Nearly six years have passed since Hillary Clinton and her cronies launched their plot to frame Donald Trump as a co-conspirator of Russia to distract Americans from Clinton’s scandals. Since then, by bits and pieces, the public has learned of Clinton’s role in peddling the Russia collusion hoax to both the press and intelligence agencies.
While there is still much to uncover, a recent exposé of the man the FBI tapped as the key Confidential Human Source (CHS) in investigating the Trump campaign confirmed Spygate’s method of operation: creating mythical men on whose deceitful shoulders the media and the FBI then stood.
While Stefan Halper’s name and the monikers used to identify him in government reports—“Source 2,” or merely “CHS”—appeared regularly in reporting unraveling the Russia collusion hoax, only lately did Halper’s history undergo a thorough vetting. In a recent article, Real Clear Investigations’ Mark Hemingway traced Halper’s history through archived documents and interviews with associates. He uncovered two themes girding Halper’s parallel careers of government informant and Cambridge academic.
Stefan Halper’s Recipe for Success
From his earliest days in government until his retreat from Cambridge University following his outing as a player in the Russian collusion hoax, Halper advanced his professional persona, decade upon decade, by taking creative license with his credentials and exploiting his connections. Puffery appeared in both Halper’s public biography and resumes reviewed by Real Clear Investigations, leaving unanswered the question of whether Halper ever obtained the Ph.D. he claimed later allowed him to reinvent himself as an academic at Cambridge.
Before then, Halper appeared to muddle through a variety of low-level jobs in the federal government, until the mid-1970s. That’s when Halper’s career received a boost when he married Sibyl Cline, the daughter of the well-respected Ray S. Cline.
The senior Cline, who held top intelligence positions with the federal government since the second world war, reportedly arranged for the Ronald Reagan State Department to hire Halper. During the Reagan administration, Halper became close to, among others, Oliver North, but after the Iran-Contra scandal and some time in banking and D.C. think tanks, Halper transitioned to academia. He became a professor at Cambridge University in 2001, where three years later he would claim a second Ph.D.
In addition to the political and other connections Halper accumulated during his 30 years in the D.C. bubble, once at Cambridge, Halper expanded his network across the Atlantic. Halper became cozy with three other characters who later played roles—some prominent—in the Russia collusion hoax. These included 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.
Highly Useful Connections
While at Cambridge, the reinvented Halper leveraged his professorship, profiting to the tune of nearly $1 million by writing research papers of questionable worth for the U.S. Department of Defense. Halper added to his wallet by serving as a CHS for the FBI from 2008 until January 2011, when the FBI dropped him for aggressiveness toward a handling agent over a fee dispute. Two months later, the FBI reopened Halper as a CHS, giving him a stern warning that this was his last opportunity with the bureau.
Beyond these money-making ventures that kept Halper connected with players at the DOD and FBI, the academic apparently stayed close to elite members of the American media, including David Ignatius, the foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post. According to Steven Schrage, who completed his Cambridge Ph.D. under Halper’s supervision, “Halper knew Ignatius for decades” and “bragged’ that “Ignatius was his press contact.”
Another Cambridge student, the Russian-born U.K. historian Svetlana Lokhova who was later sold as a Russian “honey pot,” likewise connected Halper to Ignatius. Lokhova told The Federalist that in May 2018, shortly after Halper was outed as a CIA and FBI informant, she spoke with Ignatius, and when she “registered surprise about Halper’s role” as a CHS, that prompted Ignatius to say he “always found Halper reliable as a source.”
These connections all later proved key to advancing the Russia collusion hoax, but it was Halper’s role as a Cambridge academic that cemented his insertion into the scandal. As a faculty member at the British university, Halper participated in seminars and conferences, including the mid-July 2016 Cambridge University conference at which Halper first met then-Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
Enter: 2016 Campaign
While initially Halper seemed uninterested in the young Trump advisor, that suddenly changed after Dearlove arrived at the conference and spoke privately with Halper. According to the conference organizer, Halper suddenly “seemed desperately interested in isolating, cornering, and ingratiating himself to Page and promoting himself to the Trump campaign.”
Hillary Clinton surrogate Madeline Albright also attended the conference, serving as a keynote speaker. While there, Albright attended a small, private dinner with Halper. Then, just days after the Cambridge conference ended, Albright proclaimed that “Vladimir Putin wants Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton.” The Clinton booster added that “Russia was likely behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails.”
That Albright began peddling the Russia collusion hoax in late July 2016, not long after leaving Halper’s side, seems suspect given that earlier that month Halper had forecast a similar approach to defeating Trump during a Cambridge lecture series on “the phenomenon which is ‘Trump’s maverick candidacy.’” At the time, Halper told his audience that “the deficits in Clinton’s campaign” left the election “almost too close to call.” “If the media focuses on Clinton, she will lose, whereas if they continue to focus on Trump, he will lose,” Halper predicted.
