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Michael Flynn Shot Down ‘Ridiculous’ Allegations Of Improper Contact With Russian Academic That Were Floated By Intelligence Operatives

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • Government documents released this month provide new details about allegations fed to the FBI and media suggesting that Michael Flynn had improper contacts with a Russian academic in the U.K. 
  • Flynn told the special counsel’s office that reports about his interactions with the academic, Svetlana Lokhova, were ‘ridiculous,’ according to a summary of an interview with Flynn. 
  • A confidential source had provided allegations about Flynn and Lokhova to the FBI in 2016. Uncorroborated stories about them appeared in the media in early 2017. 

Michael Flynn vehemently denied in an interview with the special counsel’s office that he had improper contacts with a Russian-British graduate student when he was an intelligence official in the Obama administration, as had been alleged in news reports and by at least one confidential FBI source.

“Ridiculous,” Flynn told the special counsel’s office in a Nov. 29, 2017, interview when asked about articles about him and Svetlana Lokhova, a researcher at the University of Cambridge.

Innuendo-laden allegations about Flynn and Lokhova floated around U.S. and British intelligence circles before being published in news stories in March 2017. Former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous Trump dossier, told an associate that he believed that Flynn had an extramarital affair with Lokhova.

At least one confidential government source told the FBI that they had suspicions about Flynn and Lokhova, who studied Soviet-era espionage at Cambridge. According to an FBI memo from Jan. 4, 2017, the FBI informant claimed that Flynn and Lokhova left together following a dinner hosted by Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6.

The allegations about Flynn and Lokhova remained within the intelligence and law enforcement community until March 2017, when The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian reported that American and British intelligence officials developed concerns about Flynn’s interactions with Lokhova during a visit Flynn made to Cambridge on Feb. 28, 2014.

Lokhova has long denied have an improper relationship with Flynn, who was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency when he visited Cambridge. She has said in interviews and written in her memoir that she was picked up from the Cambridge event by her husband, and did not leave with Flynn.

Flynn’s denial, which has not previously been reported, is significant because he provided it as part of his cooperation with the special counsel’s office. He struck a plea deal with the special counsel’s office two days after the interview.

“FLYNN did not have any other interaction with her during that trip, or on any other occasion. After the dinner, FLYNN walked back to the school’s hotel,” read notes from the interview, which were published this month.

“FLYNN read the reports in the media about his interactions with [redacted] and thought they were ridiculous.”

Flynn and Lokhova’s denials are also bolstered by statements made an FBI agent who investigated Flynn as part of Crossfire Hurricane, the counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign.

William Barnett, the FBI agent, wrote in a memo on Jan. 4, 2017, that a tip that the bureau received from an FBI informant about Flynn leaving an event with a Russian national was likely inaccurate.

Barnett told a federal prosecutor in an interview in September 2020 that he found the allegation about Flynn leaving the Cambridge event with Lokhova to be “not plausible.”

“With nothing to corroborate the story, BARNETT thought the information was not accurate,” reads a summary of Barnett’s interview with prosecutors.

Barnett’s denial has raised questions in the mind of Lokhova and others about how a confidential FBI informant came to provide false information to the bureau, and how it ended up in the media. (RELATED: Secret FBI Source Provided Information On Michael Flynn Visit To UK)

The circle of people at the University of Cambridge during Flynn’s visit is small.

Richard Dearlove, the former chief of MI6, and Cambridge professor Christopher Andrew hosted Flynn at the Cambridge event, which was part of what’s known as the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar.

Flynn spoke at a forum at the college before attending a dinner with Dearlove, Andrew and a group of Cambridge students, including Lokhova.

Sir Richard Dearlove (L), Prof. Christopher Andrew (center), and then-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn (R), at Cambridge University, Feb. 28, 2014. (Photo courtesy Svetlana Lokhova)

Lokhova, a British citizen born in Moscow, studied Soviet-era espionage under Andrew, who is considered a leading expert on MI5, the domestic intelligence service for the U.K.

Stefan Halper, a longtime Republican operative who taught at Cambridge, was a co-convener with Dearlove and Andrew of the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. Lokhova has said that Halper was not at the event attended by Flynn.

Halper had been a confidential human source for the FBI since 2008, and provided information to the bureau as part of the investigation of the Trump campaign. He met with and secretly recorded at least three Trump campaign advisers, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis.

Halper told his FBI handler, Steven Somma, about Flynn and someone he deemed to be suspicious, according to other government documents released this month.

Somma, an FBI counterintelligence agent who worked on the Trump probe, told investigators with the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that he discussed Flynn with Halper.

Somma said that his source had called him about someone who interacted with Flynn who he thought was suspicious.

“So Flynn has come up…with the source in the past,” Somma told the Senate panel, according to a transcript of the deposition.

“He met Flynn at a professional event and he called me about an individual who he thought was suspicious to kind of be in front of.”

Somma did not identify the person Halper was suspicious of, but Lokhova believes it is her based on other information that has been revealed in the Flynn investigation.

Somma told Senate investigators that the conversation, which he believed occurred in 2012 or 2013, was the only one he had about Flynn with Halper.

“Then I didn’t hear Flynn until we spoke to him, but he just he knew the circle of individuals as we had that discussion the first time with him of who was in the campaign’s orbit as foreign policy advisors.”

Though Halper seemingly told Somma that he harbored suspicions about Lokhova, Halper invited Lokhova to a dinner at his apartment in early 2016, according to emails viewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: Cambridge Academic Reflects On Interactions With ‘Spygate’ Figure)

Christopher Andrew, the Cambridge professor and mentor to Lokhova, passed the invitation to Lokhova on behalf of Halper, and asked her to keep her calendar open for dinner on Feb. 13 or Feb. 20, 2016.

Lokhova has long wondered if Halper’s invitation was part of an intelligence-gathering operation.

She told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the invitation to dinner came “out of the blue,” and that she had a sour professional relationship with Halper when they were both at Cambridge.

Christopher Steele’s apparent awareness of a rumor about Flynn and Lokhova has also proved intriguing.

David Kramer, a former State Department official, told the House Intelligence Committee that Steele told him in December 2016 that he believed that Flynn had an affair with a Russian 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 testified about Steele in December 2017.

Christopher Steele in London (VICTORIA JONES/GETTY IMAGES)

Christopher Steele in London (VICTORIA JONES/GETTY IMAGES)

Kramer was the person who provided a copy of Steele’s infamous dossier to BuzzFeed News.

It is unclear how Steele came by the information about Flynn, but he has longstanding ties to Richard Dearlove, stretching back to their days at MI6.

While Steele was investigating the Trump campaign in 2016, he reportedly met with Dearlove to discuss how he should handle information contained in his infamous dossier about Donald Trump. It is unclear whether the pair ever discussed Flynn. Neither has responded to requests for comment on the issue.

A Justice Department inspector general’s report released on Dec. 9, 2019 said that FBI agents who met with Steele on Oct. 3, 2016, offered to pay the former spy “significantly” to dig up dirt on several Trump associates, including Flynn.

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