Stefan Halper, the Cambridge professor who allegedly told the FBI a false story to dirty up then-Trump adviser Michael Flynn, seemed keenly aware of Flynn’s impending downfall in January 2017, according to a recently released recording.
Halper predicted Flynn’s departure from the position of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser just two days before a leak of classified information set in motion a chain of events that cost the retired three-star Army general his job and continues to this day with Flynn’s turbulent legal saga.
Halper’s comments suggested insider knowledge of what was about to unfold, according to Cambridge Ph.D. candidate Steven Schrage, who recently released the recording of Halper that he said was made on Jan. 10, 2017, when Halper was supervising his doctoral work.
In the one-minute audio clip, it appears Halper was cautioning Schrage, former think tank national security scholar and congressional aide, against joining the National Security Council (NSC), which Flynn was slated to lead upon Trump’s inauguration.
“If you go in the NSC, you have to consider very carefully if you feel it’s appropriate for you to work for Flynn [crosstalk]. I don’t think Flynn’s going to be around long. I mean, that’s just my guess, but the way these things work, you inevitably find yourself at odds with someone—I mean, you always do, probably lots of people—and when your opponents, so-called enemies, when people oppose you are looking for ways of exerting pressure, they go to people they know you’re at odds with.
“And that’s how it builds and then eventually you get squeezed pretty hard. … But Flynn’s reaction to that is to blow up and get angry. He’s really [expletive], I mean [crosstalk], I don’t know where he goes from there, but that is his reaction. That’s why he’s so unsuitable.”
Halper’s comments came at a time when Flynn had already been hammered for months by negative media coverage that coincided with his joining the Trump team. None of it, however, rose to the point of dissuading Trump from appointing him to the NSC.
That changed, starting on Jan. 12, 2017, when The Washington Post ran a column by David Ignatius, which suggested that Flynn violated the Logan Act in his December 2016 calls with then Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.
The Logan Act is a 1799 law that prohibits private citizens from conducting diplomacy with foreign nations without White House approval. Not only are there questions about its constitutionality, but the law has never been applied to the incoming administration of a president-elect. In fact, nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted under it.
Based on documents released over the past several months, the FBI was investigating Flynn in 2016 for supposed links to Russia as part of a wide-ranging probe into alleged Trump–Russia collusion.
But agents came up empty-handed and, on Jan. 4, 2017, drafted a memo to close the Flynn case.
FBI top brass intervened at the last minute to keep the case open as they “considered opening a new criminal investigation based solely on a potential violation of the Logan Act” by Flynn, the DOJ said in a May 6 court document (pdf).
Even though the Department of Justice (DOJ) made clear to the FBI that a Logan Act violation wouldn’t fly in court, the bureau kept the case open and even sent agents to the White House to interview Flynn without notifying White House counsel or the DOJ.
Flynn at first didn’t accurately portray his calls with Kislyak to the Trump team, which led to the incoming Vice President Mike Pence providing inaccurate information during an interview. That’s why Flynn was fired in February 2017, Trump said.
His firing came after DOJ officials informed the administration that Flynn also portrayed the calls inaccurately during the FBI interview.
Around the same time, anonymous sources were spreading stories to the media alleging Flynn had an affair with a suspicious Russian woman. The woman was a Cambridge scholar of Russian origin named Svetlana Lokhova, who denied the claim and accused Halper of spreading the false story. She said she had met Flynn just once, at a 2014 formal dinner organized by the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar, which was at the time co-convened by Halper.
The tale was also passed to the FBI by one of its “established” informants, one FBI document says. The name of the informant was redacted. Halper had been a longtime informant for the bureau.
It isn’t clear why Schrage is releasing the Halper tape now. While he told Fox News he found it a few weeks ago, in a recent article, he said he had been recording his sessions with Halper since 2015 and that he was looking into Halper’s role in the Russia investigation since 2018.
Attempts by The Epoch Times to reach Schrage for comment were unsuccessful.
Flynn, who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration, eventually pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI. In January, he moved to withdraw the plea, saying he was misled and pressured into it.
In May, the DOJ moved to dismiss the case after a review uncovered documents suggesting the FBI questioned Flynn solely to elicit false statements from him, rather than for a legitimate investigative purpose.
District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presides over the case, has refused to accept the dismissal and appointed former Judge John Gleeson to argue against the dismissal. Flynn’s lawyers, led by former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, are trying to get the District of Columbia appeals court to make Sullivan accept the dismissal. A hearing in the case was scheduled for Aug. 11.