Sen. Chuck Grassley pressed the Pentagon’s internal think tank, the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), on Thursday for details about its relationship with Stefan Halper, the former professor who served as a confidential source for the FBI during its probe of the Trump campaign.
“When I began to review Stefan Halper’s contracting work for ONA, something didn’t look right,” Grassley, the president pro tempore, said in a speech on the Senate floor.
Grassley began asking ONA in 2019 to explain its relationship with Halper, a former University of Cambridge professor who worked alongside the former head of MI6 at the storied British college.
Grassley’s inquiry spurred the Defense Department’s inspector general to audit Halper’s work for ONA, which produces reports about long-term military strategy in hotspots across the globe.
Records uncovered by The Daily Caller News Foundation in March 2018 showed that ONA paid Halper more than $1 million from 2012 through 2017, a period which spanned Halper’s undercover work for the FBI.
During the 2016 campaign, an FBI confidential human source identified as Halper met with and secretly recorded Trump campaign aides Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis.
Halper contacted Papadopoulos in September 2016 with an offer to fly the Trump aide to London and to pay him $3,000 to write a report on energy issues in the Middle East.
Papadopoulos and some supporters of President Trump have questioned whether ONA’s payments to Halper were used as cover for his work for the FBI. No evidence has been produced to confirm that theory, but the Trump supporters have noted the similarities between Halper’s offer to Papadopoulos and other research projects Halper did for ONA. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: A London Meeting Before The Election Aroused George Papadopoulos’s Suspicions)
Grassley has asked ONA whether it was aware of Halper’s work for the FBI.
The Iowa Republican also asked for information about Halper’s interactions with Vyacheslav Trubnikov, the former head of Russia’s SVR, the successor to the KGB.
Halper cited Trubnikov’s work in at least one report he conducted for ONA. He also hosted Trubnikov at least twice at intelligence seminars that Halper convened at the University of Cambridge.
Halper mentioned his relationship with Trubnikov during one of his meetings with Papadopoulos in London.
Another prominent figure in the Trump-Russia affair dropped Trubnikov’s name during a meeting prior to the election. According to notes from State Department official Kathleen Kavalec, former British spy Christopher Steele mentioned Trubnikov to her during a meeting on Oct. 11, 2016 regarding Steele’s investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Kavalec wrote Trubnikov’s name next to the word “source” in the notes, suggesting that Steele somehow acquired information from the former Kremlin spy chief.
Grassley said that the inspector general found that ONA did not require Halper, a veteran of three Republican presidential administrations, to submit evidence regarding who he spoke to for his reports. He also said that the IG found that ONA did not maintain “sufficient documentation” regarding Halper’s research.
Grassley proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would cut ONA’s annual budget to $10 million, and require greater oversight of the organization.
“Right now, ONA lacks leadership and discipline. It has wasted tens of millions of dollars over the years,” Grassley said Thursday.
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