Stefan Halper, human informant and Cambridge University professor suspected of helping smear Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and attempting to recruit members of the Trump campaign to spy on the campaign itself, took over $1 million from the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) at the Defense Department to do research and write reports since 2015.
His work was ultimately of dubious value and much of the work never materialized. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been seeking information for more than a year about what exactly Halper was paid to do, especially in light of his outing as a confidential human source who had meetings with several of the Russia collusion players in the months leading up to the 2016 election.
Now Grassley, in a strongly-worded letter to ONA director James Baker, who was responsible for at least one of the contracts to Halper, is demanding information about what exactly the professor was paid to do, and if taxpayer funds were being used to help him spy on the Trump campaign.
Grassley, writing to James Baker, the director of the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) at the Defense Department, or DOD, also flagged other suspicious payments to Halper — including some for DOD contracts that he may not have performed, and others from “unknown” foreign entities. (In response to a lawsuit last year alleging that he was part of a smear campaign to discredit the Trump campaign, Halper claimed a kind of immunity ordinarily afforded to government agents.)
The GOP senator asserted that it was “unacceptable” that the DOD spent most of 2019 dodging his requests for information about Halper’s contacts with U.S. officials, before saying that the information the DOD has provided raised more troubling questions. The ONA essentially functions as the Pentagon’s internal think tank.
Part of the letter deals with a Russian government official who was used as a source by Christopher Steele in his now infamous Steele dossier.
“Professor Halper lists former Deputy Foreign Minister for Russia, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, as a consultant and advisor to a paper delivered” to ONA, Grassley writes. “[Trubnikov was a] known Russian intelligence officer,” Grassley continued. “[He] was listed by Christopher Steele as a source in the now-debunked Steele dossier, which was used as a predicate to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.”
“It is unclear from the contracting officer file whether Professor Halper paid Trubnikov for his assistance in gathering information for this paper, or in what capacity Professor Halper interacted with Trubnikov during the course of performing work for this contract,” Grassley said. “Further, reports indicate that Halper offered [former Trump aide] George Papadopoulos $3,000 for assistance in completing an energy study and met Carter Page at a Cambridge conference. Given Professor Halper’s intelligence connections and government funding, it is reasonable to ask whether he used any taxpayer money in his attempt to recruit Trump campaign officials as sources.”
President Donald Trump, who has routinely insisted the Obama administration was spying on him as early as 2015, posted a twitter image following news of Grassley’s letter.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2020