Margot Cleveland at The Federalist focuses on Stefan Halper's interaction with Carter Page: Exclusive Carter Page Interview Raises New Questions About ‘Inaccuracy-Laden’ IG Report. Here's what I see as the essence of what Cleveland is saying:
According to the IG report, after the launch of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI tasked Halper as a confidential human source to target Page, George Papadopoulos, and another unnamed, high-ranking Trump campaign official, widely known to be Sam Clovis.
Halper’s handling agent told the IG it was “serendipitous” that Source 2 — the moniker used for the unnamed Halper — “had contacts with three of their four subjects, including Carter Page.” They “couldn’t believe [their] luck,” the handling agent noted, upon learning that Halper knew Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, and had crossed paths with Page just weeks before.
After asking Halper about Papadopoulos, whom “he had never heard of,” the case agent told the Office of the Inspector General that Halper “asked whether the team had any interest in an individual named Carter Page.”
Cleveland is rightly skeptical about the serendipitous nature of all this, and asks the obvious questions:
Did Halper hope to be tasked by the FBI with targeting Page?
Had Halper been tasked by another agency already?
And did Halper exaggerate the content of his conversation with Page to make Page appear instrumental in the Trump campaign. If so, for what purpose?
Given that we know that Halper was being lavishly funded through a CIA front (Office of Net Assessment), I think the bolded middle alternative is the fundamental question. The CIA had tasked Halper to gather intel on Carter Page--or maybe manufacture intel would be a better way of putting it. Ask yourselves: If Carter Page was a trusted operative of the CIA--which he was; the CIA said so in an email to Kevin Clinesmith at the FBI--then why would they be tasking another source to spy on him? Did it have something to do with Page's position in the Trump campaign? Barr/Durham will surely want to know all about that, and especially whether the CIA tasking came as a result of communication with the Clinton campaign--or possibly even the Obama administration.
Those issues are what Cleveland addresses in the third set of questions. My guess is that what she may have in mind is that the reason for exaggerating Page's importance in the Trump campaign could be connected to the need for a FISA targeting (for practical purposes) the Trump campaign. If so, the question of coordination on this issue at a very high level--especially between Brennan and Comey--arises.
There appear to be any number of avenues of inquiry opening up for Barr/Durham.
UPDATE: Commenter Anonymous (Tom S.) has weighed in on the issue of whether, as Margot Cleveland and I have suggested, Carter Page was being targeted from an early date by the CIA through Stefan Halper. The point being that, when the FBI came calling on Halper, the fact that Halper was already acquainted with Page was not simply the result of random schmoozing in diplomatic/foreign policy circles. Anonymous notes [I've corrected a few misspellings]:
The Cambridge meet was set up by Steven Schrage who was listed as a doctoral student of Halper's. He was also DoS and CIA. He was on Romney's Election staff 2008. Steven Schrage sent out the invitations. Carter Page became close with Schrage and Halper. Schrage also introduced a former CIA operator to Romney named Cofer Black. Black served on Burisma's Board in Ukraine at same time frame as Biden. IMO Schrage, Black, Halper and Romney are CIA assets. They set up the meeting offshore.
This all seemed very familiar to me, but some searching on this blog failed to turn up as much as I expected to find. For example, I could find no references to Schrage, yet the name was very familiar to me. Then I recalled that I'd written in glowing terms several times about Mark Steyn's superb account of this very same Cambridge meeting. I linked Steyn's account in Brennan's Task Force--The Heart Of The Russia Hoax, writing:
On July 7 and 8, 2016, Carter Page gave a presentation on “The Future of the World Economy” in Moscow, and the next day, gives the commencement address for the New Economic School at the World Trade Center. (Does this sound strangely like some sort of setup to you, too? I mean, with all due respect, who wanted to hear Page's views on the World Economy?)
On his return trip, Carter Page stopped at Cambridge on July 11 and 12, 2016, to attend a two-day conference called "2016's Race to Change the World", and who do you think were also in attendance? Stefan Halper and Chris Steele. As Mark Steyn amusingly remarks, "Today, Mr Page is better known as the endlessly surveilled "person of interest" whose eternally renewable FISA warrant was the FBI's gateway into the Trump campaign," but then Page was rubbing elbows with the likes of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and a select group of certified Deep State denizens. And Steele and Halper.
Steyn's article--and very much worth rereading--dates to May 22, 2018: Tinker, Tailor, Clapper, Carter, Downer, Halper, Spy. So let me do something I should have done back then--provide an extended quote from Steyn:
... one of the puzzling aspects of the last year that I've occasionally mentioned here and on TV and radio: If you were truly interested in an "independent" Special Counsel, why would you appoint Robert Mueller? He's a lifetime insider and the most connected man in Washington - a longtime FBI Director, and Assistant Attorney-General and acting Deputy Attorney-General at the Department of Justice.
