Sunday, December 1, 2019

UPDATED: Bongino: Was Stefan Halper Part Of The Steele "Dossier" Team?

Dan Bongino, last Friday, put out a story on his show that has serious support. It's based on information that is now largely public source--he says he heard it before, but now that it's out there he can talk about it openly. Elizabeth Vaughan at Red State has an excellent summary of what Bongino and others (Stephen McIntyre, Sara Carter, ...) have been talking about--Dan Bongino Deconstructs Latest NY Times Attempt to Sterilize IG Report and Makes a Stunning Connection.

The basic idea is simple enough. We'll take it one step at a time.

Stefan Halper is a CIA operative, paid at least in part through money he gets for doing "research" for the Office of Net Assessment (ONA). He flits (if that describes the movements of someone as fat as Halper) back and forth between Cambridge University and the US--conducting intelligence related seminars as an "academic" and doing "research" for ONA. In that capacity he's known to have contacts with Russian emigres in England.

Christopher Steele is reported in the new Glenn Simpson/Peter Fritsch book--Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump--to have received information that found its way into Steele's "dossier" on Trump from 2nd and 3rd hand "sources." That of itself isn't news. I recently raised again the point that the FBI, back in January, 2017, knew that the Steele dossier was bogus because they had interviewed some of Steele's sources, and the different accounts they received didn't hang together. With that in mind, Vaughan calls our attention to Bruce Ohr's testimony:

DOJ official Bruce Ohr acted as a backchannel between Steele and the FBI. Here is an exchange between Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Ohr during his 2018 testimony before Congress.
Trey Gowdy: Did you and Chris Steele ever discuss Donald Trump?
Bruce Ohr: In the July 30th conversation, one of the items of information Chris Steele gave to me was that he had information that a former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, had stated to someone — I didn’t know who — that they had Donald Trump over a barrel.
Person A gave this information to Steele. Person A had heard it from the former head of the SVR who was Vyacheslav Trubnikov.
From Glenn Simpson’s new book:
Steele said that one of his collectors (informants) was among the finest he had ever worked with, an individual known to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement. Neither Simpson nor Fritsch was told the name of this source, nor the source’s precise whereabouts, but Steele shared enough about the person’s background and access that they believed the information they planned to pass along was credible.
In other words, Steele says that the information that the Russians had Trump "over a barrel" came from someone who was "known to US intelligence [the CIA] and law enforcement [the FBI]. That person, known to the CIA and FBI, got the "information" from the former head of Russia's SVR--Foreign Intelligence Service--Vyacheslav Trubnikov.

Who was Person A? Bongino says it's Stefan Halper, but before we get to that let's quickly take a look at where else Steele's claims about Trubnikov pop up.

Steele's claim to Simpson was repeated in Steele's claim to Kathleen Kavalec at the Department of State (DoS). We see in Kavalec's notes on her conversation with Steele that Steele claimed to her that Trubnikov was a "source" for what Steele was telling Kavalec:

Why is this important? Because Steele spoke to Kavalec ten days before the FBI got their FISA on Carter Page. Kavalec relayed this "information" to the FBI via email. This allowed the FBI to tell the FISA court that they were getting information from DoS that corroborated the Steele information. That, IMO, was key in obtaining the FISA order. My guess, by the way, is also that this is the email that disgraced former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith diddled with later.

But the question that we really want the answer to at this point is: Who is that Person A, the one who fed the Trubnikov information to Steele?

Bongino's claim, as I've said, is that Person A is Stefan Halper. That case is built on two factors.

First, we know that Person A is, according to Steele, known to the CIA and FBI.  That fits Halper to a tee.

If it turns out that Halper knows Trubnikov, that would make the fit even better. And, it turns out that Halper had actually co-taught his intel course at Cambridge with Trubnikov. Twice. Here's what Sara Carter reported about those connections between Halper and Trubnikov in an article that begins with ONA whistleblower Adam Lovinger (Whistleblower Exposes Key Player in FBI Russia Probe: “It was all a Set-up”):

On May 4, 2012, the course syllabus states, “Ambassador Vladimir I. Trubnikov will comment on the challenges faced while directing the Foreign Intelligence Service, his tenure as Ambassador to India, President Putin and the likely course of Russia’s relations with Britain and the U.S.”
In May 2015, Trubnikov returned to teach with Halper at his seminar in Cambridge on “current relations between the Russian Federation and the West.”

