By CAROLINE DOWNEY | National Review
U.S. Attorney John Durham (United States Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut/Wikimedia)
The primary researcher behind the Steele Dossier, a collection of unsubstantiated opposition research linking the 2016 Trump campaign to the Kremlin, was arrested by federal authorities Thursday.
Russia analyst Igor Danchenko’s indictment stems from the federal probe led by John Durham, the special counsel tapped by the Trump administration to audit the Russia investigation for malfeasance, anonymous individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told the New York Times.
In the months following the 2016 election, it was determined that many of the claims made by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who hired Danchenko, were either unverified or erroneous. The dossier created the collusion allegation that Trump “accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.”
Steele was later accused of peddling a hoax of Russian election interference to undermine Trump’s campaign with his dossier, which was funded by the Clinton campaign through its law firm Perkins Coie.
Perkins Coie employed Clinton campaign lawyer and former federal prosecutor Michael Sussmann, who Durham also recently charged for allegedly making a false statement to the FBI concerning the Trump Organization’s use of a secret server to communicate with Kremlin-connected Russian bank Alfa Bank.
In February, Durham issued a subpoena to collect documents associated with Danchenko’s former employment at the Brookings Institution, where he worked for five years. During this tenure, he faced a counterintelligence inquiry into whether he was a Russian agent.
Danchenko rejected this idea in an interview with Times in 2020. “I’ve never been a Russian agent,” he said. “It is ridiculous to suggest that. This, I think, it’s slander.”
During an interview with the FBI, Danchenko cast doubt on some of the contents of the dossier, suggesting that he himself was skeptical of the material presented.
“Even raw intelligence from credible sources, I take it with a grain of salt,” Danchenko said. “Who knows, what if it’s not particularly accurate? Is it just a rumor or is there more to it?”
However, the FBI reportedly did not relay Danchenko’s doubt to the Justice Department. A 2019 investigation conducted by the DOJ inspector general called out the FBI for relying on information from the dossier in spite of Danchenko’s admission that some of the details were somewhat speculative.