Stefan Halper’s Role in Crossfire Hurricane More Significant Than Previously Known

Stefan Halper’s Role in Crossfire Hurricane More Significant Than Previously Known
The Federal Bureau of Investigation seal at its headquarters in Washington on June 14, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Jeff Carlson
News Analysis
Newly released FBI documents shed light on two meetings between FBI agent Stephen Somma and FBI source Stefan Halper, providing further insight into the broad scope of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign—and the active role played by Halper, who acted as a confidential human source (CHS) for the FBI.
Although Halper was not considered an official CHS for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation prior to these meetings, Somma had known Halper since 2011, according to the Department of Justice inspector general’s (IG) report on FISA abuse. Additionally, Somma had served as Halper’s handler from “2011 through 2016” as part of Somma’s “regular investigative activities.”
Stefan Halper.
Stefan Halper.
The FBI’s meetings with Halper on Aug. 11 and 12, 2016, were done at the proposal of Somma, who said he “lacked a basic understanding” of political campaigns. Somma said that he selected Halper because he knew that Halper had been “affiliated with national political campaigns since the early 1970s” and “might have information about, and potentially may have met, one or more of the Crossfire Hurricane subjects”—Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos and Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
Somma said he didn’t initially tell Halper that there was already an open FBI investigation or who the subjects were, nor, he told the IG, did he tell Halper about the conversation between Papadopoulos and Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, which was the FBI’s claimed reason for opening Crossfire Hurricane.

Somma was proven to be prophetic, as Halper already had direct knowledge of two of the three people considered subjects of Crossfire Hurricane, and would later fashion a meeting in London with Papadopoulos, the one person he didn’t already know. Halper also managed a meeting with Sam Clovis from the Trump campaign.

Additionally, based on the FBI documents obtained by Just The News, it appears that Halper was responsible for pushing retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as a “person of interest” to the FBI with what appears to have been a false story that the FBI failed to immediately verify—and then later failed to correct, as the story gained traction in the media during a crucial period of the Trump presidency.
The IG report notes that the FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane “without identifying any specific subjects or targets” because, as they told the IG, “it was unclear from the FFG [Friendly Foreign Government/Downer] information who within the Trump campaign may have received the reported offer of assistance and might be coordinating, wittingly or unwittingly, with the Russian government.”
According to the IG report, by Aug. 10, 2016, the FBI had assembled a team of “special agents, analysts, and supervisory special agents” and had “conducted an initial analysis of links between Trump campaign members and Russia.” Based upon this analysis, the FBI made the decision to open counterintelligence Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) cases “under the Crossfire Hurricane umbrella” on three individuals—Papadopoulos, Page, and Manafort. Flynn wasn’t considered to be part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation at that time.
The opening of the FARA cases against the three members of the Trump campaign took place on the day prior to the FBI’s meetings with Halper. Notably, it wasn’t until after the FBI’s meetings with Halper, where he provided the FBI with what now appears to be a false story on Flynn, that the FBI decided to open a fourth FARA case on Flynn on Aug. 16, 2016.

Halper’s Fortuitous Meetings With Carter Page

Somma told Halper during their meeting, according to the IG report, that the FBI team was “assigned to a project” concerning Russian interference in the presidential campaign and asked Halper if he knew of Papadopoulos. Although Halper had no direct knowledge of Papadopoulos, he agreed to work with the FBI “to collect assessment information on Papadopoulos and potentially conduct an operation.”
Halper then volunteered unsolicited information on three other affiliated members of the Trump campaign.

According to the FBI documents, Halper asked Somma if the FBI had an interest in Page—whose name hadn’t been mentioned in the documents to that point. Halper’s seemingly innocuous query turned out to be serendipitous and timely for both parties. Halper had recently met Page during two separate meetings—one in the UK and the other at Halper’s office. Meanwhile, the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Page months earlier, in April 2016, out of its New York Field Office (NYFO).

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Page had been invited to a July 2016 symposium held at the University of Cambridge regarding the upcoming election by Stephen Schrage, a former State Department official who advised Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. Notably, Schrage had also “studied for a Ph.D. under Halper,” according to The Daily Caller. Schrage has denied knowing of Halper’s role as an FBI source and told the publication that Halper “used his position of power to keep me silent and stretch out my research as well as having me research things to support his activities.”
The speakers list of the symposium was impressive, including Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. secretary of state, Vin Weber, a Republican Party strategist and former congressman, and Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s MI6 as well as the former boss of former agent Christopher Steel who would author the controversial “Steele dossier” on Donald Trump and his campaign.
Dearlove was described as an important figure to Halper by Schrage, who said, “Halper seemed to put Dearlove on a pedestal, and he seemed to be the most important person to him at Cambridge.”
In addition to his affiliation with Halper and his participation as a speaker at the July 2016 Cambridge symposium that Page and Halper attended, Dearlove also met with Steele and his business partner, Chris Burrows. According to The Washington Post, he advised them to work with a top British government official to pass along information from Steele’s dossier to the FBI in the fall of 2016.

