- FBI emails released by Judicial Watch show that officials had concerns with a story published in March 2017 about former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
- “This has gotten too deep,” one FBI investigator wrote to Peter Strzok.
- The investigator was responding to a report from The Guardian that U.S. and British intelligence officials had concerns about Flynn’s interactions with a Russian-British woman in 2014.
FBI investigators expressed concern in early 2017 over the publication of a story that suggested Michael Flynn was the target of a Russian honeytrap operation, with one agent saying after the story was published that “this has gotten too deep.”
Peter Strzok, the deputy chief of FBI counterintelligence, also weighed in on the story, which appeared in the Guardian on March 31, 2017.
“WTF is this,” Strzok wrote after receiving the article, according to emails published by Judicial Watch.
“Not great,” he wrote of the story in another email.
The Guardian story said that U.S. intelligence officials “had serious concerns” about Flynn’s appointment as national security adviser because of contacts he had with Russians, including Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-British researcher at the University of Cambridge.
Flynn met Lokhova during a visit to the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar in February 2014, when he served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
The Guardian also reported, citing anonymous sources, that U.S. and British intelligence officials “discussed Flynn’s ‘worrisome’ behaviour” well before he was appointed national security adviser.
The emails released by Judicial Watch show that an investigator in the FBI’s Washington Field Office emailed Strzok with apparent concerns about the story. (RELATED: Secret FBI Source Provided Information On Michael Flynn Visit To UK)
“Im [sic] you are tracking, but this has gotten too deep,” the investigator wrote Strzok on April 3, 2017.
“I wasn’t. WTF is this,” Strzok replied.
He forwarded the exchange to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, writing: “Not great.”
The emails suggest that FBI agents either doubted the claims in the Guardian report or were worried that the information became public. There is some evidence that the FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the rumors about Flynn and Lokhova and found nothing to substantiate the claims.
A memo from the Washington Field Office dated Jan. 4, 2017, said that an FBI confidential human source claimed they saw Flynn leave an event with a Russian woman when he served as director of DIA. Investigators looked into the allegation, according to the memo, but it appears that they did not find any evidence to corroborate the claim.
The memo recommended the FBI close an open counterintelligence investigation that was opened on Flynn in August 2016.
Lokhova has vehemently denied having any improper contact with Flynn, writing in her book that she is collateral damage in a smear campaign aimed at the retired Army general. A DIA official who was with Flynn at the Cambridge event has told reporters that he saw nothing that alarmed him during the visit.
The Guardian story was not the first to float uncorroborated rumors about Flynn and Lokhova. The Wall Street Journal reported in mid-March 2017 that intelligence officials scrutinized Flynn’s visit to Cambridge.
Unidentified sources shared the rumor with several other high-profile Washington journalists, including at The New York Times and Washington Post.
It remains unclear who passed the Flynn-Lokhova rumor to the FBI or to journalists.
Stefan Halper, who served as a source for the FBI in the Trump-Russia probe, served as a co-convener of the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. He met with and secretly recorded Carter Page and Trump aide George Papadopoulos.
Halper is not believed to have been at the event Flynn attended, though his co-conveners, Sir Richard Dearlove and Christopher Andrew, were photographed with Flynn at the seminar.
Christopher Steele, the dossier author, was also aware of rumors regarding Flynn. David Kramer, a former State Department official, told Congress in December 2017 that Steele told him in December 2016 that Flynn had an affair with a Russian-British woman in the U.K.
“There was one thing he mentioned to me that is not included here, and that is he believed that Mr. Flynn had an extramarital affair with a Russian woman in the U.K.,” Kramer told the House Intelligence Committee on Dec. 17, 2017.
The FBI offered to pay Steele during a meeting on Oct. 3, 2016 to dig up dirt on Flynn and other Trump campaign associates.
Though FBI investigators appear to have had doubts about the Flynn allegation, the bureau did not intervene to correct the stories that appeared in the media.
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