The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have persisted in defending their utilization of information provided by Igor Danchenko, the primary source for Christopher Steele’s infamous dossier. The defense continues, even after interviews wherein Danchenko openly lied, as charged by special counsel John Durham.
Danchenko is Russian-born and U.S.-based. The researcher has been recently charged “with five counts of making false statements to the FBI,” in reference to information he provided to Steele for his dossier.
On Wednesday, Danchenko pled not guilty to the charges.
In 2018, the FBI and DOJ also made a notable attempt to defend the overall credibility of Steele’s dossier, which was the year that Danchenko purportedly lied to the federal agency.
In a July 2018 letter, John Demers, the Then-Assistant Attorney General, informed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Rosemary Collyer that Danchenko had demonstrated a “cooperative” and “truthful” nature with the FBI. Demers also defended the inadequate FISA application that had been weaponized against Carter Page, a Trump campaign associate.
In a statement to the FISA court, Demers proclaims that the application “[contains] sufficient predication for the Court to have found probable cause that the target was an agent of a foreign power.”
However, a December 2019 report released by DOJ Inspector Michael Horowitz reveals several of the dossier’s claims to be wholly unfounded. Horowitz subsequently criticized the FBI and the DOJ for a minimum of 17 “significant errors and omissions” with regards to the FISA warrants used against Page. He also levied criticism against the federal agency for its “central and essential” dependence upon Steele’s dossier.
Horowitz also proclaimed that the FBI’s interviews with Danchenko revealed “significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting” and cast significant doubt upon some of the dossier’s most controversial claims.
Ironically, publicly surfaced documents have revealed that the FBI had previously launched an investigation against Danchenko as a potential “threat to national security” over his suspected ties to Russian intelligence agencies.
Judge Collyer assailed the federal agency’s actions as “antithetical to the heightened duty of candor” upon the release of the report.
For instance, FBI notes from a January 2017 interview with Danchenko reveal that the Russian researcher indicated that he was unaware of “the origins” of a few of Steele’s claims, and he also added that he did not necessarily “recall” other information that had been present in the dossier.
Consequently, Horowitz remarked that Danchenko had “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steel’s infamous dossier.
The FBI also noted that they had learned about Steele’s primary reliance on one source in October 2016, and the federal agency detailed how its conversations with Danchenko might impact its confidence in the contents of the dossier.
However, the agency claimed that its discussions with Danchenko ultimately “confirm that the dossier was not fabricated by Steele,” adding that these conversations ostensibly “confirmed that he operates within high level academic and government circles.”
The FBI also claimed that Danchenko and Steele “utilized reasonably sound intelligence tradecraft.”
In addition, the bureau asserted that it had also “successfully protected from public disclosure the overwhelming majority of the individuals who [had] contributed source reporting to the Steele Dossier.”
However, several of the presumed sources for the dossier have denied serving as a source, while others have been accused of providing false information. Other alleged sources have also distanced themselves from the dossier.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who previously served as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated in August 2020 that the FBI’s 2018 briefing reveals that the agency had deceived the Senate about both the dossier and Danchenko.
Shortly after his remarks, Graham also revealed the role that Bill Priestap, who previously served as the Former Head of Counterintelligence for the FBI, had been the official he claimed had attempted “whitewashing” the dossier for presentation to the Senate in 2018.
Graham noted that he would be turning that information over to Durham to consider in his investigation, as Priestap’s actions potentially constitute “another crime.”
Priestap had served as the leader of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, and he had previously written to the CIA in order to describe Steele as “reliable.” This description arose as the FBI had been pushing for the inclusion of Steele’s allegations made in the 2017 intelligence community regarding potential Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Virtually all of the original signers of the Page FISA warrants, including FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, have revealed under oath that they would have never signed off on the surveillance had they been aware then of what they are aware of now.