Current and former government officials leaked details identifying a spy in President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign even though the Justice Department warned that revealing the spy’s identity would endanger his or her life and compromise national security.
The Washington Post described the spy as a retired American professor and a “longtime U.S. intelligence source,” according to “people familiar with his activities.”
The spy “engaged in a months-long pattern of seeking out and meeting three different Trump campaign officials,” and, in September 2016, “reached out to George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign-policy adviser for the [Trump] campaign, inviting him to London to work on a research paper.”
The New York Times went even further, describing the spy as “well known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations.”
The article further details that the spy “inquired about [Papadopoulos’s] interest in writing a research paper on a disputed gas field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea” and “offered a $3,000 honorarium for the paper and a paid trip to London.”
While neither article named the spy, citing concerns for his safety, their descriptions are so specific they overwhelmingly imply a single conclusion, when put in context to other reporting on the subject.
A March 25 Daily Caller article details how Papadopoulos was contacted by and met with an American professor “with connections to the CIA and its British counterpart, MI6.”
The article further stated the academic is “a veteran of three Republican administrations” and in September 2016 “offered the Trump aide $3,000 to write a policy paper on issues related to Turkey, Cyprus, Israel and the Leviathan natural gas field” and offered “to pay for Papadopoulos’s flight and a three-night stay in London.”
While it’s unlikely Papadopoulos was contacted in the same month by scores of intelligence-linked, Republican administration-serving American academics offering $3,000 and a London trip for a Mediterranean gas field paper, the Daily Beast article offers one important fact—the man’s name is Stefan Halper.
The spy seems to be connected to the FBI’s official rationale for starting an investigation into the ties between officials from the Trump campaign and Russia.
“The professor’s interactions with Trump advisers began a few weeks before the opening of the investigation,” the Washington Post article says.
Trump alleges political motives behind the investigation.
“If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal. Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!” he said on Twitter on Saturday, May 19.
If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal. Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2018
An unofficial explanation for the start of the probe was leaked by anonymous American officials to the New York Times for an article published on Dec. 30 last year. The newspaper reported that Australians had passed intelligence to the FBI in July 2016 about a drunken conversation between Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and the top Australian diplomat in Britain, Alexander Downer.
A May 16 New York Times story described the contacts between Washington and Canberra as “tense deliberations.”
But no Australian or American official has confirmed the Times reports on record. Chairman of House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes found that the FBI did not put forth any electronic communication records between Australian intelligence agencies and their American counterparts to substantiate its investigation.
This has led Nunes to dig for the ultimate reason for the start of the Russia probe. The Justice Department (DOJ) stonewalled Nunes’ attempts at oversight even under the threat of contempt charges and impeachment.
The substance of Nunes’ request dealt with a top-secret intelligence source—a specific individual, DOJ argued.
“Disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities,” stated a May 3 letter to Nunes from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd.
The department finally relented during a meeting last week and agreed to discuss the matter at a later date.
According to court documents, Papadopoulos spoke to a person in Britain who claimed to have connections to the Russian government. The New York Times revealed that the person is London-based Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud.
Mifsud told Papadopoulos in April 2016 about Russians having “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including thousands of emails. Weeks later Papadopoulos told the story to Downer. How intelligence about that conversation made its way to the FBI is still unclear.
The truth could be revealed in the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General’s report expected to be released this month.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.
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