ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
We're learning more about the FBI informant who reportedly made contact with several Trump campaign advisers in 2016 as part of the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference. NPR hasn't independently confirmed the informant's name, but a number of news organizations say they have, including The Washington Post. Last night, The Post published his name. Robert Costa co-wrote the story.
ROBERT COSTA, BYLINE: The Washington Post held back institutionally last week when we first reported on a secret FBI source. But as other news organizations in recent days published his name, The Post decided to publish the name, Stefan Halper.
SHAPIRO: We should note NPR has made contact with Stefan Halper, and he declined to comment on all of this. The University of Cambridge website lists him as an emeritus senior fellow of the Centre of International Studies. I understand you actually took a class with him at Cambridge.
COSTA: He was my professor at Cambridge. I studied under professor Halper in 2008. In 2009, he was a friend and a professor, an American working at Cambridge. And as an American student there myself studying American politics and British politics, he was someone I sought out, had dinner with him and his wife on many occasions. He's a gregarious academic, someone who enjoys writing and debating. And he always seemed highly connected to both me and people he came in touch with at Cambridge, someone who knew so many American presidents, had worked for them in the White House going back to the Nixon administration.
SHAPIRO: So how does somebody like this with one foot in academia, another foot in Republican policy government circles become an FBI informant?
COSTA: If you look at Stefan Halper's career, he has been an academic, to be sure, for the last two decades or so, but he has also been closely working with the federal government. He's been contracted by the Department of Defense since 2012, made over a million dollars in different kinds of contract fees for research in the social sciences. But if you look back at his career, he also took notes on campaigns for the White House in the 1970s, working for the chief of staff for President Gerald Ford. He's someone who has always been a political analyst. And he's had ties to the intelligence community. His first wife - her father was Ray Cline, a longtime, prominent CIA analyst.
SHAPIRO: What kind of work did he do with regards to the Trump campaign? And was it illegal as President Trump has suggested it might have been?
COSTA: President Trump has suggested that a source was embedded in the campaign. We have not seen any evidence of Halper being embedded in the campaign or working with the campaign. But based on our reporting with my colleagues, we have confirmed that Halper did make contact with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis. These were advisers to the Trump campaign focused on foreign policy. And he had conversations and meetings with them during the end of the campaign in 2016.
SHAPIRO: Two of those people are really at the center of the Mueller probe. And the third, Sam Clovis, has been interviewed as a witness. Why would Halper help the FBI in this sort of investigation? What was in it for him?
COSTA: Well, knowing Halper over the years, I've always found him to be someone who articulates an adherence and a real value to American institutions like the FBI, the CIA, someone who values government. He's a moderate Republican in his politics, but when we started doing the reporting at The Post about him being the secret FBI source, it didn't surprise me at all that he would be someone who would have a relationship with the federal government as an informant or at least an ally because of the way he has always spoken about the United States and U.S. institutions in this reverent way.
SHAPIRO: The FBI urged reporters not to reveal his name. Now that his name is public, do you know where he is, whether he's in danger?
COSTA: We know that he has maintained residences in the U.K. and in Virginia for years. But we have not been able to see him in person. He did decline via email to comment. Hopefully he is safe. He is someone I know. At the same time, these are delicate, tough stories. We held back on the name, but the name was out there everywhere in recent days. So institutionally, The Post decided to move forward as have others.
SHAPIRO: Robert Costa of The Washington Post, thanks for joining us.
COSTA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.