Documents suggest that Stefan Halper “may have made clear misstatements to the FBI” and may be responsible for “some falsehoods” about Michael Flynn and Svetlana Lokhova, according to the federal judge presiding over the lawsuit Lokhova filed against the former FBI confidential human source, or “CHS,” embroiled in the SpyGate scandal.
On Friday, a federal court in Virginia denied Halper’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit Lokhova had filed against him in December of 2020. That lawsuit represented Lokhova’s second civil case against Halper, with her alleging in her most recent complaint that when Halper learned she was penning a book about Halper, “he directed his counsel, Terry Reed, to contact Post Hill Press and Simon & Schuster solely for the purposes of ‘quash[ing] publication and cancel[ing] the Book Contract.’” Reed then allegedly “contacted [Simon & Schuster] and [Post Hill Press] and falsely accused [them] of defaming Halper in the marketing materials.”
The complaint further alleged that, through the letters, Halper “defamed and disparaged” Lokhova to the publishers and falsely accused her of “knowingly publishing” statements that were “false.” Lokhova claimed that Halper then “escalated the threats and intimidation to [Simon & Schuster’s] parent company, CBS Corporation.” The complaint alleged his accusations were untrue and that “[t]he sole purpose of Halper’s actions was to interfere with [Lokhova’s] Book Contract and induce [Post Hill Press] to terminate the Contract,” which it ultimately did after facing irresistible pressure from Simon & Schuster.
The “book contract” Halper allegedly succeeded in canceling was for Lokhova’s forthcoming nonfiction work entitled, “The Spider: Stefan A. Halper and the Dark Web of a Coup.” The marketing material for the book described Halper as a “spy, an evil spider at work within and around the Trump campaign,” and that in that capacity, he “initially targeted the important Trump advisor, Lt. General Michael Flynn.”
In promoting the book, the publisher, Post Hill Press, in conjunction with Simon & Schuster, which Post Hill Press had contracted to market and distribute “The Spider,” also asserted Lokhova’s book revealed that Halper had “fabricated and sustained the fantastical narrative of the Russian hoax,” and that he did so by “collaborat[ing] with the intelligence establishment to take the ‘kill shot on Flynn,’ leaking classified information to his associates in the press.”
Lokhova explained her motivation for writing the book in the amended complaint she filed in the Virginia federal court. “In February 2017, a month after the birth of her first child,” the document read, Lokhova “was inundated by the media and others over false allegations that had suddenly surfaced that she had supposedly conducted a clandestine romantic affair with General Michael Flynn, an American military and intelligence official whom she had met once at an academic dinner over two years earlier and had never seen or spoken to again.” Lokhova explained how she then spent the next two-plus years, “piecing together what had happened to her, partly through her own research, partly through the gradual release of information by the United States government, and partly through reporting by U.S. media outlets.”
According to Lokhova’s amended complaint, by late 2019 she “had gathered sufficient information and evidence to demonstrate how the false allegations about her and General Flynn had arisen, and who had conveyed them to the FBI and to the media.” Lokhova explained that after obtaining a book contract and American publishers, she set to work to write the book, with a planned 2020 release date. But according to Lokhova, her publisher canceled her contract after Halper threatened her publisher, the distributor, and even CBS Corporation. Lokhova then self-published the book, renaming it “Spygate Exposed: The Conspiracy to Topple President Trump.”
After Lokhova released “Spygate Exposed,” an FBI “Electronic Communication,” dated August 15, 2016, was declassified in early 2021. That document memorialized information provided to the FBI by an unnamed CHS on August 11, 2016. While the electronic communication did not identify Halper as the CHS, it documented several claimed interactions the CHS had with Trump campaign advisers. Those advisers would all later identify Halper as the individual with whom they had spoken, making clear that Halper was the unidentified CHS.
Significantly, in his August 11, 2016, conversation with the FBI, Halper “relayed an incident s/he witnessed when CROSSFIRE RAZOR (CR) spoke at” an event that was redacted in the document. CROSSFIRE RAZOR was the codename for Flynn.
According to Halper, while he was unsure of the date of the event at which Flynn spoke, he remembered that at the time, Flynn still held his position in the U.S. Intelligence Community. Halper told the FBI that after Flynn spoke and socialized with various individuals (whose names were redacted) at dinner and over drinks, Flynn got into a cab to go to the train station to catch a train to London. “The CHS stated that a woman, SVETLANA LOKHOVA, surprised everyone and got into [Flynn’s] cab and joined [Flynn] on the train ride to London.” Halper further “recalled that LOKHOVA ‘latched’ onto Flynn when he was at the [dinner.].”
The electronic communication further documented Halper saying he was “somewhat suspicious of LOKHOVA,” and that he “believes that LOKHOVA’S father may be a Russian Oligarch living in London.” That portion of the report ended by noting that Halper “could not provide further information on [Flynn] and LOKHOVA’S trip.”
An electronic communication memorializing the FBI’s interview with Halper the following day, on August 12, 2016, recorded Halper providing more texture to the supposed Flynn-Lokhova rendezvous. Specifically, Halper clarified to the team where Lokhova supposedly got into the cab with Flynn before joining him on the train to London.