As Elizabeth Vaughan says:

Of course, this doesn’t prove that Halper was Person A. It proves only that they knew each other.

And that's absolutely correct. Still, the connections are tanatalizing. As are the implications. Some would say the implication is that Steele was being "played" by the Russian, Trubnikov. I don't buy that.

To me, the implication is that this was all part of John Brennan's Russia Hoax. According to Steele's story, he got the supposed Trubnikov information from someone (Halper) who was known to both the CIA and FBI--and who would presumably have vetted Trubnikov's info. If this person (Halper) was such a "fine" operative and had CIA and FBI contacts, he would surely have cleared it through them. This would be information that the FISA court could trust. What Brennan was doing here was setting up a narrative to explain the sourcing for the information being fed through the FBI to the FISA court. It's a narrative that will sound plausible to the FISA court.

My view is that in the real world the SVR would never share such momentous "information" with Trubnikov, living in the West. And if Trubnikov did have such information he'd never share it with Halper, out of fear of the consequences. I see this as background narrative for the Russia Hoax to lend the whole story verisimilitude. The whole story was made up, and all the players were well paid for their roles: Trubnikov, Halper, and Steele. But the bigger point is that this whole Russia Hoax was a joint CIA/MI6 hoax.

You can review this at Stephen McIntyre's feed. Or you can watch Bongino's show on youtube, starting at about the 49:00 minute mark. Bongino's big into following the money, which is fine and is also interesting, but I think the big story is as outlined above:

UPDATE 1: I should have included this originally. Another implication that emerges from this is possibility that the FBI could defend or excuse its conduct by claiming that they were "played"--not so much by "the Russians" as by John Brennan and the CIA. Commenter Mike Sylwester points out, implicitly, that while stupidity might serve as a defense of sorts, it does also raise the issue, again, of FBI bias. Further, while it could excuse some FBI conduct it doesn't excuse FBI conduct after January, 2017, at the latest. That was the point in time beyond which any reasonable FBI official knew that the Steele dossier was not merely a weak reed to lean on but a broken reed. It was also the point in time when the fact that Michael Flynn was the target of an extra legal jihad or frameup.

UPDATE 2: Lee Smith covers this story (and then some) in his book, The Plot Against The Government. Chapter 20, especially, does a deep dive on Stefan Halper. I like the way Smith summarizes (pp. 286-7) Halper's forty years of interaction with the Deep State. It places in perspective what we've been talking about--the unlikelihood that the Russia Hoax had any real connection to Russia at all. The overwhelming likelihood that it was dirty tricks from start to finish:

... the dossier is not an "intelligence product. It's a fiction, a literary forgery, populated with real characters, but who did not do or say the things attributed to them. And the dossier's authors are not intelligence officers but journalists and academics accustomed to running smear campaigns and dirty tricks operations and lying.
Halper wasn't a spy; he was a dirty tricks operative with four decades of experience. He was a con man the FBI was determined to protect.


  1. The expression "They had Donald Trump over a barrel" is rather vague.

    A big problem in the DOJ/FBI leadership was that nobody there dared to laugh out loud when this nonsense was being discussed.

    If the SVR had all the e-mails of the DNC and of its candidate Hillary Clinton, the didn't the SVR have Clinton over a barrel too?

    1. Let's see--because Clinton wasn't an enemy of the Deep State?

      Good point Mike.

  2. Vyacheslav Trubnikov was the SVR Chief during the years 1996-2000. During those years, the Russian President was Boris Yeltsin.

    Trubnikov was "Source A" about the SVR "having Trump over a barrel" in 2015-2016.

    1. Right. So naturally Putin's people would turn to Yeltsin's guy--15 years out of the job and living part time overseas--to share the most sensitive information imaginable. It really doesn't pass the laugh test.

