by Chuck Ross
An FBI offer to pay former British spy Christopher Steele to collect intelligence on Michael Flynn in the weeks before the 2016 election has been one of the more overlooked revelations in a Justice Department inspector general’s report released in December.
The reference to the FBI proposal, which was made in an Oct. 3, 2016, meeting in an unidentified European city, has received virtually no press attention. But it might have new significance following the recent release of government documents that show that Steele peddled an unfounded rumor that Flynn had an extramarital affair with a Russian woman in the United Kingdom.
It is not clear how and when Steele came across the rumor, or if it was the result of the FBI asking him to look into Flynn.
The inspector general’s report, released on Dec. 9, 2019, said that FBI agents offered to pay Steele “significantly” to collect intelligence from three separate “buckets” that the bureau was pursuing as part of Crossfire Hurricane, its counterintelligence probe of four Trump campaign associates.
One bucket was “Additional intelligence/reporting on specific, named individuals (such as [Carter Page] or [Flynn]) involved in facilitating the Trump campaign-Russian relationship,” the IG report stated.
FBI agents also sought contact with “any individuals or sub sources” who Steele could provide to “serve as cooperating witnesses to assist in identifying persons involved in the Trump campaign-Russian relationship.”
Steele at the time had provided the FBI with reports he compiled alleging that members of the Trump campaign had conspired with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.
An FBI agent provided Steele with a “general overview” of the ongoing Crossfire Hurricane probe, according to the IG report. The agent told Steele about the actions of George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign aide, and said the FBI had undertaken a “small analytical effort” that centered on Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Flynn.
Some FBI agents who attended the meeting questioned whether the lead agent had disclosed too much to Steele about Crossfire Hurricane, according to the IG report.
Steele was not previously known to have deeply investigated Flynn as part of his dirt-digging mission against the Trump campaign. The former MI6 officer compiled 17 memos that focused instead on Donald Trump, Page, Manafort and Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for Trump.
But two documents released in recent weeks raise the question of whether the FBI’s request of Steele has any link to the rumors that Flynn had an affair with a Russian woman.
One of the documents is a transcript of longtime John McCain associate David Kramer’s interview with the House Intelligence Committee. Kramer testified on Dec. 17, 2017, that Steele told him in December 2016 that he suspected that Flynn had an extramarital affair with a Russian woman.
“There was one thing he mentioned to me that is not included here, and that is he believed that Mr. Flynn had an extramarital affair with a Russian woman in the U.K.,” Kramer told lawmakers.
Kramer said that Steele conveyed that Flynn’s alleged mistress was a “Russian woman” who “may have been a dual citizen.”
An FBI memo dated Jan. 4, 2017, contained another allegation regarding Flynn and a mysterious Russian woman.
The memo, which was provided to Flynn’s lawyers on April 30, said that an FBI confidential human source (CHS) told the bureau that they were present at an event that Flynn attended while he was still working in the U.S. intelligence community.
The CHS said that after dinner and drinks, Flynn “surprised” everyone by leaving in a cab with a person that the FBI source suspected had ties to Russians.
Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-British academic who studied at the University of Cambridge, said she is the woman at the center of the FBI memo and Kramer testimony.
Lokhova became the target of a whisper campaign in early 2017 regarding Flynn’s visit to Cambridge three years earlier, when he served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Lokhova has vehemently denied allegations of wrongdoing. She has said that she met Flynn just once, at the Cambridge event.
Lokhova’s husband has told the Daily Caller News Foundation that he picked Lokhova up after the Cambridge dinner and that she did not leave with Flynn. A DIA official who attended the Cambridge event with Flynn also told TheWSJ in March 2017 that Flynn did not engage in any improper behavior.
In the FBI memo, the Washington Field Office proposed closing a counterintelligence investigation of Flynn because investigators found no evidence that he was acting as an agent of Russia.
Peter Strzok, the deputy chief of counterintelligence, intervened at the last minute to keep the investigation open after the FBI obtained a transcript of Flynn’s phone calls in late December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Strzok helped set the “primary objectives” for the FBI meeting with Steele in October 2016, the IG report also stated.
The FBI source discussed in the Flynn memo has not been identified.
Steele was officially a CHS from 2013 until Nov. 1, 2016, when the FBI terminated the relationship because the ex-spy had unauthorized contact with the media regarding the dossier. Steele’s handling agent, Michael Gaeta, told the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI decided not to pay Steele for his help with Crossfire Hurricane because of his contacts with the media.
Stefan Halper is another FBI source who was a co-convener of the Cambridge event that Flynn attended.
The FBI tasked Halper to meet with and record Page, Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis. The IG report also said that Halper was previously acquainted with Flynn, but it did not make reference to Halper providing any intelligence on the retired general.
Halper told the FBI he was acquainted with Flynn, the IG report stated.
Neither Steele nor Halper are known to have attended the Cambridge event, making it difficult to ascertain who is the FBI source mentioned in the Jan. 4, 2017, memo on Flynn. Both Halper and Steele have a relationship with Sir Richard Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. Dearlove hosted Flynn at the Cambridge event.
Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, has declined repeated requests for comment about his knowledge of Lokhova. A source familiar with Steele’s activities in 2016 previously told the DCNF that the retired spy was aware of Lokhova.
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Chuck Ross is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.