Days after Carter Page’s high-profile trip to Moscow in July 2016, the Trump campaign adviser had his first encounter with Stefan Halper, a University of Cambridge professor with CIA and MI6 contacts.
The conversation seemed innocent enough, Page tells The Daily Caller News Foundation. He recalls nothing of substance being discussed other than Halper’s passing mention that he knew then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But the interaction was one of many that the pair would have over the next 14 months, through a period of time when Page was under the watchful eye of the U.S. government.
Their relationship included a number of in-person meetings, including at Halper’s farm in Virginia.
Page’s encounters with Halper were quite different from those that another Trump campaign adviser had during the campaign with the 73-year-old academic. As TheDCNF reported exclusively in March, Halper and George Papadopoulos met several times over a period of a few days in Sept. 2016. Several days earlier, Halper contacted and met with a third Trump campaign official. That official, who has requested anonymity, told TheDCNF that Halper expressed interest in helping the campaign.
Unlike with Page, Halper’s relationship with Papadopoulos was ostensibly more of a business arrangement than a fledgling friendship.
Halper, a veteran of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, unsolicitedly contacted Papadopoulos on Sept. 2 with an offer to fly the Trump associate to London for several nights to discuss a policy paper about energy issues in Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. Papadopoulos, who has worked on energy issues at various think tanks, accepted the offer and flew to London.
Papadopoulos and Halper met several times during that stay, having dinner one night at the Travellers Club, an Old London gentleman’s club frequented by international diplomats. They were accompanied by Halper’s assistant, a Turkish woman named Azra Turk. Sources familiar with Papadopoulos’s claims about his trip say Turk flirted with him during their encounters and later on in email exchanges.
Papadopoulos wrote the paper and delivered it in early October. He was paid $3,000 for the work. Days before making that payment, Halper had finalized a contract with the Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon’s think tank. Federal records show that Halper has been paid $928,800 since 2012 for work on four policy projects for the Pentagon. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: A London Meeting Before The Election Aroused George Papadopoulos’s Suspicions)
Halper’s contacts with Page and Papadopoulos are significant because they are two of four Trump associates who were targets of an FBI counterintelligence investigation nicknamed “Crossfire Hurricane.” Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn were the other two.
The investigation melded exactly one year ago on Thursday with the probe being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Page has said he is not a target of that investigation, while Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interactions with another professor, Joseph Mifsud.
The New York Times published an extensive report on Wednesday detailing the origin of “Crossfire Hurricane,” which was formally opened on July 31, 2016.
The probe was opened based on a tip from Alexander Downer, the Australian High Commissioner to the U.K. Downer said that in May 2016, Papadopoulos told him during a conversation in London about Russians having Clinton emails.
That information was passed to other Australian government officials before making its way to U.S. officials. FBI agents flew to London a day after “Crossfire Hurricane” started in order to interview Downer.
It is still not known what Downer says about his interaction with Papadopoulos, which TheDCNF is told occurred around May 10, 2016.
About two weeks before that, Papadopoulos met in London with Mifsud. Papadopoulos has told the special counsel that during their conversations, Mifsud claimed to have learned that the Russian government had Clinton emails.
Emails were also brought up during Papadopoulos’s meetings with Halper, though not by the Trump associate, according to sources familiar with his version of events. The sources say that during conversation, Halper randomly brought up Russians and emails. Papadopoulos has told people close to him that he grew suspicious of Halper because of the remark.
The Times’ Wednesday report included a major bombshell: Current and former government officials told the newspaper that “at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos.” (RELATED: Report: Government Informant Spied On Two Trump Campaign Aides)
That detail matches up with a May 8 report from The Washington Post that an American citizen who has been a longtime FBI and CIA source has provided information about the Trump campaign that is now in the hands of the special counsel’s office.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has asked the Department of Justice for documents related to the source, but the agency has claimed that providing the information would put the source’s life at risk. Revealing information about the source would also jeopardize relationships with foreign intelligence services, the DOJ has argued. (RELATED: Secret Source Who Aided Mueller Probe Is Deemed Off Limits To Congress)
Whether Halper is that source has been a subject of some speculation over the past week, with Halper’s name being floated by TV and radio pundits as well as Internet sleuths. Congressional investigators have refused to confirm or deny whether he is. The FBI declined comment when asked about The Times’ reporting about the informant. But current and former government officials have told TheDCNF that he is a person of significant importance to the investigation, though they have not said whether he is a source for the FBI or CIA.
Whoever the source turns out to be, the fact that the FBI had an informant spying on the Trump campaign is likely to generate bitter partisan debate. Democrats will likely defend the maneuver on the grants that Trump aides’ activities warranted surveillance. Republicans have already started to point out that the use of informants undercuts Democrats’ denials that the government surveilled members of the Trump campaign.
Page’s relationship with Halper tracks closely with the period when the Trump adviser was under heavy scrutiny from the federal government.
By the time he joined the campaign in March 2016, Page was already known to the FBI, though not because of any criminal activity. FBI agents interviewed him in 2013 as part of an investigation into a Russian spy ring operating in New York. Page said he met with one of the Russians and provided him with academic papers he had written.
The FBI put Page back on its radar at around the time he joined the Trump campaign. In late-spring 2016, top government officials, including then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and then-FBI Director James Comey, discussed whether to alert the Trump campaign to Page’s past interactions with the Russian spy ring. But government officials decided against providing the information.
Page’s visit to Moscow, where he spoke at the New Economic School on July 8, 2016, is said to have piqued the FBI’s interest even further. Page and Halper spoke on the sidelines of an election-themed symposium held at Cambridge days later. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6 and a close colleague of Halper’s, spoke at the event.
Page was invited to the event in June by a University of Cambridge doctoral candidate.
Page would enter the media spotlight in September 2016 after Yahoo! News reported that the FBI was investigating whether he met with two Kremlin insiders during that Moscow trip.
It would later be revealed that the Yahoo! article was based on unverified information from Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier regarding the Trump campaign. Steele’s report, which was funded by Democrats, also claimed Page worked with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on the collusion conspiracy.
Page and Manafort have vehemently denied the allegations, with both men saying they don’t know each other.
The FBI and DOJ would cite the dossier and the Yahoo! article in an application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Page. The spy warrant was granted on Oct. 21, 2016, weeks after Page left the Trump team. The warrant would be renewed three times, in January, April and June. It expired in Sept. 2017, at around the time that Page and Halper fell out of contact. Page did not describe his final contacts with Halper. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: In Private, Papadopoulos Denies Collusion)
Halper has links to the CIA stretching back decades. His late father-in-law was Ray Cline, a CIA legend who served as director of the agency’s bureau of intelligence and research. Halper also worked with a team of former CIA officers on George H.W. Bush’s unsuccessful 1980 presidential primary bid.
Halper was reportedly in charge of a team of former CIA analysts who kept tabs on the Jimmy Carter campaign.
At Cambridge, Halper has worked closely with Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. In recent years they have directed the Cambridge Security Initiative, a non-profit intelligence consulting group that lists “UK and US government agencies” among its clients.
In Dec. 2016, both Halper and Dearlove threatened to resign from the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar because of what Halper said was “unacceptable Russian influence on the group.”
Halper has not responded to numerous requests for comment. A man answered a phone call placed to Halper’s number in March but denied that he was the professor. Azra Turk, the woman who accompanied Halper during his meetings with Papadopoulos, recently shut down her phone service.
Correction: This article initially referred to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation as “Hurricane Crossfire.” It is named “Crossfire Hurricane.”