  3. -->nobody there dared to laugh out loud when this nonsense was being discussed.<--

    Yup. The Narrative that Trump was over a barrel, or could be blackmailed, etc., always struck me as fantastic. The man's business and private life has played out in public for 3+ decades, warts and all. The ancient comments to Billy Bush caused the usual reaction from the prog-left blue-noses, but no one else.

    And then The Narrative ventures into pretzel logic--Russians are aiding Trump by means of extortion?? That story is so thin as to be invisible--and can only be believed by people that need to believe it to satisfy their own insecurity.

  4. Whenever I feel angry at the thought that no US officials will be prosecuted for this fiasco, I ponder the anger of my fellow Americans who were angry that no US officials ever were prosecuted for the Intelligence finding in 2003 that Iraq actively was developing weapons of mass destruction.

    Since 2003, everyone has come to recognize that those Intelligence assessments about Iraqi WMDs were completely wrong.

    Eventually everyone will recognize likewise that the assessments about Russian meddling in the 2016 election and about Trump's collusion were completely wrong.

    In both cases, the Intelligence assessments suffered from group-think and hysteria. Instead of tempering that hysteria, the US Intelligence Community exacerbated it.

    In the case of the Iraq-WMD assessment, there was a key wrong source with the code-name Curveball.

    In the case of the meddling-Trump assessment, a key wrong source might be this Halper-Trubnikov duo. Trubnikov should go down in history with the code-name "Source A".

    Just as Curveball was spouting an ignorant opinion that weather vans were secret test laboratories for chemical weapons, Source A was spouting an ignorant opinion that the SVR "had Trump over a barrel".

    1. In both cases there was calculation, greed, lust for power, policy disagreement, the willingness to embrace the end justifying the means.

      One difference may be that in the last analysis the Russia Hoax is aimed more at domestic policy than foreign policy and therefore may make more of an impression on the average American. Clinesmith hints at that domestic focus when he talks about how much was accomplished in 8 years of Obama. I really don't think he meant in foreign policy. I think he was talking about the "fundamental transformation" that Obama promised.

    2. CIA...fabrication...nol pros...

      4 Aug 2011..."Significantly, Clarridge was also implicated as one of the 'principal forgers' of the 'Niger papers' that were the basis for President Bush's false pre-invasion claim that Iraq had attempted to acquire 'yellow cake' uranium in Africa -- a case with which both the FBI and U.S. Attorney Patrick 'Bulldog' Fitzgerald are extensively familiar and which, like the 'multiple-source' Iraq-anthrax fabrication fed to Brian Ross in 2001, has yet to result in a single charge for any of the perpetrators."

  5. Blackmail (having a person "over a barrel") is predicated on the nature of the blackmail information remaining a SECRET! Once the blackmail information is made known to others outside the blackmail conspiracy, and eventually to the public, one can no longer use it to blackmail the victim!

    This is a point that Stephen Cohen, the Russia Historian professor, has made numerous times: the fundamental contradiction of the Steele Dossier is that Putin was running the most audacious espionage plot ever conceived -- helping a US presidential candidate, compromised by Russian Intelligence -- win the election and become Putin's Bitch, while at the same time being so sloppy with the information ("Golden Shower" videos, etc.) that it is being shared by former high level Russian Intelligence people or "Kremlin sources" with an ex-MI-6 Agent!

    If Trump were compromised, it would have been the most closely guarded secret in the Kremlin, and anyone who had knowledge of such a thing would know they'd end up dead it they breathed a word to anyone not cleared by Putin.

    They idea that this info was shared with Steele is preposterous because letting the info get out destroys the blackmail value of it. Putin would not allow that to happen, and would have signed a death warrant for anyone who breathed a word of it to anyone outside the inner circle.

    Ergo, the fact that it was shared and publicized, and Trubnikov doesn't have a soft-nosed bullet in his head, is all you need to know to be sure that the "Russians have Trump over a barrel" story was bollocks from start to finish.

    1. Yes, none of it passes the laugh test.

    2. Journalists, the general public and, apparently, some former IC attorneys' "knowledge" of intelligence seems to be derived mostly from Hollywood and books found in the Fiction section.

  6. I imagine a conversation where Trubnikov and Halper were talking, and Trubnikov made some hypothetical statements about how the SVR might have "got Trump over a barrel".

