The FBI tasked a woman posing as an assistant to longtime FBI informant Stefan Halper to meet with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos in London in 2016, The New York Times revealed in a report Thursday.
The report confirms longstanding speculation that the woman, who operated under the alias Azra Turk, was part of the government’s operation to keep tabs on Papadopoulos and the Trump team.
But one question about Turk remains unanswered by The Times piece: Who does she work for?
The Times report appears on first glance to suggest Turk is an FBI investigator. One section of the story states: the story states:
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.
Adam Goldman, one of the reporters on The Times story, added mystery to the report Thursday night when he discussed it on CNN.
Goldman provided a cryptic response suggesting she does not work for the FBI when host Anderson Cooper asked who Turk worked for.
“I’m just going to leave it right now as a ‘government investigator.’ I use that wording for a reason, and I’m going to leave it at that,” he said.
Papadopoulos has long speculated that Turk was working for either the CIA or a foreign government’s intelligence service. He’s speculated that if the latter is the case, she was working for the Turkish government. That theory is largely based on Turk’s claim that she was Turkish and that she spoke with a heavy accent.
The Times piece is carefully worded so as to obscure exactly which government agency employed Turk. It also does not clearly say she was working for the American government. Goldman did say in the CNN interview that the FBI wanted to use an American investigator in the operation, suggesting Turk herself is at least a U.S. citizen.
Another passage, taken literally, raises the possibility that Turk merely had an affiliation with the American government. It says:
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.
Another passage suggests stronger ties to the FBI or another American intelligence agency. The FBI also wanted to use Turk in order to protect Halper’s identity as an informant “if prosecutors ever needed court testimony about their activities,” according to The Times.
Halper contacted Papadopoulos out of the blue on Sept. 2, 2016 with a compelling offer. The professor offered to fly Papadopoulos to London to meet to discuss writing an academic paper about Mediterranean energy security issues for $3,000.
Halper had already been in contact with two other Trump campaign advisers by that point. He first met Carter Page at an event at the University of Cambridge on July 11, 2016. The pair would remain in contact through September 2017. Halper also reached out to and met Trump campaign official Sam Clovis.
Papadopoulos exchanged emails with Halper, Turk and Halper’s wife. He accepted the offer and flew to London. His first visit was with Turk, who Papadopoulos described as a voluptuous blonde woman in her 30s who spoke with a heavy accent.
In his book, “Deep State Target,” Papadopoulos speculates that Turk was a honeypot, the spy term used to describe a situation where sex is used to lure in targets.
Papadopoulos has said that Turk exchanged flirtatious messages with him during his London visit. She also sought to meet him when he returned home to Chicago. He’s said he turned down the offer.
The British government was informed about the operation, according to The Times, but it is not clear if they took part. The report also gels with Papadopoulos’s past claims about his interactions with Halper and Turk. He’s said that both pressed him about any contacts he or the campaign had with Russians. Papadopoulos has said that he denied having any Russian contacts or knowing about Russians hacking Democrats’ emails.
The FBI obtained little useful information from the operation, The Times reported.
Turk has not responded to emails seeking comment. A phone number she used during her interactions with Papadopoulos was disconnected after The Daily Caller News Foundation began contacting her in March 2018.
A Facebook account belonging to an Azra Turk who claims to live in Los Angeles has been active since at least 2014. A profile photo on the account is of a blonde woman whose face is obscured. When shown the Facebook account, Papadopoulos said it is possible the photo is of the woman he met in London.
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