Page attended the event just days after completing a speaking engagement in Moscow, and it was during this time in the UK that he first encountered Halper. Page’s Moscow trip would later figure prominently in the Steele dossier.

According to The Daily Caller, “Page has said he spoke to most of the attendees and had conversations with Halper. Nobody from Hillary Clinton’s campaign appeared at the event.” Halper would stay in contact with Page for the next 14 months, severing ties exactly as the final FISA warrant on Page expired.
Halper had a second meeting with Page on July 18, 2016, this time at Halper’s office, where Page asked Halper if he would be interested in becoming a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign. Given Halper’s extensive background and lengthy involvement with various administrations dating back to the 1970s, this request doesn’t appear particularly unexpected, particularly in light of their recent Cambridge meeting.
This second meeting between Halper and Page took place one day prior to a July 19, 2016, memo in the Steele dossier that claimed Page had held “secret meetings in Moscow'' with Igor Sechin, the head of oil giant Rosneft, and senior Russian official Igor Divyekin. Page would be contacted one week later, on July 26, 2016, by a Wall Street Journal reporter who inquired whether Page had met with Sechin and Divyekin.
Halper was noncommittal with Page but informed the FBI he had no intention of joining the campaign. Following a short discussion with the FBI, Halper said he “was willing to assist with the ongoing investigation and to not notify the Trump campaign about [his] decision not to join.” Somma later told the IG that “using [Halper] outside of the campaign, the Crossfire Hurricane team could find ‘smart ways, and quiet ways to get information that we can corroborate.’”
Halper maintained his noncommittal stance with Page in future meetings after agreeing to continue a dialogue with Page on the matter “for the benefit of the FBI,” according to the FBI documents.

FBI’s NYFO Opens Early Investigation Into Page

Meanwhile, according to the IG report, “Page had been on NYFO’s radar since 2009, when he had contact with a known Russian intelligence officer.” He had also been interviewed by the FBI on March 2, 2016, in relation to an ongoing case against this same Russian officer—a case in which Page was providing assistance.
When the FBI concluded its March 2, 2016, interview of Page, the interviewing agent “discussed with her supervisor opening a counterintelligence case on Page based on his statement to Russian officials that he believed he was Male-1 in the indictment and his continued contact with Russian intelligence officers.”
On April 6, 2016, The FBI’s NYFO “opened a counterintelligence [redacted—likely ‘espionage’] investigation on Carter Page.” Despite Page’s role within the Trump campaign, the investigation wasn’t designated as a sensitive investigative matter.
According to the IG report, “there was limited investigative activity” into Page by the NYFO until the “Crossfire Hurricane team’s opening of its own investigation of Page on August 10.” At that point, Page’s investigation was transferred from the NYFO and folded into the one just opened by the Crossfire Hurricane team that was now investigating the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, in the week or so prior to the meeting with Halper—and the opening of the FARA investigations into Page, Papadopoulos, and Manafort—the Crossfire Hurricane team began to ask for information on Page from the NYFO. On Aug. 10, 2016, the day before his meeting with Halper, Somma received “an attachment titled ‘Carter Page-Profile,’ which had been prepared by a Crossfire Hurricane Staff Operations Specialist.”
Former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign George Papadopoulos. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign George Papadopoulos. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The profile, which was dated Aug. 1, 2016, quoted the 2009 electronic communication regarding Page’s “statements to the FBI about his contact with the other U.S. government agency.” This information regarding Page’s work with another federal agency, likely the CIA, might have exonerated Page immediately.

The IG stated in his report, “We did not find any electronic communications indicating that the FBI provided OI [Office of Intelligence] with this Carter Page profile.”

Nor was it provided to the FISA court in the FBI’s FISA requests on Page.