    Trump sometimes goes to Moscow on business and stays in hotels there, and the SVR is able to put secret cameras in those rooms. Therefore, if Trump ever had a prostitute in his hotel room in Moscow, then the SVR could have filmed the sexual activity and then blackmailed Trump.

    By the time Halper submitted his report about this conversation to the CIA, Trebnikov's bullshitting had become authoritative and certain.

    Then soon thereafter, Halper might have been awarded another big-money contract to write yet another of his bullshit studies for the Office of Net Assessment.

    Then Halper was assigned to interview Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Halper foresaw that these interviews eventually would get him another big-money ONA grant to write some more bullshit studies.

    I suppose that Halper was getting paid by multiple entities all the time. He might have sold his report(s) about his bullshit conversation with Trebnikov to the CIA (via ONA), to the FBI and to Fusion GPS. Halper was making so much money, he might have tipped a few bucks to his "source" Trebnikov.

    A few years ago, then the Republicans controlled the House, they were trying to release the FISA application that targeted Carter Page. The House Democrats objected that the release would expose "intelligence sources and methods".

    The "intelligence sources and methods" were grifters like Halper.

    1. I'm going to update with a quote from Lee Smith's book. It puts Halper's 40 years of interaction with the CIA/FBI in an interesting and probably correct light. And that's pretty troubling for this whole thing.

  7. Mike, what's the best place to read of the ins and outs, of the GOP's effort to release the Page FISA application?
    Did P. Ryan sabotage this effort?

  8. -->Eventually everyone will recognize likewise that the assessments about Russian meddling in the 2016 election and about Trump's collusion were completely wrong.<--

    Eventually is a long time. Between Google and Facebook, those companies reported $150,000 on issue and election-related spending by so-called Russian-affiliates. A drop in the ocean of political spending in 2016 only becomes meddling by dishonesty.

    What we're really dealing with is the Big Lie repeated--media as propaganda. Most people cannot get over their inclination to believe media reporting, so enshrined in public consciousness (as truth-teller) is the symbolic meaning of the 1st amendment's freedom of the press.

    When you've misled the public for as long as media has, what's another lie about Trumpian collusion and Russian meddling? For a public that was misled with Hillary being a lock and Trump an unserious candidate, media couldn't turn around offering an Emily Litella moment...

    I await the IC's defense that they merely served-up what their political masters were looking for--as Clapper has admitted in his lament about being investigated (doing as Obama ordered).

    Of course, this merely conforms their complete corruption. But we knew that.

    1. "What we're really dealing with is the Big Lie repeated--media as propaganda."

      And apparently without shame.

  9. There was an RCI article Mark linked to a while back (IIRC) that detailed some of Halper's history, e.g. he used Trebnikov as two sources in a paper he wrote for ONA--cited first as a former senior intelligence officer, and second as a former senior foreign service officer (Trebnikov served as Ambassador to India).

    In another instance, Halper cited hundreds of sources in a paper he submitted, much of which appeared to be "padding" as none of the cites appeared to have contributed anything.

    Halper appears to be an experienced fabricator of the first order, making him a useful pairing for Steele/FusionGPS.

  10. All's well that ends well. I mistakenly deleted the last three comments but learned to recover them from the email notification. I'm afraid they're not properly placed as responses to Mike, but ...

  11. The simple reality is that if no one is held to account for an actual coup against a duly elected president then history is doomed to repeat itself, and it most likely won't take long to do so. That is the essential imperative for Barr and Durham. They must man-up and come forth with serious indictments of the key coup conspirators or witness the collapse of the rule of law in this nation. Only the fools inside the DC bubble can convince themselves that faux outrage and token rule changes will remedy this cancer. Virtually every normal person in America will see a whitewash as corruption fully consummated and enshrined as if it was a Constitutional Amendment. The tell will be if delay and obfuscation continue until September of next year, when the self-imposed DOJ curtailment occurs.

    1. I totally agree. However, there is reason to believe that Barr/Durham are honing in on Brennan as the evil genius. The overseas trips, calls to foreign leaders, interviews of CIA analysts, focus on ONA--all seem to point in that direction.