Contrary to Halper’s claims to the FBI, however, he did not attend the February 2014 Cambridge dinner at which Flynn, then-President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, spoke and at which Lokhova, then a graduate student at Cambridge, attended. Nor did Lokhova leave the dinner with Flynn; she also did not jump into a cab with him and did not accompany him to London on the train.
Nonetheless, according to Lokhova’s amended complaint, Halper repeated his false allegations about her and “General Flynn to various members of the media who, upon information and belief, include, among others, journalists working for the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.” In turn, Lokhova alleged, “[M]any commentators, from national television hosts to ordinary citizens on social media, credited the false allegations that Plaintiff was a Russian spy who had ensnared General Flynn in a sexual or romantic imbroglio at the behest of the Kremlin.”
Halper’s claims to the FBI, Lokhova added, were also “a key reason why the FBI opened a subpart of [the Crossfire Hurricane] investigation that specifically focused on General Flynn,” with the FBI opening the separate investigation into Flynn just “one working day after Halper’s meeting at the FBI.”
In her lawsuit against Halper, Lokhova seeks recovery for the alleged false statements of fact he made to Post Hill Press and Simon & Schuster, namely that Halper falsely told the publisher and distributor of her proposed book that she had defamed him. Lokhova also seeks damages from Halper for tortiously interfering with her book contract. With Judge Leonie Brinkema denying Halper’s motion to dismiss Lokhova’s lawsuit on Friday, the historian and author now has an opportunity to obtain justice from Halper for his alleged defamatory statements.
Even Bigger Problems
But beyond vindicating her own interests, Lokhova’s lawsuit against Halper also provides a reminder of the problems the Crossfire Hurricane and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team had with the confidential human sources who supposedly aided their investigation into Trump’s purported collusion with Russia.
From the FBI’s electronic communication summary, it appears that Halper, who reportedly served as a confidential human source for the FBI from 2008 until his presumptive termination following his involvement in the targeting of Trump and the Trump campaign, lied to the FBI about Lokhova and Flynn and then repeated those lies to various members of the media. According to Lokhova, Halper did not even attend the event at which he claimed he “witnessed” her “latch” onto Flynn. And since she did not leave the event with Flynn and did not jump into a cab with him — much less journey to London with him — Halper’s claims to the FBI were not merely false, but knowingly so.
The federal judge hearing Halper’s Motion to Dismiss on Friday concluded that the documents could reasonably support that conclusion. “There are now a fair number of documentations that do, in fact, link your client to being this source, and more specific information that the description about the meeting in England with Mr. Flynn that this witness that Mr. Halper was, in fact, not present and therefore may have made clear misstatements to the FBI,” the court noted. At the early stage of the court proceedings, there “would seem to be enough to suggest that there may, in fact, be some falsehoods going on here on your client’s behalf,” Judge Brinkema said to Halper’s attorney.
Halper’s apparent lies about Flynn and Lokhova render his other CHS reporting suspect as well. And that other “reporting” was widespread, with Halper also serving as a CHS in questioning former Trump campaign advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. Halper also wore a wire when he questioned Trump’s then co-campaign chair, Sam Clovis, on behalf of the FBI.
In fact, it appears Halper also misrepresented his interactions with Page during his August 11, 2016, interview with the FBI. The electronic communication summary of that debriefing stated that Halper “explained to the team that s/he had a private meeting with [Carter Page] on or about 7/18/2018.” Halper told the team, the document continued, “that the purpose of the meeting was to ask the CHS if s/he would want to join the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser.”
However, in an exclusive interview with The Federalist in 2020 — which followed the Inspector General’s release of its report on FISA abuse but preceded the declassification of the electronic communication summary of Halper’s conversations with the FBI — Page stated unequivocally that he never asked Halper “to be a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign.” And though “it is possible, Page acknowledged, that they explored some ways Halper might get involved indirectly at some point down the road,” it is “an extraordinary mischaracterization,” to say that he had asked Halper “to be a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign.”
Not only did Halper apparently mischaracterize his conversation with Page to the FBI, but it was also Halper and not the FBI who raised Page as a potential tasking for the former CHS. According to the case agent, “[T]he plan going into the meeting was to talk generally with [Halper] about Russian ‘interference in the election, what [Halper] may know, and … to bring up Papadopoulos.’” The FBI made no mention of Page and intended to task Halper solely with “‘reaching out to Papadopoulos which would allow the Crossfire Hurricane team to collect assessment information on Papadopoulos and potentially conduct an operation,’ when Halper inquired about whether the FBI also had an interest in Page.”
The Inspector General’s report on FISA abuse related to Page would later note that Halper’s handling agent found it “serendipitous” that Halper “had contacts with three of their four subjects, including Carter Page.” They “couldn’t believe [their] luck,” the handling agent noted, upon learning that Halper knew Flynn and Paul Manafort, and had crossed paths with Page just weeks before.
These facts, the seeming lies Halper told the FBI about Lokhova, and his apparent “extraordinary mischaracterization” of his discussions with Page leave one to wonder who was handling whom — and whether Special Counsel John Durham will ever answer that question.