more Trump campaign aides along the way too, such as Carter Page and Sam Clovis. Those attempts reek of entrapment as well.

In light of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s forthcoming report, there are other key questions: Have any of these informants worn wires? If so, which ones and when? How often does the FBI run informants at political campaigns using “academics”? Or, how about spies posing as “assistants”?

Moreover, did the FBI investigate Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, based on his prior attendance at a dinner conference at the University of Cambridge in England, when Flynn was the defense intelligence agency director?

A Russian academic named Svetlana Lokhova also happened to be in attendance at these events—which Halper helped organize with several other people, including former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove.

Unlike Turk, however, Lokhova wasn’t a “honey trap.” But the fact that she was a mere Russian academic in attendance with Flynn in 2014 was enough for the FBI to exploit her, as evidenced by Halper’s reaching out to her years later.

Halper reached out to Lokhova in early 2016, shortly after it was reported that Flynn was an adviser on Trump’s campaign. He invited her to a private dinner party, according to an email she provided to Fox News.

“It was very, very unusual because Stefan Halper and I, despite being part of the same group, and meeting pretty much in a public forum, we’ve had no personal contact at all. [Halper] to me was an obnoxious academic who absolutely hated all Russians,” she told the outlet.

Flynn resigned as Trump’s national security adviser on Feb. 13, 2017.

A month later, The Wall Street Journal published an article about Flynn and Lokhova’s meeting in 2014, framing it as a scandal. As Lokhova told Fox, “I believe that General Flynn was targeted and I was used to do it.”

This raises the question of whether Flynn was targeted, using that 2014 dinner as a pretext and whether Lokhova was exploited to do it? And was this all orchestrated by Halper?

And finally, but most importantly, when did the investigation into the Trump campaign really begin? Was it in 2016 or did it begin in 2015, and under what basis? Was there more than mere circumstantial evidence to warrant the opening of a counterintelligence investigation?

As Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) alluded to in April in an interview on “America First” with Sebastian Gorka, “The DOJ and FBI claiming they opened up a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in late July 2016 was a lie. … It most likely started in late 2015.”

Flynn didn’t join the Trump campaign until late February 2016. If what Nunes said is correct, that the Trump campaign was targeted in late 2015, then the FBI and the DOJ were likely spying not on an associate of the campaign, but on Trump himself.

Nick Short received his bachelor’s in criminology and criminal justice from Northern Arizona University. His work has been published by Tablet Magazine, The Federalist, Conservative Review, and Security Studies Group, and on his own website, PoliticallyShort.com