A top House Republican has defended the FBI against a series of attacks by President Trump, who’s claimed without evidence that the bureau planted a spy in his 2016 presidential campaign. Rep. Trey Gowdy, chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee, said Tuesday that the FBI was acting properly when it deployed a confidential informant—Stefan Halper—to investigate Russian attempts to interfere in the election. We talk to Glenn Greenwald about Halper’s involvement in the CIA and the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan.
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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Glenn, on another topic, a top House Republican has defended the FBI against a series of attacks by President Trump, who’s claimed, without evidence, that the bureau planted a spy in his 2016 presidential campaign. Representative Trey Gowdy, chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee, said Tuesday that the FBI was acting properly when it deployed a confidential informant to investigate Russian attempts to interfere in the election. I’m wondering if you could comment on this, because you’ve written about the person planted and his checkered history, Stefan Halper.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. So, it’s an interesting case, because, obviously, in 2016, there were claims that there were members of the Trump campaign who were colluding with or had improper relationships with various business and political interests in Russia. And it’s completely legitimate—in fact, obligatory—for the FBI to investigate those allegations, and using an informant to do so is an entirely proper way to investigate. They do it all the time. They do it to huge numbers of groups. In fact, on some level, it’s one of the least invasive ways, is to have somebody with knowledge speak to the people who are being investigated and then report back to the FBI what it is that they’ve learned. So the idea that this is a spy or that this is something improper is ridiculous.
At the same time, there are a lot of questions about where these suspicions came from, about who it is who started them, about who was overseeing the investigation, where the dossier came from. And so the question of who this informant was is a matter of legitimate public interest. And yet the Justice Department and the FBI did what they always do when they want to hide things, which is they claim that, “Oh, if we learn who the informant is, it will jeopardize lives around the world. It will compromise intelligence assets. It will harm the national security of the United States.” They made it seem like the informant was some kind of covert, undercover CIA or FBI asset, whose name, if it were disclosed, would blow all sorts of secret covert operations.
As it turned out, now that we know the name, Stefan Halper, that turned out to be a total lie. Stefan Halper is a longtime dirty CIA operative who has ties to the Bush family and the Republican Party. He was behind one of the worst CIA scandals, which is, in 1980, the Reagan campaign spied on what the Carter administration was doing, by having CIA officials report classified information to the Reagan campaign so they knew what the Carter administration was doing, so they could use it against Carter in the 1980 campaign. And the person who oversaw that was Stefan Halper, working with the former CIA director and then-vice-presidential candidate George Herbert Walker Bush.
So, Halper has been around Washington forever. His name has long been known as a CIA operative and as a Republican operative. And the idea that naming him would somehow jeopardize his life or the lives of other people was an absolute lie. But the Justice Department used it to successfully convince media outlets in the U.S. not to name him for many weeks. And it was only once The New York Times and Washington Post published enough information on purpose for us to learn his identity, were we then able to figure out who it was.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Glenn Greenwald, we’re going to do Part 2 with you and post it online in web exclusives at democracynow.org. Glenn Greenwald is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, one of the founding editors of The Intercept.
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