The alleged main source for British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited anti-Trump dossier was arrested on Thursday as part of special counsel John Durham’s criminal inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Igor Danchenko, a Russian-born lawyer who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, was taken into custody by federal law enforcement after being hit with charges in a newly-unsealed indictment obtained by Durham’s office.
The special counsel’s office said Danchenko had been charged “with five counts of making false statements to the FBI” that Durham for claims he made about the sources used in providing information to Steele for his “Company Reports,” which became the dossier. The indictment was returned on Wednesday, and Danchenko is slated to appear before a magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Virginia Thursday afternoon.
The indictment says Danchenko made false statements in March, May, June, October, and November of 2017.
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“The June 15, 2017, false statement count alleges that Danchenko denied that he had spoken with a particular individual about material information contained in one of the Company Reports when he knew that was untrue,” Durham’s office said. “The March 16, 2017, May 18, 2017, Oct. 24, 2017, and Nov. 16, 2017, counts involve statements made by Danchenko on those dates to FBI agents regarding information he purportedly had received from an anonymous caller who he believed to be a particular individual, when in truth and in fact he knew that was untrue. The information purportedly conveyed by the anonymous caller included the allegation that there were communications ongoing between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and that the caller had indicated the Kremlin might be of help in getting Trump elected.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report in December 2019 that concluded Steele's Democratic-funded dossier played a "central and essential" role in the FBI's effort to obtain wiretap orders against Carter Page, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser who was never charged with a crime and denied any wrongdoing. The DOJ watchdog criticized the bureau for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FBI’s reliance on Steele’s dossier, its omission of potentially exculpatory information, and more. Declassified footnotes from Horowitz’s report made public in 2020 indicate the bureau became aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation.
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 dossier information. He told the FBI that Steele mischaracterized at least one of his Russian source contacts and noted much of what he gave to Steele was “word of mouth and hearsay," some of which stemmed from a “conversation that [he] had with friends over beers," and the most salacious allegations may have been made in “jest.” Horowitz said Danchenko “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier.
Durham discovered Danchenko was investigated by the FBI as a possible “threat to national security," according to documents declassified by then-Attorney General William Barr and released in September 2020. The FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" team apparently became aware of this information by December 2016.
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A declassified footnote from Horowitz’s report, relayed by Barr, states, “The Primary Sub-source was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation” from May 2009 to March 2011, including while he worked at Brookings, that "assessed his/her documented contacts with suspected Russian intelligence officers.”