A recently released Department of Justice Inspector General report, examining the role of the FBI in efforts to wiretap and investigate the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Trump 2016 transition team, and whether the FBI acted improperly when petitioning the FISA courts to spy on the effort without a warrant, revealed that the FBI had informants within the Trump campaign itself.
The Washington Times reports that the FBI informants, who tried to get close to Trump campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopolous, came up empty despite repeated attempts to bait both Page and Papadopolous into connecting with Russian operatives who, the informants told the pair, could provide “incriminating” Hillary Clinton emails.
“The report discloses that the FBI dispatched against Trump allies multiple unnamed FBI informants known as confidential human sources (CHS). The most publicized was Stefan Halper, a longtime Washington national security figure and Cambridge University professor,” the outlet reported. “He ingratiated himself to George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, while also attempting to engage with a senior Trump campaign official in New York.”
The Inspector General reports that the FBI informants recorded entire conversations with both Papadopolous and Page, but that the content of these recordings could be considered evidence that neither aide engaged with Russian operatives: “Mr. Halper recorded conversations that could be seen as exculpatory.”
The Inspector General also “rapped” the FBI, the Times reports, for failing to include the recorded conversations in petitions sent to the FISA courts requesting the warrantless wiretaps. Such an error makes the petitions incomplete, he said, and biased the court towards granting the FBI permission to spy on Trump operatives.
Both Papadopolous and Page had contact with Halper, who introduced them into networks that featured Russian operatives, including a one Joseph Mifsud, who tipped off Papadopolous that the Russians might be in possession of “incriminating” Clinton emails that could ultimately help Trump win the election. Papadopolous spoke about the tip to an Australian ambassador, who eventually told the FBI, but, apparently, Papadopolous didn’t follow up on the tip personally, never asking the Kremlin — or directing the Trump campaign to place a call to the Russian government — to get a look at the emails in question.
“According to special counsel Robert Mueller,” the Times reports, “no evidence ever surfaced that Papadopoulos acted on the Mifsud tip: He didn’t try to obtain emails and never told the campaign. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about when he began talking to Mr. Mifsud. A judge sentenced him to 14 days in jail. He now is running for Congress in California.”
The IG report ultimately determined that, while the warrantless wiretaps were probably justified — at least in the case of Carter Page — the FBI’s shoddy FISA applications greatly tarnished the FISA process and the entire investigation.
The initial FBI actions eventually gave rise to the program now known as “Crossfire Hurricane” — a full effort, on the part of the Obama Administration’s DOJ, to determine whether the Trump campaign and Trump transition team had colluded with Russian officials to impact the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. That investigation came up empty. A subsequent Special Counsel investigation, led by Robert Mueller, also came up empty.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a second Inspector General investigation into the origins of Crossfire Hurricane. That report is in progress but could be released early next year.