As John Durham's investigation takes shape, the question of whether the special counsel will charge anyone else at the FBI looms large.

Michael Sussmann, a Democratic cybersecurity lawyer, was indicted in September for allegedly concealing his work for the Clinton campaign when pushing claims of a connection between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian bank Alfa Bank to the FBI's top lawyer. And Igor Danchenko, a U.S.-based and Russian-born researcher, was charged “with five counts of making false statements to the FBI,” which Durham claims he made about the information he provided to British ex-spy Christopher Steele for his discredited dossier.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in December 2019 that Steele's dossier played a "central and essential" role in the FBI's effort to obtain wiretap orders against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The DOJ watchdog determined the FBI’s investigation was filled with serious missteps and concealed potentially exculpatory information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, criticizing the bureau for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions," particularly its reliance upon Steele.

The FBI knew Steele had an anti-Trump bias, his dossier was flawed, and he was receiving funding from Clinton and the DNC, but it didn't specifically tell the FISA court.

So far, Durham has obtained a single guilty plea from ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for editing a FISA filing fraudulently to state Page was "not a source" for the CIA.

Whether anyone else at the bureau will be charged remains to be seen, but Durham is likely scrutinizing a variety of long-simmering controversies:

Carter Page FISA signers disavow their actions

The signers of the Page FISAs — Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and then-acting Attorney General Dana Boente — have indicated under oath they would not have signed off on the surveillance if they knew then what they know now. Fired FBI Director James Comey also testified, “No, not without a much fuller discussion of how they were thinking about their disclosure obligations to the court.”

The FBI’s meetings with Steele in 2016

Durham is reportedly focusing on notes Steele took of his FBI meetings in July 2016 in London and in October 2016 in Rome. Steele reportedly refused to hand over the notes as Durham scrutinizes whether the FBI may have improperly disclosed classified information to him.

The October 2016 meeting involved multiple FBI agents. The bureau revealed to Steele that Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was under investigation after a "Friendly Foreign Government," Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, relayed a conversation about Papadopoulos allegedly being told about possible Russian dirt on Clinton, and Steele relayed this to Fusion GPS. The FBI also told Steele it was looking at Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn, and Page.

Horowitz said a summary by Case Agent 2 stated Steele was “given a general overview of the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation" and “was advised that the CH team was made aware of [Papadopoulos's] May 2016 comments in the U.K. in late July.”

Horowitz noted, “The contents of both the ‘analytical effort’ and the FFG's notice to the U.S. government are classified.” Horowitz said Handling Agent 1 told him “that he agreed it was peculiar that Case Agent 2 gave Steele an overview of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.” The Supervisory Intel Analyst told Horowitz that “he was concerned that Case Agent 2 had divulged too much information to Steele.” Case Agent 2 told Horowitz that "he agreed that in the ‘heat of the moment’ he made a mistake and provided more information than he should have.”

Horowitz said “both" FBI counterintelligence chief Bill Priestap and now-fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok said that Case Agent 2 had "provided more information than was necessary to Steele.” Horowitz said his team “determined" that Case Agent 2 "did not have prior authorization to make the [classified] disclosure.”

Fusion GPS's co-founders wrote that the October 2016 meeting "yielded an important bit of intelligence for Fusion" on Papadopoulos. Democratic lawyer Marc Elias hired Fusion GPS and met with Steele in 2016, and Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook has said Elias passed along to the Clinton campaign Trump-Russia details he learned from Fusion.

Steele Dossier in the intelligence community assessment on Russian meddling

Comey and McCabe fought to include information from Steele’s dossier in the January 2017 intelligence community assessment on Russian election interference. Although the CIA and NSA ultimately overruled their efforts, the dossier was still summarized in a classified annex attached to the report.

Priestap and the FBI’s intelligence section chief both wrote to the CIA in 2016 to describe Steele as “reliable.”

