The Curious Case of Stefan Halper, Longtime ‘Zelig’ of American Scandals Who ‘Crossfired’ Trump

by Mark Hemingway, The Gateway Pundit:

In the late summer of 2016 Stefan A. Halper met with at least three of Donald Trump’s associates in England and the United States, bragging about his friendship with Russian spies who “can be very helpful to us at this time.”

As they listened to his tales of foreign intrigue and promises of illegal foreign help, what George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Sam Clovis did not know was that Halper was not who he said he was. He was, indeed, a spy, but his handler was not the Kremlin – it was the FBI. Armed with leading questions and on at least two occasions a hidden tape recorder, Halper had been tasked by the bureau with finding dirt on the Trump campaign.


Halper’s undercover operation, which was documented in a report by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, would prove largely a bust. Transcripts between Halper and Trump campaign officials would show that none of them took the bait, or appeared to otherwise be soliciting Russia’s help in the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Even now, it might seem odd that the FBI made Halper, then a septuagenarian Cambridge University professor, a linchpin of its top-secret counterintelligence probe codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane.” But a closer look at Halper’s life and work makes that decision seem inevitable. Stefan Halper is the Zelig of modern American political scandal – a chameleon-like, unusually ubiquitous figure who keeps appearing when mischief is afoot.

A Wide Resume, and Questions About It

The former son-in-law of a top CIA official, Halper cut his teeth in the Nixon White House during Watergate. The New York Times identified him as the Reagan campaign’s point man in an alleged effort to spy on President Jimmy Carter, and he was later chairman of a bank that helped provide money to surreptitiously fund Nicaragua’s pro-American contra rebels during the 1980s. In the run-up to his subterfuge in the Trump-Russia caper, Halper was paid more than $1 million by a Pentagon office that produced work deemed of such little value that Sen. Charles Grassley recently identified it as a prime example of the government’s “systemic failure to manage and oversee” spending.

Given the secret nature of his work, it is not surprising that Halper’s exact role in these scandals is still debated by insiders and historians. An examination of long-ignored records by RealClearInvestigations, however, shows that Halper has added to the mystery by appearing to consistently misrepresent his background and experience on resumes. There is, for example, no public evidence for his claim, on a resume he submitted to the Ford White House, that he was class president at Stanford University in 1967, or a Fulbright scholar. Nor is there any for the claim on another resume that he held the prestigious position in the Ford administration listed.

Halper declined to speak with RCI when asked for an interview in person at his Virginia home. He also declined to respond to a letter from this reporter subsequently sent to his attorney, inquiring about discrepancies documented in this article.

Reinvention at the Center of History

For an example of the entrenched, protective, and largely unaccountable “deep state” that many see as a central problem in Washington, one would be hard-pressed to find a more fitting embodiment than Stefan Halper. Like the fictional character Leonard Zelig in Woody Allen’s 1983 mockumentary, Halper – who worked for Republicans until he helped try to take down a GOP candidate – has used his ability to reinvent himself to stay at the center of history.

Little information is available about Halper’s childhood. His Wikipedia entry says he was born in 1944. A relative who requested anonymity said he was reared in New Jersey. His public biography picks up in 1967, when he graduated from Stanford University – though he was not, as he later claimed, class president. That honor belonged to Jim Binns, a Vietnam veteran who would later go on to have a distinguished career in government service. According to the Stanford Quad yearbook, Halper was president of the Institute of International Relations club.

After Stanford, Halper earned a Ph.D. from Oxford in 1971, according to both his Ford White House resume and one posted until 2020 on the website of the Institute for World Politics, a foreign policy graduate school where Halper was on the faculty as a “research professor.” At Oxford, such a doctoral degree requires a dissertation to be submitted to the university’s library system, a search of which showed no listing for Stefan Halper. The school would neither confirm nor deny for RCI whether Halper had earned a Ph.D. from the university. A 1968 newsletter does place him at the school. The dust jacket of a book of essays he co-edited in 1972 says that he “recently completed a doctoral thesis at Oxford.”

Halper’s Ford resume states that he was a Fulbright Scholar in 1971. Peter VanDerwater, Head of Outreach and Recruitment for the Fulbright Student and Scholar Programs, said he was not “able to locate [Halper’s] name in the directories we publish for the Fulbright Student and Scholar programs.”

Halper’s claims about Stanford, Oxford and the Fulbright scholarship were among the discrepancies and gaps in the official record RCI asked Halper to clarify. He declined.

The Nixon Years

During that same busy year of 1971, according to Halper’s Institute for World Politics resume, he joined the Nixon White House as a member of the Domestic Policy Council. If this were true, it would have placed him near the nerve center of Nixon-era dirty tricks. Council staff were recruited by John Ehrlichmann, who also oversaw the infamous White House Special Investigations Unit – better known as the “plumbers.” With a team that included CIA alum E. Howard Hunt, the unit was designed to stop leaks of damaging information questioning America’s role in the Vietnam war. The plumbers would later execute the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, which led to Nixon’s resignation and landed Hunt, Ehrlichmann, and others in prison.

But civil service records obtained by RealClearInvestigations indicate that Halper did not work for the Domestic Council. His job title is listed as “Special Assistant to the Director, Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention” (SAODAP). Although this office was overseen by the Council’s head, Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr. (who was supervised by Ehrlichmann), it was a separate program within the Executive Office of the President.

Jerry Jaffe, the former head of the SAODAP program, confirmed in an email to RCI that, “Mr. Halper worked for the special action office for drug abuse prevention, and that the dates were approx 1971 to 1973.” Jaffe added: “SAODAP was not part of the Domestic Council.”

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