“When did these guys drink the Kool-Aid, and who served it to them?” That The New York Times deemed that reference to former Attorney General William Barr and Special Counsel John Durham from Stefan Halper’s criminal defense attorney relevant, much less persuasive, to the question of the propriety of the special counsel’s investigation renders Thursday’s hit piece unworthy of any credibility.
The Times’ opening salvo on Thursday, “How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled,” launched a narrative-building exercise to convince the public that Durham’s investigation into malfeasance by the FBI and intelligence agencies was politically motivated and a failure.
As I previously detailed in these pages, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner’s article on Barr’s quest supposedly unraveling cannot withstand scrutiny. Nonetheless, the Times’ ploy to preempt the eventual public release of the special counsel report is already advancing as planned.
Countering the propaganda-pushing press is difficult, especially when the media join forces with Democrats, as is already happening with the attacks on Barr and Durham. Savage, Goldman, and Benner make the task particularly challenging with their sheer breadth of accusations leveled at the two.
While line-by-line, the Times’ attacks on Barr and Durham — both Thursday’s and Monday’s op-ed follow-up — can be countered, there is really no reason to wade into the minutia of the reporting because the authors’ reliance on a quote from Halper’s attorney to make their case is so outrageous, so laughable, and so beyond the pale, the public would be justified in summarily disregarding the entire article. After all, the evidence suggests Halper played a major role in pushing the Russia-collusion hoax. Publicly released documents indicate Halper exaggerated or deceived the FBI on various points while working as a confidential human source for the bureau.
Russia Hoaxer Stefan Halper
Notes taken by Stephen Somma, Halper’s longtime handler, memorializing Somma’s conversation with Halper during a visit on Aug. 11, 2016, expose these problems. According to Somma, he asked Halper whether he knew George Papadopoulos, a then-adviser to the Trump campaign. Halper didn’t, but after agreeing to speak with Papadopoulos, Halper then volunteered that he knew Carter Page. Halper also told Somma he “had known Trump’s then campaign manager, [Paul] Manafort, for a number of years and that he had been previously acquainted with Michael Flynn.”
An attorney for Flynn, however, represented to The Federalist that Flynn had never met Halper.
Halper’s veracity related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation is further questionable given that, according to Somma’s notes, Halper relayed an “incident” he supposedly witnessed at Cambridge involving Flynn. The notes indicate Halper told the FBI that “after Flynn spoke to a small group over dinner and drinks at Cambridge, another attendee, the Russian-born Svetlana Lokhova, ‘surprised everyone’ and jumped in Flynn’s cab, then left with Flynn to London.” Halper further claimed he was “suspicious of Lokhova” because of her Russian connections.
As I previously reported, “contrary to Halper’s tale, Flynn had never met Halper and Halper had not attended the Cambridge gathering at which both Flynn and Lokhova were guests. Halper’s claim that Lokhova left with Flynn also proved false.”
Yet Halper appeared to repeat those falsehoods, as another FBI summary from Aug. 12, 2016, documents. The electronic communication memorializing the FBI’s interview with Halper the following day notes Halper clarifying to the Crossfire Hurricane team “where Lokhova supposedly got into the cab with Flynn before joining him on the train to London.”
Lakhova, however, never entered the cab with Flynn and never joined him on the train to London. The entire incident was fabricated.
Somma’s notes from his meeting with Halper on Aug. 11, 2016, indicate that Halper also misrepresented — or at a minimum exaggerated — his interactions with Page. The FBI summary from 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, according to the document, “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.”
Page unequivocally stated in an exclusive interview with The Federalist, however, that he never asked Halper “to be a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign.” While “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,” Page stressed.
Beyond the clear contradictions between reality and what the FBI’s interview notes record Halper as telling agents, the evidence suggests Halper played a larger role in the targeting of the Trump campaign.
During his time at Cambridge, “Halper became cozy with three other characters who later played roles — some prominent — in the Russia collusion hoax,” including “Richard Dearlove, the former chief of the British intelligence service MI6; Christopher Andrew, the official historian for the domestic intelligence agency, MI5; and Christopher Steele, who worked under Dearlove at MI6.”
It was also at Cambridge that Halper first met Page when Page spoke at the mid-July 2016 Cambridge University conference. According to the conference organizer, Steven Schrage, Halper seemed initially uninterested in Page, but “that suddenly changed after Dearlove arrived at the conference and spoke privately with Halper.” Halper suddenly “seemed desperately interested in isolating, cornering, and ingratiating himself to Page and promoting himself to the Trump campaign,” Schrage claimed.
Several other scandals also swirl around Halper, from his questionable work for the Office of Net Assessments to his history as a political operative. But even ignoring those scandals and disregarding the speculation of any larger role Halper may have played in the Crossfire Hurricane sham investigation, the clear inconsistencies in his statements to the FBI leave him no standing to challenge Barr or Durham.
Taking the Low Road
Yet in seeking to disparage Durham’s investigation, the Times turned to Halper’s attorney, Robert Luskin, while conveniently omitting Halper’s name and identifying Luskin merely as a defense attorney who represented two witnesses Durham had interviewed.
“This stuff has my head spinning,” Luskin told the Times, adding “when did these guys drink the Kool-Aid, and who served it to them?”
When asked for clarification “on what specifically Barr/Durham did” that made him “suggest they ‘drank the Kool-Aid,’” Luskin told The Federalist, “I have nothing to add.” Likewise, when asked the name of his second client, Luskin had no comment.
Those who read the Times article and now know that the person disparaging Barr and Durham was Halper’s attorney likely share Luskin’s sentiment: being speechless.
For all the flaws and journalistic mischief in Savage, Goldman, and Benner’s article from last week, their reliance on Halper’s attorney to bolster their case against Barr and Durham, without identifying him as such, should spell the end of this latest media-divined hoax.
But it hasn’t and it won’t, so Americans would be wise to gird themselves for another invented scandal.