Yesterday’s exclusive at The Federalist, revealing that Carter Page first met Stefan Halper at a small dinner at Magdalene College in Cambridge, triggered an immediate response from Svetlana Lokhova, the Russian-born British citizen who sued Halper last year for defamation for branding her a Russian spy.
Magdalene College was Halper’s college, Lokhova tweeted, adding that he held a lifetime fellowship there.
This added detail raises even more questions concerning the mid-July encounter between Halper and then-Donald Trump campaign advisor Page, given what we now know from Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigation into the four Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications. We know from Horowitz’s report that the FBI tasked Halper, identified solely as Source 2, to target Page, campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, and a high-level Trump campaign member, Sam Clovis. And we know the IG’s report concluded that the FBI had not used any confidential human sources prior to the July 31, 2016, launch of Crossfire Hurricane.
These facts made Halper’s mid-July encounter with Page at a conference in the United Kingdom suspicious. The added fact that Halper met Page not during the conference proper, but at a small dinner gathering to kick off the conference, seemed even more suspect. Now that we know Halper wasn’t a mere fellow dinner guest at the gathering but was instead sitting abreast the table at his own college, it screams “set-up.”
One wonders, otherwise, what would prompt one of the limited number of seats at the welcome dinner to be allocated to Page, given the number of dignitaries and distinguished attendees in town for what was billed as “a major international conference focusing on the 2016 U.S. presidential election and implications that this will have for future U.S. foreign policy.”
So, did Halper have a hand in extending an invite to Page for this private dinner gathering in order to forge a connection with the campaign advisor? He seems to have had the clout to make that call, as one of only ten Life Fellow faculty members of the college, an apparent substantial donor of Magdalene College, and a member of the college’s Buckingham Society, which is reserved to those who have arranged bequests to Magdalene.
One also wonders whom, besides Halper and Page, attended this intimate dinner gathering. The confirmed speakers for that event included the keynote speaker, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove; German Ambassador to the UK Peter Ammon; the British former Defense and Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcom Rifkind; the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, Bridget Kendall; and Republican Party strategist and former Congressman Vin Weber.
Albright and Dearlove may be the obvious names of interest, but Vin Weber shouldn’t be overlooked. He was a featured speaker at the conference and billed at the time as a “Republican Strategist,” although he would later profess that he couldn’t “imagine remaining a Republican if Trump becomes president,” and promised that “if my vote decided the election, I would vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.”
(Weber’s disdain for Trump later took an ironic turn when he became entwined in the lobbying scandal that sent Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s business partner, Rick Gates, to prison for illegally lobbying on behalf of the Ukraine government.)
In addition to Weber’s presence at the conference, another intrigue concerns a talk Halper gave just four days before meeting Page. A write-up of Halper’s lecture, part of the Cambridge’s Pembroke-Kings Programme’s Plenary lecture series, recapped the event:
His talk focused on the phenomenon which is ‘Trump’s maverick candidacy’ while also explaining the deficits in Clinton’s campaign which have caused the campaign to become almost too close to call. Professor Halper concluded his talk by stating that if the media focuses on Clinton, she will lose, whereas if they continue to focus on Trump, he will lose. This will be true despite Trump’s adept handling of the media that has resulted in him receiving two billion dollars worth of free media coverage. The floor was then opened up for students to ask questions which Professor Halper answered, only declining to tell the gathering who he was planning on voting for.
Halper’s insight is fascinating given that soon after the Cambridge conference ended, the featured keynote speaker, Albright, claimed that “Vladimir Putin wants Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton.” Albright would further suggest that “Russia was likely behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails.”
Albright’s July 26, 2016, proclamation must have seemed prescient to the FBI, which mere days later would launch Crossfire Hurricane on the premise that Trump campaign had colluded with Russia over WikiLeaks’ release of the hacked emails. But maybe not so prescient to Halper?