Exactly. His most obvious defect as an "independent" counsel is, in fact, his principal value to the likes of Andrew McCabe and Rod Rosenstein: He knows, personally, almost every one in the tight little coterie of discredited upper-echelon officials, and he has a deep institutional loyalty to bodies whose contemporary character he helped create. In other words, he's the perfect guy to protect those institutions. As for the nominal subject of his investigation, well, he's indicted a bunch of no-name Russian internet trolls who'll never set foot in a US courthouse. That's not even worth the cost of printing the complaint. Rush Limbaugh has been kind enough to quote, several times, my line that "there are no Russians in the Russia investigation". Which is true. Yet that doesn't mean there aren't foreigners. And an inordinate number of them are British subjects - or, to use today's preferred term, "Commonwealth citizens". All the action in this case takes place not in Moscow but in southern England.
Let's start at Cambridge University with a two-day conference called "2016's Race to Change the World", held on July 11th and 12th 2016 - or three weeks before the FBI supposedly began its "counterintelligence" operation against Trump, codenamed "Crossfire Hurricane". ...
If you think that's a weird event for an Oxbridge college to host, it's as nothing to this "Race to Change the World" beano. I do my share of international junketing, but the bill of fare for this curious symposium is so bland as to be almost generic - panels titled "Europe and America", "2016 and the World", "Global Challenges Facing the Next President". Compared to the laser-like focus of a typical Cambridge confab ("A Westphalia for the Middle East?"), it's almost as if someone were trying to create an event so anodyne and torpid no one would notice it. All that distinguished these colorless presentations was the undoubted eminence of the speakers: former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former UK Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; and Sir Richard Dearlove, former C (that's M, for 007 fans) at MI6. The conference appears to have been put together at a couple of weeks' notice by Steven Schrage, former "Co-Chair of the G8's Anti-Crime and Terrorism Group" and a well-connected man on the counterterrorism cocktail circuit: Here he is introducing Mitt Romney to the director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, and here he is spending election night in the UK at a party with Scotland Yard elite counterterrorist types. Make of that what you will - it's a somewhat odd background for the convenor of an insipid, vanilla, cookie-cutter foreign-policy seminar - but among the small number of strangely prestigious attendees at Mr Schrage's conference were:
~Carter Page, a petroleum-industry executive and Trump campaign volunteer;
~Christopher Steele, the former head of the Russia house at MI6;
~Stefan Halper, a University of Cambridge professor with dual UK/US citizenship.
Today, Mr Page is better known as the endlessly surveilled "person of interest" whose eternally renewable FISA warrant was the FBI's gateway into the Trump campaign; Mr Steele is a sometime FBI asset who, a week before the Cambridge conference, had approached the G-men with the now famous "dossier" that provided the pretext for the FISA application; and Professor Halper turns out to be not some tweedy academic but a man with deep connections to MI6 and the CIA, on the payroll of something at the Pentagon called the "Office of Net Assessment", and (one of) the supposed FBI informant(s) inside the Trump circle.
Carter Page says that in the course of this two-day conference he met Professor Halper for the first time. But I was struck by this aside Mr Page made to Sara Carter:
"Madeliene Albright was always trying to get me to go into public debates. I told her I was there just as a listener, just as an attendee."
Oddly enough, that's exactly how James Comey and Andrew McCabe and John Brennan work. At the FISA court, the FBI, to bolster their reliance on the Steele dossier, pointed to newspaper stories appearing to corroborate aspects of it - even though, as he subsequently testified under oath at the Old Bailey, those stories were in fact fed to those reporters by Steele himself. Nevertheless, it works like a charm on gullible FISA judges. You take one thing and you make it two things. Or even better, you take nothing and you make it a thing: Here, from yesterday's letter by Senator Ron Johnson, are McCabe, Sally Yates and other FBI/DOJ honchos arranging for Comey to brief Trump on the Steele dossier for the sole purpose of giving CNN a news peg for leaking details about what's in it.
It's almost as if that's what Madeleine Albright is doing here, isn't it? It's one thing to invite Carter Page to show up at some tedious yakfest at Cambridge with Halper sitting in front of him and Chris Steele sitting behind. But what if you could get Page to stand up and say something? Then you could find a friendly journo to report it and, instead of just a nobody on the fringes of the campaign, you'd have a "senior Trump advisor" sharing his thoughts on the global scene with Madam Albright and Sir Richard and Sir Malcolm and all the other bigshots, and then you could use that story three weeks later at the FISA court, to demonstrate how deep into the heart of the campaign the Russkies had penetrated.
And Steyn is just warming up at that point. He moves on from there to Mifsud and Downer and Papadopoulos. To my mind it's the single most brilliant bit of writing on the whole Russia Hoax I can recall off hand.