Who is Azra Turk?

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It sounds like the stuff of a Jason Bourne novel.

There’s a presidential campaign of an American billionaire, allegations of Russian influence, and a meeting over drinks at a swank London hotel where a young campaign staffer enjoys the company of a curvaceous bottle-blonde reportedly sent by the FBI.

But it really happened in September of 2016, according to a report in yesterday’s New York Times.

The question is whether this was a case of good counterintelligence work, or more nefarious “spying”?

Here’s the background.

From the git-go, the President has been nothing if not consistent.

He’s repeatedly proclaimed all allegations of collusion a “hoax,” the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt,” and the probe to be the stuff of “deep state” conspiracy.

To hear Trump and his prime-time defenders tells it, the investigation was entirely based on unconfirmed allegations contained in a dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign.

That’s a reference to the FISA warrant first taken out on Carter page in October of 2016.

But by October, the Russian investigation was already underway, having begun three months prior.

It began after the FBI learned that a Trump campaign associate named George Papadopoulos had revealed to an Australian diplomat - before the first Wikileaks dump - that the Russians possessed dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Now comes the news that the FBI dispatched a government investigator posing as a research assistant to meet with Papadopoulos in search of the answer to a direct question: was the Trump campaign working with Russia? The operation did not yield valuable information.

To the President, this is “spying,” an abomination, and the establishment of a dangerous precedent.

And the President may have a kindred spirit in Attorney General Bill Barr who told Congress:

I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal.”

But is the investigation worthy of condemnation or applause?

After all, candidate Donald Trump had often heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Many in his orbit - including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Page - had contacts with Russia. 

Based on these facts, the FBI would arguably have been derelict in its duty not to investigate the Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.

This is the survey question today at Smerconish.com:

The FBI dispatch of “Azra Turk,” a “sexy bottle blonde in her thirties” to interact with George Papadopoulos:

Good counterintelligence work

or

Spying