The FBI’s intelligence section chief emailed the FBI in December 2016 that McCabe “wants the [Steele] reporting included in the submission with some level of detail." The same day, the intelligence section chief warned that “the minute we put the [Steele allegations] in there, it goes from what you’d expect the FBI to be collecting in a counterintelligence context to direct allegations about collusion with the Trump campaign.”

The next day, Comey emailed FBI team members about a call he had with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper the night before.

“I informed the DNI that we would be contributing the [Steele] reporting (although I didn’t use that name) to the [intelligence community] effort,” Comey wrote. “I stressed that we were proceeding cautiously to understand and attempt to verify the reporting as best we can, but we thought it important to bring it forward to the IC effort.”

McCabe emailed Clapper’s principal deputy in late December 2016 to continue his push to include the Steele information.

Comey conceded to Horowitz that Steele’s dossier was “not ripe enough, mature enough, to be in a finished intelligence product.”

The Launch of Crossfire Hurricane

Horowitz and Durham disagree over the circumstances surrounding the launch of Crossfire Hurricane in 2016. The DOJ watchdog found that the investigation had “sufficient factual predication” in his 2019 report. But then-Attorney General William Barr and Durham quibbled on this.

“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened," Durham said in December 2019.

Barr said, "The FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken."

Downer allegedly alerted the U.S. Embassy in London in July 2016 about a conversation about Russian “dirt” he had earlier that year with Papadopoulos.

Downer met with Papadopoulos at London's Kensington Wine Rooms in May 2016, where Papadopoulos allegedly said he’d been told Russia had damaging information on Clinton. After WikiLeaks published stolen DNC emails, Australia informed the United States about what Papadopoulos allegedly said.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October 2017 to making false statements to the FBI about his April 2016 discussions with mysterious Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud, whom he said informed him about possible "dirt" on Clinton.

While in London in 2019, Durham reportedly viewed the cable Downer sent to Canberra in May 2016.

Declassified documents show Trump-Russia collusion denials Papadopoulos provided to multiple FBI confidential human sources were never relayed to the FISA Court as the FBI sought warrants to wiretap Page.

The “opening electronic communication” for Crossfire Hurricane was authored by Strzok and authorized by Priestap at the end of July 2016.

DOJ continued defending Danchenko to FISA Court in 2018

The Justice Department and FBI continued defending their use of information from Danchenko in front of the FISA Court in 2018, even though the Durham indictment stated Danchenko lied to the FBI five times in 2017.

Then-Assistant Attorney General John Demers told FISA Court Judge Rosemary Collyer in a July 2018 letter that Danchenko had been “truthful and cooperative” with the FBI.

Demers also told the FISA Court that "the FBI has reviewed this letter and confirmed its factual accuracy.”

But Horowitz said FBI interviews with Danchenko “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting” and cast doubt on some of its biggest claims. Documents show the FBI had previously investigated Danchenko as a possible "threat to national security."

Collyer later condemned the FBI's FISAs as "antithetical to the heightened duty of candor."

DOJ may have also misled Senate Intelligence Committee in 2018

The FBI’s “Draft Talking Points” for a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing dated February 2018 include further defenses of Danchenko the year after he allegedly lied to the bureau.

The FBI pointed to interviews with Danchenko in January 2017, writing that he “did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier.”

FBI notes of a January 2017 interview with Danchenko showed he told the bureau he “did not know the origins” of some of Steele's claims and “did not recall” other information that was in the dossier. He noted that much of what he passed along to Steele was “word of mouth and hearsay” and that some stemmed from a “conversation ... with friends over beers,” while the most salacious allegations may have been made in “jest.”

Horowitz concluded Danchenko “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier.

But the FBI’s talking points seemed to lend credibility to Steele based on the Danchenko interviews the year prior.


“At minimum, our discussions with [Danchenko] confirm that the dossier was not fabricated by Steele,” the FBI wrote. “Our discussions with [Danchenko] confirmed that he operates within high level academic and government circles, maintains trusted relationships with individuals who are capable of reporting on the material he collected for Steele, and that Steele and [Danchenko] utilized reasonably sound intelligence tradecraft.”