Federal authorities arrested Igor Danchenko, the primary sub-source for the discredited Steele dossier at the center of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, on Thursday, The New York Times reported.
The arrest came as part of the special counsel probe run by U.S. Attorney John Durham investigating the origins of the years-long conspiracy that accused President Donald Trump of being a Russian agent.
“The indictment of Mr. Danchenko had yet to be unsealed,” the paper reported, with no charges revealed, adding “a spokesman for Mr. Durham did not respond to a request for comment.”
In 2016, Danchenko’s reporting became the basis for the since-debunked Steele dossier, which was filled with sensational rumors and false assertions authored by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. Several of those claims were still used in FBI applications to spy on the Trump campaign over the course of Crossfire Hurricane, the agency’s deep-state operation to overthrow the duly-elected Republican president with made-up charges of collusion. Two out of four applications eventually approved were granted unlawfully, a federal judge found in January last year.
In December 2019, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report finding Steele “was not the originating source of any of the factual information” within the dossier, which relied almost entirely on Danchenko, a Russian national with a checkered past that includes criminal convictions overlooked by the FBI.
Last fall, then-Attorney General William Barr declassified formerly redacted footnotes from the report revealing Danchenko had previously been “the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 that assessed his/her documented contacts with Russian intelligence officers.” In other words, Danchenko, not Trump, was a suspected Russian agent.
Danchenko denied the allegation during an interview with The New York Times last year.
“It is ridiculous to suggest that,” Danchenko said. “This, I think, it’s slander.”
Danchenko’s own sources at the heart of the Steele dossier’s fabricated claims included a group of drinking buddies who regurgitated rumors that were ultimately given media-manufactured credibility after Steele compiled them as legitimate.
The FBI not only knew the dossier was unreliable as it sought renewal of surveillance warrants, but it knew the information was influenced by Russian disinformation.
According to a series of DOJ inspector general report footnotes declassified in the spring of 2020, the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team was told that Steele’s reporting, and therefore Danchenko’s, stemmed from “a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations.” Another report from 2017 claimed, “Trump’s [redacted] activities in Moscow during a trip in 2013 were false, and that they were the product of [Russian Intelligence Service] ‘infiltrat[ing] a source into the network’ of a [redacted] who compiled a dossier of information on Trump’s activities.”
The mention of Trump’s specific activities, which remain redacted, likely referred to rumors of the infamous pee tape, where at a Moscow hotel in 2013 Trump allegedly engaged in golden showers with a pair of prostitutes on a bed where the Obamas once slept.
Danchenko’s charges would mark the third indictment from the Durham probe. Last month, Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann was indicted for false statements to the FBI in September 2016. Prosecutors charged Sussmann with misrepresenting his capacity when he made significant allegations to the agency over the course of its investigation.
In January, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith was given a light sentence of one year probation and 400 hours of community service after pleading guilty to manipulating documents to obtain spy warrants on the Trump campaign.