By Zachary Stieber
Evidence that has come to light indicated that British professor Stefan Halper is the confidential source who claimed to the FBI that Gen. Michael Flynn left a meeting in England with a Russian-born academic, a federal judge said recently while rejecting Halper’s attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against him.
Halper has long been identified as one of the spies who passed on information about Donald Trump campaign associates as part of the U.S. government’s investigation into alleged ties between Trump and Russia, which is itself subject to a criminal probe after being found to have been riddled with mistakes. And he has been rumored to be the source of a tip to the FBI about Flynn and Svetlana Lokhova, the Russian-born historian who has lived in Britain for years.
Lokhova sued Halper for defamation in 2019, but the case was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired and she had not proven her case. But an amended complaint against Halper can move forward, a U.S. judge said during a July 15 hearing, because evidence points to Halper not only being the FBI’s source, but to lying to the bureau.
“There are now a fair number of documentations that do, in fact, link your client to being this source,” U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, a Clinton appointee, told Halper’s attorney Terrance Reed, according to a transcript of the proceedings obtained by The Epoch Times.
There’s also “more specific information” that Halper “was, in fact, not present” during an event attended by Flynn and Lokhova in Cambridge in 2014, Brinkema added. That means Halper “may have made clear misstatements to the FBI.”
The information “at the pleading stage would seem to be enough to suggest that there may, in fact, be some falsehoods going on here on your client’s behalf,” the judge concluded.
A confidential human source (CHS) relayed an incident “s/he witnessed” when a person codenamed Crossfire Razor—since identified as Flynn—spoke at the event, according to declassified FBI documents.
The dinner took place in February 2014 at Pembroke College in Cambridge, where Lokhova was a graduate student and Halper was employed.
The source said that after Flynn spoke and socialized with attendees, Lokhova joined him in a cab to the train station and also went onto the train with Flynn.
The tip was among the reasons the FBI began to probe Flynn, who was charged with lying to the FBI. The government later withdrew the charge after finding issues with the investigation.
The source also said they were “somewhat suspicious of LOKHOVA” and that they believed Lokhova’s father may be a Russian oligarch living in London.
Lokhova previously told The Epoch Times that her father is not an oligarch.
Halper did not attend the dinner, according to Lokhova’s complaint. That means he lacked firsthand knowledge, although he apparently did not inform the FBI of that.
Investigators found “no derogatory information” about Lokhova in FBI databases, according to the declassified documents.
William Barnett, an FBI agent who investigated the claims, later told U.S. attorney Jeff Jensen that intelligence analysts “did not locate information to corroborate” the source’s reporting. He also said he found the idea that Flynn left an event either by imself or [redacted] without it being noted “as not plausible.”
“With nothing to corroborate the story, BARNETT thought the information was not accurate,” the interview summary stated.
The summary and the FBI’s description of its finding of derogatory information were two of the pieces of evidence included in the complaint.
Two Dismissals Before Latest Ruling
Lokhova first sued Halper in 2019, along with a number of media companies who had reported the claims about her. Brinkema threw out the complaint, finding that the statute of limitations had expired.
Lokhova filed a fresh complaint in December 2020. It was based on letters Halper sent to Post Hill Press, a publishing company that had entered into a book contract with the plaintiff, and the company’s distributor.
After marketing materials for the book were released ahead of its publication, Halper told the companies that the materials contained defamatory statements. The contract was canceled. Lokhova later self-published the book.
Brinkema ruled that the letters were privileged and could not be cited for litigation purposes, and ordered Lokhova and her lawyer to pay the defendant for allegedly filing a “frivolous” complaint.
But an appeals court, asked to review the case, overturned the ruling. The court’s three-judge panel said the judge applied federal rules that should not have been applied, especially in light of no discovery yet taking place. The panel also found the judge likely violated a rule in imposing monetary sanctions. They remanded the case back to Brinkema.
That led to Halper’s motion to dismiss the case and the judge’s recent ruling that the case can move forward.
Halper’s lawyer, Reed, told Brinkema in court that the comments to the publisher and distributor were not defamatory because they were the opinions of Halper.
“Mr. Halper’s opinions about her opinions are still opinions. And so him saying your opinions are false cannot be defamatory because opinions, by definition under the defamation law, are things that cannot be proven true or false largely because they depend on the subjective view of the parties,” he said.
Leslie McAdoo Gordon, Lokhova’s lawyer, said that if that were the case, then Halper’s description of Lokhova’s statements in the marketing materials could not have been defamatory.
She also pointed out that Halper has never sued Lokhova, even after the book was self-published.
“Mr. Reed and Mr. Halper certainly must have known when they sent this letter that the things that they’re claiming are defaming him are not defaming him. He just doesn’t want the book published no matter what. And if he can intimidate people into not publishing, then he’ll do it. But if they stand their ground and actually publish, then he doesn’t actually follow through on the defamation suit, which is how we know it’s a sham, it’s false, it’s fake,” Gordon said. “There is no defamation except by Mr. Halper.”