The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is demanding detailed information on payments the Pentagon’s secretive Office of Net Assessment (ONA) made to an FBI informant who spied on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, in a Jan. 22 letter the ONA Director James Baker, requested information on Stefan Halper’s role within ONA, including his contracts, his foreign contacts and whether the FBI, or other agencies, used the ONA office to pay Halper for spying on Trump campaign associates.
“Can ONA state for certain that Halper did not use taxpayer money provided by DoD to recruit, or attempt to recruit, sources for the FBI investigation into the now-debunked theory of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Grassley asked Baker in the letter.
Halper’s role with ONA “becomes highly suspicious and his contracts coincide with his spying on the Trump campaign,” a former government official told investigative report Sara Carter.
One of the ONA contracts under question by Grassley was awarded in September 2015. Halper lists a former Russian deputy foreign minister, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, as a consultant and adviser to a paper delivered to the ONA. Trubnikov is a known Russian intelligence officer who was listed by Christopher Steele as a source in the bogus anti-Trump dossier.
Halper, who was paid more than $1 million by the ONA, was an integral part of the FBI’s investigation in 2016 into Trump campaign associates Carter Page and George Papadopolous.
Halper’s Cambridge Intelligence Seminar was also connected to Michael Flynn. In April, 2014 Flynn, who was then head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was invited as a guest to London. “Flynn would later be at the center of false stories accusing him of being a Russian asset and wrapping Russian born British academic Svetlana Lokhova into the false stories,” Carter reported.
The ONA, which was established under former President Richard Nixon, is considered the Pentagon’s “think tank” but has been highly criticized in recent years for what appeared to be a failure to produce assessments. For example, in 2016 Washington Times national security correspondent Bill Gertz revealed that Baker failed “to produce more of its signature product, namely, top-secret net assessments.”
As stated by Gertz, the office, “has focused its $20 million annual budget mainly on producing outside research projects, some of them of questionable value, according to critics.” Under the Pentagon the ONA is supposed to be an “internal research organization that awards contracts for academic reports intended to assist the military in producing long-term trends and prospects of military capabilities compared to other countries to identify future threats.”
Carter wrote that “The expansive nature of Grassley’s investigation is significant and coincides – but is separate – with an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice appointed prosecutor John Durham’s criminal probe into the matter.”