Stefan Halper: The Cambridge don the FBI sent to spy on Trump
When Attorney General William Barr stated “spying did occur” against the 2016 Trump campaign, most attention was focused on the FBI’s surveillance of former junior foreign policy aide Carter Page.
But the spying Barr was thinking of, and which he said may or may not have been legally authorized, is more likely to be that carried out by Stefan Halper, a former Republican operative and White House aide who became a foreign policy academic with close ties to both American and British intelligence.
One could be forgiven for believing Halper was a creation of the spy novelist John Le Carré. A Cambridge don and White House veteran of the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations, he has long operated in the gray area between academe and espionage. Gregarious, rumpled, and with an ample girth, Halper, now 74, was known as “Stef” to his friends and students, whom he would regale with tales of Washington intrigue.
While the FBI describes Halper as its “informant,” he did far more than report things he became privy to in the course of his normal life. Rather, he actively courted at least three Trump campaign officials, offering to pay for travel and misrepresenting himself as eager to work for Trump.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Halper was asked by the FBI to gather information on Page and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy aide with a junior but more central role than Page, and he met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis.
As Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigation into alleged FISA abuse nears its conclusion in either May or June, new reports have emerged indicating that Halper has been looked at as part of that probe.
Halper graduated from Stanford in 1967 and received a Ph.D. from Oxford in 1971 and Cambridge in 2004. He was the director of American studies in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge, where he taught classes and also delivered papers at institutions around the world, including Chatham House in London, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in D.C., and the U.S. Naval War College. Halper is now the emeritus senior fellow of the Centre of International Studies.
At Cambridge, he worked for years alongside Sir Richard Dearlove, who had spent decades with MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, the equivalent of the CIA, and was its director from 1999 to 2004.
Christopher Steele, hired by Fusion GPS and the eventual author of the Trump dossier that was used in FISA applications to target Trump associates, was in MI6 from 1987 until 2009. Dearlove has described Steele as the “go-to person on Russia in the commercial sector” and said his reputation is “superb.”
Halper organized and hosted a series of Cambridge Intelligence Seminars that were attended by intelligence community members, academics, and researchers from around the world. One such seminar in 2014, put together by both Halper and Dearlove, was attended by then-President Barack Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency Director Mike Flynn, who played a prominent role in the Trump campaign beginning in early 2016. …