On Aug.15, 2016, three days after the FBI’s second meeting with Halper, Somma emailed a “written summary on Carter Page to the OGC Unit Chief,” believing that the information in his email was sufficient to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Page. The IG Report notes that the FBI looked at obtaining FISAs on Papadopoulos and Page, but were initially rejected on both fronts:
“The Crossfire Hurricane team initially considered seeking FISA surveillance of Papadopoulos as a result of his statement to the FFG and of Page based upon information the FBI had collected about his prior and more recent contacts with known and suspected Russian intelligence officers, as well as Page’s financial, political, and business ties to the Russian government. Officials determined there was an insufficient basis to proceed with a FISA application concerning Papadopoulos, and the Crossfire Hurricane team never submitted a FISA application for Papadopoulos.
“With regard to Page, on August 15, 2016, the Crossfire Hurricane team requested assistance from the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to prepare a FISA application for submission to the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]. However, after consultation between FBI OGC and attorneys in the Office of Intelligence (OI) in the Department’s National Security Division (NSD), which is responsible for preparing FISA applications and appearing before the FISC, the Crossfire Hurricane team was told in late August 2016 that more information was needed to establish probable cause for a FISA on Page.” In addition to the profile containing the information on Page, the IG report notes that on or about Aug. 17, 2016, the Crossfire Hurricane team received a memorandum from “the other U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Carter Page, including that Page had been approved as an operational contact for the other agency from 2008 to 2013 and information that Page had provided to the other agency concerning Page’s prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers.”
The IG report also notes that neither the Aug. 17, 2016, notification, nor the Aug. 10, 2016, profile was included in the FISA application on Page or subsequent renewals of the spy warrant. Nor does it appear to have been included in the original FISA request that Somma made on Aug. 15 that was denied on Aug. 22, 2016, for insufficient information.
In addition to Page, Halper told the FBI during their August meetings that he had known Manafort for “over 30 years and had worked with him on several political campaigns. Halper offered to reach out to Manafort but noted that Manafort would almost be too busy to meet at that point in the campaign. Manafort, already facing troubles for his activities in Ukraine, would resign from the Trump campaign a week later, on Aug. 19, 2016.

Halper ‘Pushes’ Flynn Into FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Probe

According to the newly released FBI documents, Halper told the FBI on Aug. 11, 2016, of an incident that he claimed took place between Flynn and Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-born British citizen, at an event at the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar in 2014.

According to the document, Halper claimed that Flynn left the university dinner with Lokhova and that she “joined [Flynn] on the train ride to London. Halper told the FBI that he was ‘somewhat suspicious of Lokhova as she has been affiliated with several prominent members of [redacted]’ and that he believed her father “may be a Russian oligarch living in London.”

The FBI would later discover this story was almost certainly false and Special Agent William Barnett, the lead agent in the Flynn investigation, later noted in an investigative memo that he “found the idea FLYNN could leave an event, either by himself or [redacted] without the matter being noted as not plausible.” The matter was investigated but “with nothing to corroborate the story, BARNETT thought the information was not accurate.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, departs the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse following a pre-sentencing hearing on July 10, 2018. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, departs the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse following a pre-sentencing hearing on July 10, 2018. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Halper had taught at Cambridge and co-founded the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar with Dearlove, whom Halper has reportedly known since 2004, along with Christopher Andrews, the official MI5 historian. All three men contributed in various ways to breathing false life into the Flynn–Lokhova story. Halper did so through his tales to the FBI, while Dearlove, according to The Washington Post, was “disconcerted by the attention the then-DIA chief showed to a Russian-born graduate student.”
Andrews, a one-time mentor to Lokhova, wrote of Flynn’s firing in Feb. 2017 and suggested involvement with a Russian student.
In March 2017, a month after Andrews’s op-ed, versions of this story were published by The Wall Street Journal and the Guardian. The entirety of Halper’s tale to the FBI has been vigorously contested by both Flynn and Lokhova and their denials have been backed by witness accounts. According to The Daily Caller, “Dan O’Brien, a Defense Intelligence Agency official who accompanied Flynn to the Cambridge event, told The WSJ he saw nothing untoward involving Lokhova. Lokhova’s partner, David North, has told The Daily Caller that he picked Lokhova up after the event.”
Additionally, Halper’s presence at the Cambridge dinner has been disputed. Lokhova has repeatedly stated that Halper wasn’t at the dinner where the incident supposedly took place. Schrage, the former State Department official who “studied for a Ph.D. under Halper,” has also stated that Halper wasn’t present at that particular function.
Although the story seems to be one that could quickly be disproven, the FBI appeared to initially accept Halper’s story at face value. Following their meeting with Halper, the FBI began a formal investigation into Flynn, opening a FARA investigation on Aug. 16. Just one day later, the Trump campaign received a briefing by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on foreign threats. The FBI also participated in the meeting. The IG report notes that the meeting was attended by FBI agent Joe Pientka—primarily because Flynn was also in attendance.

The meeting was seen by the FBI as an opportunity to gain information for its investigations.

It seems that Halper’s fortuitous familiarity with individuals the FBI was concurrently looking into made an impression on Somma, who later told IG Michael Horowitz that “quite honestly ... we kind of stumbled upon [Halper] knowing these folks.” Somma said that “it was ‘serendipitous’ and that the Crossfire Hurricane team ‘couldn’t believe [their] luck’ that Source 2 had contacts with three of their four subjects, including Carter Page.”

Somma’s comments regarding the FBI’s “four subjects” are particularly worth noting as it doesn’t appear that Flynn was a subject of Crossfire Hurricane—or perhaps even directly on the FBI’s radar—until after the FBI had its meeting with Halper.