NY Times via MSN
WASHINGTON — The conversation at a London bar in September 2016 took a strange turn when the woman sitting across from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, asked a direct question: Was the Trump campaign working with Russia?
The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. But she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant, according to people familiar with the operation. The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.
The American government’s affiliation with the woman, who said her name was Azra Turk, is one previously unreported detail of an operation that has become a political flash point in the face of accusations by President Trump and his allies that American law enforcement and intelligence officials spied on his campaign to undermine his electoral chances. Last year, he called it “Spygate.”
The decision to use Ms. Turk in the operation aimed at a presidential campaign official shows the level of alarm inside the F.B.I. during a frantic period when the bureau was trying to determine the scope of Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 election, but could also give ammunition to Mr. Trump and his allies for their spying claims.
Ms. Turk went to London to help oversee the politically sensitive operation, working alongside a longtime informant, the Cambridge professor Stefan A. Halper. The move was a sign that the bureau wanted in place a trained investigator for a layer of oversight, as well as someone who could gather information for or serve as a credible witness in any potential prosecution that emerged from the case.
A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Mr. Halper, Robert D. Luskin. Last year, Bill Priestap, then the bureau’s top counterintelligence agent who was deeply involved in the Russia inquiry, told Congress during a closed-door hearing that there was no F.B.I. conspiracy against Mr. Trump or his campaign.
The London operation yielded no fruitful information, but F.B.I. officials have called the bureau’s activities in the months before the election both legal and carefully considered under extraordinary circumstances. They are now under scrutiny as part of an investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general. He could make the results public in May or June, Attorney General William P. Barr has said. Some of the findings are likely to be classified.
A note for future reference, if there is a REAL crime being committed, you don’t need to send someone to plant the evidence of a crime so that someone else can find it later. But, liberals wanted to believe their fantasies to badly, they were totally OK with this abuse of power.