Worming Into Trump Campaign Connections
Two weeks later, the FBI launched the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into the Trump campaign. Soon after that, Halper’s long-time handler, Stephen Somma, visited Halper at his home to request his assistance. According to Somma, he proposed meeting with Halper because Halper “had been affiliated with national political campaigns since the early 1970s,” while Somma “lacked a basic understanding of simple issues, for example what the role of a ‘foreign policy advisor’ entails.”
During Somma’s August 11, 2016, visit with Halper, the FBI handler asked Halper whether he knew George Papadopoulos, who then was serving as a Trump campaign advisor. Halper didn’t, but agreed to speak with Papadopoulos.
Halper then volunteered that he knew a second foreign policy advisor, Page, and asked whether Somma and his team had any interest in 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.”
Halper’s claim to know Flynn proved another unsupported boast. He nonetheless told Somma and the other members of the Crossfire Hurricane team of an “incident” he supposedly witnessed at Cambridge involving Flynn. According to Halper, 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 added that he was “suspicious of Lokhova” because of her Russian connections.
However, 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. Nonetheless, press reports later repeated the story and suggested Flynn had been compromised by the unnamed Russian student. Lokhova would later sue Halper for defamation, pinning him as the source of the false reports.
Somma and others, however, seemed unaware of Halper’s fabrication. They couldn’t believe their “luck” that Halper supposedly knew three of the four subjects of Crossfire Hurricane. So, over the ensuing weeks, Halper would wear a wire and question Papadopoulos, Page, and even the co-chair of the Trump campaign, Sam Clovis.
Fabricating an Excuse to Spy on Trump’s Campaign
That Halper could arrange a meeting with one of Trump’s top campaign officials mere months before the November election is a testament to Halper’s 50 years of political schmoozing and ladder climbing—further confirmed when Clovis proceeded to have an unguarded hour-long chat with Halper discussing details about Trump’s strategy to defeat Hillary.
Halper came away from these meetings with nothing of import to the investigation into Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia. Nonetheless, the FBI referenced Halper and portions of his wired conversations with Page in the four FISA applications that resulted in the FBI illegally surveilling Page. Omitted from the FISA applications, however, were comments Page made to Halper that conflicted with portions of the Steele dossier.
While the FBI used only minor details acquired by Halper in the FISA applications, Halper’s cross-continental connections with the intelligence communities, political players, and the press, likely advanced the Russia collusion hoax in ways still fully unknown. This likelihood seems strong when one considers how, when the Spygate scandal began to unravel, the same media that had peddled the Russia collusion hoax began a public relations campaign for the players behind the plot, including Halper.
Running Cover for Spies
At first, the press presented the unidentified Halper as “an American academic” and as “an informant” or “source” whose anonymity had to be preserved to safeguard him. To bolster his credentials, the reporting stressed Halper’s position as a professor, highlighted his longtime work for both the FBI and CIA, and cast him as an informant who “aided the Russia investigation both before and after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III‘s appointment.” Then, in a transparent attempt to paint the still-unnamed Halper as a selflessness patriot, the media focused on the “great risks” informants take “when working for intelligence services.”
After he was outed, the Russia-hoax team continued to highlight Halper’s position as a “Cambridge professor” and long-time CHS to preserve the myth of a respected academic and dedicated and reliable informant. The Washington Post ran a puff piece on Halper soon after his name became public, telling its audience “Halper’s connections to the intelligence world have been present throughout his career and at Cambridge, where he ran an intelligence seminar that brought together past and present intelligence officials.”
The Post continued its gushing profile by highlighting Halper’s collaboration with Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service, and their sponsorship of a “seminar that drew Michael Flynn, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency,” to attend. Also stressed was Halper’s academic work, with the Post noting that Halper had taught “international affairs and American studies at Cambridge from 2001 until 2015, when he stepped down with the honorary title of emeritus senior fellow of the Centre of International Studies, . . .”
The remainder of the article then unquestioningly parroted much of Halper’s resume, before quoting an unnamed U.S. government official saying of Halper: “He thinks well. He writes critically. And he knows a lot of people whose insights he can tap for us as well.”
However, as Real Clear Investigations revealed in its exposé on Halper, he held neither the academic cachet nor the gravitas a seasoned informant might. But what Halper lacked in pedigree, he compensated for with his arsenal of connections that allowed him to whisper into the right ears just what the listener wanted to hear.
In this respect, Halper proves no different than Steele or Rodney Joffe: They are all mythical men, molded by the Clinton campaign, the media, and those complicit in the government to sell the tale of Trump colluding with Russia. In reality, though, they aren’t the James Bond, Jack Ryan, and Jason Bourne that we were sold—they are the Three Stooges with better agents.
Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time.
As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.