‘Spygate’ figure Stefan Halper wanted to be Trump’s secretary of state, recording suggests

A newly released audio recording of Cambridge professor Stefan Halper revealed that the “Spygate” figure harbored ambitions of being President Trump’s secretary of state even after serving as an FBI informant against Trump’s campaign.

The revelation was made by former State Department official Steven Schrage on Sunday, who shared a recorded conversation he claims was between himself and Halper on Jan. 10, 2017, showing the FBI informant hoped to join the highest levels of the Trump administration after Trump’s surprise victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Schrage, who claims to have spoken with U.S. Attorney John Durham in his inquiry of the Russia investigation and who has broken his yearslong silence during back-to-back interviews with Maria Bartiromo on Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News, also said Halper later told him that the professor had been offered the ambassadorship to the Philippines under Trump.

“But you have no desire to go back in, unless there’s something, there’s nothing that would appeal to you?” Schrage said during the purported January 2017 discussion, which he told Bartiromo he was recording as part of his Ph.D. dissertation discussions with the Cambridge professor.

“They’ve already given it away,” Halper said. “They’ve already given it away: secretary of state.”

Schrage then asked if that would be Halper’s “dream job.”

“Um, it be a good job to have. I’d enjoy it, yeah,” Halper said. “I would be happy with deputy [secretary of state], as well.”

A report on the FBI’s Russia investigation released by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in December said the bureau concealed significant information provided by Halper, a confidential human source who was dubbed “Source 2.” Halper, 75, a Virginia resident and Cambridge professor, worked as an FBI informant in 2016 and recorded discussions with at least three Trump 2016 campaign members: campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, campaign associate Carter Page, and campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis. While Halper worked for the FBI, he received thousands of dollars from the Pentagon ostensibly for academic research.

When Halper’s role as an FBI informant was leaked to the media in May 2018, it led to accusations from Trump and Republicans that the Obama administration used Halper as part of an illegal effort to spy on the Trump campaign, dubbed “Spygate” and later “Obamagate” by allies of the president. The recorded denials of Russian collusion made by Page and Papadopoulos were never passed to the FISA court.

Schrage shed new light on Halper’s apparent desire to try to insinuate himself into Trump’s orbit, with Schrage claiming, “I was quite shocked, and he had mentioned he claimed he had met with Ivanka Trump, other things he was pushing very hard for administration posts in different ways.”

Schrage added, “The question is: did the FBI know, did the top leaders of the FBI know, that a spy was trying to infiltrate different positions in the Trump administration?”

In 2018, Axios reported that Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro “recommended appointing Stefan Halper … to a senior role in the Trump administration” during the presidential transition period, asking that Halper be considered “for ambassador roles in Asia.” A White House official told Axios that Halper visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in August 2017 for a meeting on China and “pitched himself for an ambassadorship in Asia.” A White House official told the outlet that “recommending outside policy experts for roles within the administration is a pretty typical and routine action for White House officials.”

Last week, Schrage revealed another Halper recording he claimed was from the same day in January 2017, in which Halper said he did not think retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was “going to be around long.” A couple of days later, a Washington Post story by David Ignatius containing classified leaks about Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador and speculation about possible Logan Act violations was published. Schrage has strongly suggested that Halper had some foreknowledge of that report, telling Bartiromo, “I don’t think he had any independent reason to expect that this would happen to Flynn.” He did not provide firm evidence.

Schrage, who invited Page to a Cambridge University seminar in the summer of 2016 and appears to be the reason Halper met Page, has looped Halper into a group he calls “the Cambridge Four.” He wrote in journalist Matt Taibbi’s Substack newsletter that the group is rounded out by British ex-spy and discredited dossier author Christopher Steele, former MI6 Director Sir Richard Dearlove, and Halper and Dearlove’s associate, former MI5 official Christopher Andrew. Halper organized the Cambridge Intelligence Seminars, gatherings of academics and intelligence officials, and Dearlove has called Steele’s reputation “superb.” Recently declassified footnotes indicate Steele’s anti-Trump dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation.

Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Bartiromo in July 2019 that Schrage need to be scrutinized and said, “The fact that he hasn’t come forward in two-and-a-half years is highly suspect.”

Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-born British citizen, claimed in a 2019 lawsuit that Halper “embroiled an innocent woman,” Lokhova herself, “in a conspiracy to undo the 2016 presidential election.” Halper demanded the federal court have claims labeling him a “spy” and “rat f—er” be dismissed and his accuser be sanctioned by the judge. The lawsuit was dismissed in February, but Lokhova filed an appeal.

Lokhova attended a Cambridge seminar in 2014 that was also attended by Flynn, then-President Barack Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency director, who later played a prominent role in Trump’s campaign and was swept up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Lokhova attended as a graduate student and claimed Halper used this dinner as a pretext to spread false rumors about her and Flynn.

Halper responded by claiming Lokhova’s accusations were “spurious” and referred to her accusations about a coup against Trump as “implausible conspiracy theories.”

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has pushed for information about Halper’s role getting paid tens of thousands of dollars by the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment while acting as an FBI informant dispatched to speak with members of the Trump campaign.

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