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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg May 24, 2018

Online story gets details wrong about informant payment in Trump Russia probe

As President Donald Trump tweeted that the Russia investigation is fake news, flashed the headline, "BOMBSHELL!! Obama Paid FBI Informant Over $1 MILLION To Do It To Trump!"

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Is it true?


The facts behind this claim

The FBI informant in question has been reported by the Washington Post and others as American foreign policy academic Stefan Halper. According to news reports, the FBI asked Halper to talk to several people involved with the Trump campaign during the summer and fall of 2016. Halper had conversations with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, then foreign policy advisers to the Trump campaign, and campaign co-chair Sam Clovis.

Early on in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians in 2016.

Trump has said the informant got a "massive amount of money," but we don’t know if the FBI paid him at all. It’s simply unknown at this point.

Where is the money coming from?

Here’s what the USbreakingnews story got right: Halper received over $1 million to do work for the U.S. government. Washington’s spending database shows the government signed four contracts with Halper totalling $1,058,161 between 2012 and 2016. The dates fall during the Obama administration.

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DOD Office of Net Assessment


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DOD Office of Net Assessment





DOD Office of Net Assessment





DOD Office of Net Assessment


In the key period in 2016, Halper worked on a study of Russian-Chinese relationships.

But the money came from the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment, not the FBI. The Pentagon describes the Office of Net Assessment as "an independent organization within the Department of Defense charged with identifying emerging or future threats and opportunities for the United States."

The USbreakingnews piece gets a bit confused on this point. It asks, "Why would anyone receive that kind of money ($1,058,161) from the DOJ?" But the money did not come from the Department of Justice, where the FBI sits. It came from the Pentagon.

The article then asks why "someone like Halper" would get such money. Halper’s professional biography gives a few answers. He’s professor emeritus at Cambridge University in England where he lectures on international security issues. He served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Political-Military Affairs in the Reagan administration.

The headline says Obama had a direct hand in the payments, but it offers no evidence that Obama had anything to do with the contract awards.

Some money came before Trump announced he was running

The article’s math is also off.

About 40 percent of the money was awarded before Trump even got into the race in June 2015. So even if there were a tie between the contracts and Halper’s conversations with Trump campaign advisers – and there’s zero indication of that —  the amount would be less than $1 million.

The article strings together a handful of facts to gin up a compelling headline, but nothing holds together.

We rate this claim False.

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Says "Obama paid FBI informant over $1 million to do it to Trump."
On a fake news website
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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Online story gets details wrong about informant payment in Trump Russia probe

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