A smallish drama is playing out in federal court in Alexandria. There a couple of players in the Russia hoax melodrama will be facing off. Russian-born British academic Svetlana Lokhova is suing British academic and asset of at least two intelligence services Stefan Halper and some US media companies for defamation.
Svetlana Lokhova filed the suit Thursday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., seeking more than $25 million in damages from longtime University of Cambridge academic Stefan Halper as well as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and MSNBC.
Lokhova alleges that Halper and the news outlets conspired to spread a false narrative that she approached then-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn on behalf of Russian intelligence at a seminar dinner in England in 2014 and that Flynn and Lokhova had an intimate relationship.
Over time, as public attention focused on links between the Trump campaign and Russia — and after Flynn was fired from his role as national security adviser by Trump in February 2017, individuals hostile to Trump and Flynn seized on the alleged connection to Lokhova as evidence that Flynn had been compromised by Russia, she alleges in the suit.
If nothing else, her lawsuit wins a prize for one of the most interesting opening sentences:
I have a lot of questions about this lawsuit. It seems unlikely to even make it to discovery, at least on the part that involves the media companies, because there is no evidence that they knew the stories they repeated were false, that they had any reason to assume they were false, or that they did so with any malicious intent. As the alleged relationship of the Trump campaign with Russia was everywhere and they were getting their information from official sources, it is hard to see why her attorney bothered suing the media outlets. One has to note that her attorney is the same one representing Devin Nunes in his $250 million lawsuit against Twitter and long-time RedState friend, Liz Mair, over the Twitter accounts Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” [Note: Liz corrects me–she’s the subject of two lawsuits from Nunes totally $400 million.] This case would have a chance in British courts, but here I think it is both a publicity tactic and a way to possibly put Halper under oath in a deposition.
Regardless of purpose or strategy, the lawsuit indicates that Michael Flynn was targeted by the FBI-CIA-MI6 as early as January 2016 and that Halper and at least two other British citizens were very active in pushing the Russia hoax after Trump as elected.
To set the stage, the earliest reports I can find of any alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russia come in December 2015. In that month, Michael Flynn, traveling as a private citizen, was a guest of honor at a banquet sponsored by RT, the English language television outlet owned by the Russian government. Also in December–
At this point, I think Lokhova’s lawsuit gives a lot more credit to the organizational ability of the typical academic than I do. According to her, she had been at a party in 2014 and had spoke briefly with Flynn. Then, out of the blue, in January 2016, she receives an invitation to a party at Halper’s home where Flynn will be in attendance. She says she refused to go because she loathed Halper and knew he disliked her and was suspicious as to his motives.
As it turns out, her thesis adviser was a professor named Christopher Andrew. Andrew was not only friends with Halper but with Richard Dearlove, former director of MI6 and patron of Christopher Steele. In her lawsuit, she claims that he became moderately unglued when she refused to go, punished her academically, and eventually abandoned her as an academic adviser. Her inference is that she was supposed to be placed in proximity to Flynn and her Russian origins used to underpin the developing Russia hoax.
As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. After Trump’s election, her former mentor launched a rumor, via a newspaper op-ed, that Lokhova and Flynn had an affair and hinted that Lokhova was a Russian intelligence asset:
But in Lokhova’s case, the complicity came from the United Kingdom, when her former professor, mentor, and co-author Andrew penned a February 19, 2017, piece for the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times. “I met him three years ago,” when as director of the DIA he “visited the Cambridge intelligence seminar, of which I was a convenor,” Andrew wrote of Flynn. Then, while not naming Lokhova in his article, Andrew wove words of inuendo to launch a narrative that would soon take hold: that Lokhova was a British spy and a love interest of the married Flynn.
“The most impressive quality Flynn displayed during his visit to Cambridge was his evident pleasure in engaging with some of the seminar’s talented postgraduates. He was especially struck by one bilingual postgraduate, with dual British-Russian nationality, who showed him extraordinary documents she had found in Stalin’s private papers,” Andrew wrote. “Among them was an erotic postcard sent by Stalin, then aged 34, to a friend’s 16-year-old fiancée, Pelageya Onufrieva, in 1912 while he was on the run from the tsarist political police. The card, which the British GPO would never have allowed in the post, showed a passionate embrace between two partially clothed lovers. Stalin wrote that he was sending with it ‘not just a simple kiss, but a hottttttttttt one (because there is no point kissing any other way).’”
Lokhova’s former mentor also claimed in his Sunday Times article that at the end of the Cambridge seminar, Flynn invited Lokhova “to accompany him on his next official visit to Moscow to help with simultaneous translation.” While that trip fell through, Andrew claimed “Flynn continued an – unclassified – email correspondence with her on Russian history, occasionally signing himself ‘General Misha’ – Russian for “Mike.”
Halper and Dearlove dialed it up when they told the press they they had severed ties with this particular Cambridge seminar because they were concerned about Russian control of the group and hinted Lokhova was a Russian agent.
And the 2014 was trotted back out. This is from the Wall Street Journal on March 18, 2017: Mike Flynn Didn’t Report 2014 Interaction With Russian-British National.
Former national security adviser Mike Flynn interacted with a graduate student with dual Russian and British nationalities at a 2014 U.K. security conference, a contact that came to the notice of U.S. intelligence but that Mr. Flynn, then the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, didn’t disclose, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Flynn met Svetlana Lokhova at the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar, a gathering of former intelligence officials hosted at Cambridge University, in February 2014. Ms. Lokhova at the time was a graduate student studying the history of Russian intelligence, according to two people who attended the event.
While I don’t think any grand plan existed to introduce Lokhova to Flynn in 2014, the fact that it did happen does seem to be used to create a narrative that Flynn had been rutting with a Russian agent posing as a graduate student after Trump was inaugurated. That story line was scotched when Lokhova refused to go to the January 2016 party, but her presence at an earlier party was packaged by at least Andrew and Halper to give the illusion that Flynn was under the influence of Russian intelligence.
When put in context with the other contacts between Halper and members of the Trump campaign during early 2016, and keeping in mind the construction of the Steele dossier, one is left at least mildly curious as to how all of this came to be and doubtful that it could have happened accidentally.