Professor Named as FBI's Trump Campaign Informant

Justice Department will investigate 'any irregularities' surrounding Stefan Halper
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2018 6:21 AM CDT
Updated May 22, 2018 6:48 AM CDT
Justice Dept, White House Reach Deal on FBI Informant
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves a meeting at the White House, Monday, May 21, 2018, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The FBI informant President Trump accuses of "infiltrating" his 2016 campaign was Stefan Halper, an American professor who taught at the University of Cambridge from 2001 to 2015, according to multiple reports—and this is far from his first rodeo. The 73-year-old served in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations and was accused of "political spying" on Jimmy Carter's campaign in 1980, the Washington Post reports. He has had Defense Department contracts since 2012. Sources say Halper, described as a moderate Republican with longstanding ties to the intelligence community, met three Trump advisers for foreign policy discussions in 2016, the same year he became a secret FBI informant. The professor and the FBI have declined to comment. In other developments:

  • Justice to probe "any irregularities." Trump—who declared Sunday that he would demand a Justice Department investigation of the FBI "spying"—met with top Justice officials including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reports. Afterward, the White House said it supported the department's decision to have its inspector general look into "any irregularities." The move, which falls short of a full criminal investigation, is seen as delaying a potential showdown between the Justice Department and the White House.

  • A review of classified info. In Monday's meeting, it was "agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday, signaling that GOP lawmakers had won their battle to review classified information related to Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, the New York Times reports. It's not clear whether Democrats will have the same access.
  • What Giuliani wants to know. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Monday that the Trump team wants to interview the FBI officials who decided to connect the informant to the campaign, Politico reports. "The question is, 'What are the justifications for it? Did the justifications continue? Did they pick up anything valuable?' That’s the most important thing to do. We think they didn’t," he said.
  • Trump loyalists want more. While demanding a Justice Department investigation is an unprecedented move, some Trump loyalists are calling for him to go even further, the Hill reports. Florida's Rep. Matt Gaetz said that instead of the department "investigating itself," another special counsel should be appointed. "The president is understandably frustrated that his own campaign was having intelligence collected against it," he says.
  • An embedded spy? Frank Figliuzzi, a former head of FBI counterintelligence, tells NBC that it is absurd to think the government actually embedded a spy in the Trump campaign. "What is easier to imagine is the FBI trying to flesh out information on Russian intelligence operatives by making approaches to campaign staffers if the reasonable suspicion was there and the approvals were in place," he says.

  • The demands from Congress. The demand for information on Halper appears to have started with a letter from House Intelligence Committee chief Devin Nunes to the Justice Department last month "regarding a specific individual," the AP reports. The department refused to provide information on the FBI informant, saying doing so could endanger life.
  • A constitutional crisis? The constitutional crisis that critics feared Trump's presidency would bring has now arrived, according to Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post. Trump is lying when he describes Halper as a "spy" who was "implanted" in his campaign, and a "gutless" Congress is doing nothing to rein him in, Robinson writes. "Trump is determined to use the Justice Department and the FBI to punish those he sees as political enemies," he writes. "This is a crisis, and it will get worse."
  • Bigger than Watergate? Critics may scoff at Trump's statement that this could be "bigger than Watergate," but he will be correct if it is proven that officials appointed by President Obama tried to sabotage his campaign or undermine his administration, argues Douglas MacKinnon at Fox, who says the "liberal media should attempt to ethically do their jobs for a change and investigate whether the Deep State is trying to take down a constitutionally elected president."
(More FBI stories.)

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