At the start of January 2017, the FBI opened 'Crossfire Razor', an investigation of whether Flynn was "wittingly or unwittingly involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation".
Despite claiming to have opened the case "on an articulable factual basis", a heavily redacted passage in the newly-released internal memos make clear the FBI searched far and wide for “derogatory information” on Flynn, including its own intelligence databases, and turned up nothing - until investigators contacted an “established CHS”, confidential human source.
"During the debriefing the CHS relayed an incident s/he witnessed when [Flynn] spoke at [redacted] in the [redacted]...The CHS advised that after [Flynn] spoke and socialized with members of [redacted] at dinner over drinks, members of [redacted] got [Flynn] a cab to take [Flynn] to the train station… The CHS stated a [redacted] surprised everyone and got into [Flynn’s] cab and joined [Flynn]on the train ride to [redacted]. CHS stated s/he was somewhat suspicious of [redacted] as [redacted] has been affiliated with several prominent members of [redacted]. The CHS believes [redacted] father may be a Russian oligarch living in [redacted],” the document states.
This passage refers to an appearance Flynn, then-President Barack Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency Director, made a Cambridge University Intelligence Seminar in February 2014, where he met Svetlana Lokhova, a Russo-British historian and researcher - and the CHS is none other than Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor and long-time FBI informant with long-running commercial relationship with the US Department of Defense.
The documents indicate investigators concluded on the basis of the information available to them further scrutiny of Flynn wasn’t warranted, he wouldn’t remain a person of interest in Crossfire Hurricane, and Crossfire Razor would be closed. Mere hours after reaching that conclusion however, senior FBI agent Peter Strzok intervened and sent a message to the Crossfire Razor case manager imploring him to keep the probe live - meaning Halper’s allegations provided the sole justificatory basis for the FBI’s investigation of Flynn continuing.
🚨🚨BREAKING— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) April 30, 2020
The operation that targeted Flynn: CROSSFIRE RAZOR
1/4/17: FBI field office found “No derogatory information” on Flynn and decided to close RAZOR.
1/4/17: FBI leadership (STRZOK) went off the rails and targeted Flynn: “Don’t close RAZOR” pic.twitter.com/0MAKqzhxas
Moreover, Flynn’s contact with Lokhova would become central to the mainstream media’s RussiaGate conspiracy theorising during 2017, with suggestions she was a Kremlin intelligence asset and/or even ‘honey trap’ who’d compromised Trump’s National Security Adviser in some way.
Lokhova has long-claimed Halper’s account of the evening is entirely false - she says her husband collected her from the event, which is corroborated by both her spouse and Dan O’Brien, a DIA official who attended the event with Flynn - and moreover initiated legal action against media outlets, including The Guardian, which published stories hinting at an improper dimension to her interactions and relationship with Flynn.
Eventually, the news organisations in question published partial retractions, clarifying there was no suggestion Lokhova had ever worked with or for Russian intelligence services. Nonetheless, several articles strongly implying there was something inherently suspicious about their contact in any event remain extant as of April 2020.
Guardian are then left with a story that in effect says security chiefs were concerned that Flynn met an academic who has no connection whatsoever to Russian intelligence. Made themselves a laughing stock. But ruined my life in the process. Never forgive, never forget.— Svetlana (@RealSLokhova) April 2, 2019
“First, I asked them to correct the article. They refused. Then hid. Then accused my partner of threatening Harding because my partner left him a voicemail calling him a coward. Then I had to find a pro-bono lawyer as a good libel lawyer is £500 an hour. Then after months of exchanging letters and quibbling over points of law, they printed this: ‘we wish to make clear, for the avoidance of doubt, there is no suggestion that Lokhova has ever worked with or for any of the Rusisan intelligence agencies’. So what was the point? Guardian are then left with a story that in effect says security chiefs were concerned that Flynn met an academic who has no connection whatsoever to Russian intelligence. Made themselves a laughing stock. But ruined my life in the process. Never forgive, never forget. I was at home with a newborn baby when it all exploded. And it was absolutely terrifying. You shake each time you hear the knock on the door,” she has lamented on Twitter.
Lokhova has also sued Halper - in an August 2019 legal filing, she referred to him as a “ratf***er [slang for political dirty tricks operator] and spy who embroiled an innocent woman in a conspiracy to undo the 2016 presidential election and topple the President of the United States of America”.
Halper’s CHS activities extended far beyond providing the FBI pretext for investigating Flynn - he also secretly recorded Trump campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos as part of Crossfire Hurricane. His reputation as a ‘rat***er’ is also arguably well-earned. He played a central role in a scandal in the 1980 US Presidential election, in which he allegedly ran a covert operation which saw Central Intelligence Agency staff passed classified information about then-President Jimmy Carter administration’s foreign policy to Ronald Reagan campaign officials, in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any major decisions Carter was considering behind the scenes in respect of the Iranian hostage crisis.
Halper also worked with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Alexander Haig as part of the Richard Nixon administration, notorious for waging a concerted and elaborate dirty tricks campaign against all the President’s ‘enemies’, culminating in the Watergate scandal.
When Halper’s role as an FBI informant on the Trump campaign was leaked by the media in May 2018, it led to accusations from Trump and Republicans lawmakers the Obama administration had employed Halper as part of an illegal effort to spy on and undermine the Trump campaign. A Pentagon audit released in July 2019 revealed over US$1 million in Department of Defence contracts were awarded to Halper 2012 - 2018, and the Office of Net Assessment was unable to provide “sufficient” documentation of whether Halper had actually conducted the research work he’d been hired to do.