Late last week, Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-born English citizen, sued presumed Spygate frontman Stefan Halper and three media giants—the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and MSNBC—for defamation and conspiracy, alleging the defendants falsely painted her as a Russian spy and Michael Flynn paramour in order to push the Russia collusion narrative.
Lokhova’s 66-page complaint reads more like a political shock jock transcript than a legal document: “Stefan Halper is a ratf—er and a spy, who embroiled an innocent woman in a conspiracy to undo the 2016 Presidential election and topple the President of the United States of America,” her lawsuit opened. But behind the colorful language—clearly crafted for public consumption—Lokhova’s lawsuit lays out facts that suggest spying on the Trump campaign began in early 2016 and with the aid of British intelligence.
In her lawsuit, Lokhova detailed how she first met the retired general and short-lived Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn. In January 2014, while working to complete her Ph.D. at Cambridge University, her mentor Professor Christopher M. Andrew (“Andrew”), and Sir Richard Dearlove (“Dearlove”), invited Lokhova to attend a group dinner with Flynn.
Andrew and Dearlove are connected to British intelligence, with Andrew having served as the official historian to “MI5,” the counterintelligence organization in the UK, and Dearlove having spent “decades with British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), known as MI6,” and serving as its director from 1999 to 2004.
Lokhova stated the purpose of the dinner was to promote what was to become the Cambridge Security Initiative (CSI), “a group chaired by Dearlove,” which sought “to advance education in international security and intelligence issues and to help support graduate students, such as Lokhova, while they were studying at Cambridge.” Among the 20 guests attending the February 28, 2014, dinner at Cambridge was Flynn, then President Barack Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Following the dinner, and while in the presence of the other attendees, Lokhova spoke briefly with Flynn about her research into the founding of the Soviet intelligence service. Lokhova and Flynn later exchanged emails, which the Russian scholar stressed in her complaint were always shared with Andrew, with whom she was co-authoring a book. These events later took on a surreal significance when Trump was elected president and Obama administration officials and high-level D.C. government insiders traded leaks for the legacy media’s peddling of the Russia collusion narrative.
But in Lokhova’s case, the complicity came from the United Kingdom, when her former professor, mentor, and co-author Andrew penned a February 19, 2017, piece for the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times. “I met him three years ago,” when as director of the DIA he “visited the Cambridge intelligence seminar, of which I was a convenor,” Andrew wrote of Flynn. Then, while not naming Lokhova in his article, Andrew wove words of inuendo to launch a narrative that would soon take hold: that Lokhova was a British spy and a love interest of the married Flynn.
“The most impressive quality Flynn displayed during his visit to Cambridge was his evident pleasure in engaging with some of the seminar’s talented postgraduates. He was especially struck by one bilingual postgraduate, with dual British-Russian nationality, who showed him extraordinary documents she had found in Stalin’s private papers,” Andrew wrote. “Among them was an erotic postcard sent by Stalin, then aged 34, to a friend’s 16-year-old fiancée, Pelageya Onufrieva, in 1912 while he was on the run from the tsarist political police. The card, which the British GPO would never have allowed in the post, showed a passionate embrace between two partially clothed lovers. Stalin wrote that he was sending with it ‘not just a simple kiss, but a hottttttttttt one (because there is no point kissing any other way).’”
Lokhova’s former mentor also claimed in his Sunday Times article that at the end of the Cambridge seminar, Flynn invited Lokhova “to accompany him on his next official visit to Moscow to help with simultaneous translation.” While that trip fell through, Andrew claimed “Flynn continued an – unclassified – email correspondence with her on Russian history, occasionally signing himself ‘General Misha’ – Russian for “Mike.”
In her lawsuit, Lokhova unequivocally denied Andrew’s claims, maintaining that Flynn never asked her to travel with him to Russia and stressing that she is not even a translator. She also insisted that Flynn never closed an email “Misha.” But Andrew’s credentials as the former official MI5 historian for the United Kingdom and his connection to Cambridge proved enough to prompt American newspapers to repeat the tale.
Halper, whom Lokhova alleges to be not just an FBI informant, but “actually a counterintelligence operative,” told the WSJ that the Russian historian had an affair with Flynn, according to her complaint. Lokhova also alleged that Halper, along with Andrew and the WSJ, served as sources to The Guardian’s later article that claimed “Multiple sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the CIA and FBI were discussing” Flynn’s meeting with Lokhova at Cambridge, and that U.S. and U.K. officials were troubled by Flynn’s encounter with Russian-linked Lokhova.
Lokhova’s lawsuit detailed many more publications and social media threads that she claims falsely portrayed her as a Russian spy and Flynn paramour, although in addition to Halper, she only sued three media outlets. Nonetheless, that aspect of her lawsuit provides a pristine example of intelligence agencies’ exploitation of the media to push the fake Russia collusion narrative.
Lokhova’s complaint also reveals a potentially more significant detail: that in January 2016, Andrew attempted to force a connection between Lokhova and Halper.
“On January 12, 2016, Andrew emailed Lokhova, and invited her and her partner, David North (‘North’), to Andrew’s house to have dinner with Halper and his wife,” Lokhova’s complaint alleged. While Andrew “stated the purpose of the dinner was to discuss the book that Lokhova and he were authoring,” Lokhova notes that she was perplexed by the “unexpected invitation” because Halper had never previously expressed an interest in her research. In fact, as Lokhova tells it in her complaint, Halper fell asleep during her Cambridge seminar presentations and avoided any contact with her.
Lokhova declined the dinner invitation, “alleging Halper was, in her opinion, a loathsome character with whom Lokhova did not wish to share time.” Lokhova further asserted that Halper had no interest in her research but hoped “to probe her for information relating to Flynn in the hopes that his FBI handlers might find a basis upon which to file an application to conduct and spy on General Flynn.”
But the timing of the outreach to Lokhova—and Lokhova’s allegations—suggest a different possibility. In mid-January 2016, when Andrew attempted to arrange a meeting between Halper and Lokhova, Flynn’s role as an informal adviser to President Trump was not well-known: While Lokhova’s complaint alleged that “In late 2015, General Flynn informally became an adviser to the Trump presidential campaign,” the first significant reporting of Flynn’s connection to the Trump campaign came on January 31, 2016—two weeks after Halper’s attempt to cozy up to Lokhova.
On that date, after discussing the dearth of reputable advisors working with the Trump campaign, Bloomberg reported that some “experts have regular interactions with Trump, including former Defense Intelligence Agency head Gen. Michael Flynn. Flynn, who has also met with other Republican presidential candidates, told me that Trump was a ‘superb listener’ who asked ‘exceptional questions’ and was interested in detail on a wide range of world issues.”
Other reports of Flynn’s interactions with the Trump campaign followed in February, 2016, but as Lokhova’s complaint revealed, “Halper came back into the picture” earlier, in mid-January, shortly after “General Flynn informally became an adviser to the Trump presidential campaign.”
Halper had a knack for seeking out individuals connected to the Trump campaign, including Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis. And we already know that Halper’s outreach to campaign-connected individuals began before the FBI’s official launch of Crossfire Hurricane, on July 31, 2016, with Halper approaching Page in mid-July.
Lokhova’s complaint now raises the question of whether the efforts to spy on the Trump campaign date back even further, to late 2015 or early 2016, and included surveillance of Flynn and plans to use Lokhova’s acquittance with Flynn to further track the Trump campaign’s activities. If so, given that the MI5-connected Andrew sought to broker the meeting between Lokhova and Halper, what role did U.K. intelligence play in the efforts to target the Trump campaign?