FBI had doubts about Russia informant's allegation that helped prompt Mike Flynn probe
Stefan Halper's story of Flynn trip with Russian woman deemed 'not plausible … not accurate.'
Five days before the FBI formally opened the Michael Flynn probe in summer 2016, a confidential informant alleged to agents that Donald Trump's national security adviser had left a 2014 foreign meeting alone with a Russian woman. Agents ultimately deemed the account "not plausible" and "not accurate" but proceeded to investigate Flynn anyway, newly declassified documents show.
FBI confidential human source (CHS) reports show Stefan Halper, an academic who long worked for the bureau as a trusted informant, was the original source of a story that Flynn had left a 2014 event in Cambridge, England, with the Russian scholar Svetlana Lokhova while he was still the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The story was later leaked to the news media and became the focal point of a defamation lawsuit by Lokhova that is now on appeal. It also was listed in FBI documents as part of the reason the bureau opened a counterintelligence probe of Flynn.
Robert Luskin, a lawyer for Halper, did not return an email seeking comment Monday. Flynn and Lokhova did not immediately return calls or emails seeking comment.
The memos show Halper offered the Lokhova story during his first Russia collusion debriefing on Aug. 11, 2016, shortly after Donald Trump had accepted the Republican presidential nomination and days before the bureau opened an investigation codenamed Crossfire Razor focused on whether Flynn was wittingly or unwittingly aiding Moscow.
"The CHS relayed an incident s/he witnessed when CROSSFIRE RAZOR (CR) spoke at [redacted name of Cambridge event]. The CHS was unsure of the date, but noted that CR was still in his/her position within the USIC," the informant report relayed. "The CHS told the team that after CR spoke and socialized with [redacted] at dinner and over drinks, [redacted] got CR a cab to take CR to the train station to bring him/her to London."
The event Flynn attended in 2014 was part of the Cambridge Intelligence Seminars.
"The CHS stated that a woman, Svetlana Lokhova, surprised everyone and got into CR's cab and joined CR on the train ride to London," the report added. "The CHS stated that s/he is somewhat suspicious of Lokhova as she has been affiliated with several prominent members of [redacted]. CHS believes that Lokhova's father maybe a Russian oligarch living in London."
One day later, the FBI brought Halper back for more debriefings and pressed him "to recall the incident" involving Lokhova. The memos suggest agents were clearly concerned by the allegation that a DIA director and three-star general was somehow unaccompanied on a foreign trip.
"The CHS was asked if s/he recalled if CR was alone during the presentation at [redacted event] or if CR was joined by a staff officer," the report said. "The CHS did not remember another officer with CR, but said that there was a representative from CR's organization there from a local military base."
Four days later on Aug. 16, 2016, documents show, the FBI formally opened a counterintelligence investigation into Flynn as part of the Crossfire Hurricane probe into the now-disproven allegations of Trump-Russia collusion.
The documents make clear that Halper's allegations of the Lokhova encounter were included in the Flynn probe, and that the FBI checked U.S. and foreign intelligence databases on the Russian-born academic and "reported no derogatory information in its holdings." In fact, a former bureau official told Just the News, the FBI was favorably familiar with Lokhova because she had been cleared to work with the bureau's official historian while researching a book on Soviet-era spying.
The documents state that early on agents asked Halper if he might "be able to meet with CR as part of the CHS' due diligence" and create "another opportunity for the CHS to address the [Russian Federation] ties to the Trump campaign." There is no evidence in the memos that Halper was able to meet with Flynn during the probe though.
By January 2017, as Trump was about to take office, the FBI had exhausted all leads in the Flynn case, and the agents were prepared to shut down the probe, but they were overruled by superiors.
One of those agents, William Barnett, later gave a detailed interview to the Justice Department describing Russia collusion case theory as nothing more than "supposition on supposition" and reporting that agents concluded "no evidence of criminal activity was found" about Flynn.
Barnett said agents checked Halper's claims of the Lokhova encounter with U.S. and foreign intelligence officials and came up empty. "Intelligence analysts did not locate information to corroborate this reporting," Barnett told prosecutors.
"BARNETT found the idea Flynn could leave an event, either by himself or [redacted] without the matter being noted as not plausible," the summary of the agent's interview stated. "With nothing to corroborate the story, Barnett thought the information was not accurate."
In a book last year, Lokhova decried the impact on her reputation and career after the allegation about Flynn was leaked to the news media. "My life was taken over by false allegations fabricated in the plot against Donald Trump," she wrote. "According to the lies, I am General Flynn's Russian girlfriend, and that lie is the reason that the FBI opened up a counter-intelligence investigation on General Flynn."
In his debriefings as a cooperating witness with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Flynn also directly knocked down any suggestion of an untoward encounter with Lokhova as "ridiculous."
Flynn "did not have any other interaction with her during that trip, or on any other occasion," Flynn told prosecutors, according to an FBI report of the interview.