The same FBI field office covering the Hunter Biden investigation lost Russian Igor Danchenko “in plain sight,” John Durham’s special counsel report revealed.
Yet when Danchenko’s FBI handler pulled details of that prior espionage investigation mere days after Danchenko was opened as a confidential human source (CHS), the agent failed to document Danchenko’s suspicious history or alert the Crossfire Hurricane team to the fact that Danchenko could be a Russian spy. These facts and more add to the already outrageous details disclosed during Durham’s failed prosecution of Danchenko — such as that the FBI paid Danchenko hundreds of thousands of dollars for the fraud he helped perpetrate on the country.
While Durham failed to convict Danchenko of lying to the FBI, the October 2022 trial of the man who served as Christopher Steele’s primary sub-source exposed extensive malfeasance by both the Crossfire Hurricane team and later Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s staff. Among other things, the evidence and court filings revealed that agents opened Danchenko as a CHS even though the FBI had previously launched an espionage investigation into the Russian. However, the special counsel’s report added more details, greatly expanding the scandal.
For instance, after noting the previously reported fact that Danchenko had been the subject of an FBI counterespionage investigation from 2009 to 2011, Durham detailed the basis for the launch of that probe. As Durham explained, a researcher from the Brookings Institution — the D.C. think tank at which Danchenko worked at the time — informed a government contact that Danchenko had commented he “had access to people who would be willing to pay money for classified information.”
The FBI later interviewed the Brookings Institution researcher who repeated Danchenko’s apparent espionage outreach. Durham also revealed that a second Brookings employee stated he had harbored suspicions that Danchenko was connected to Russian intelligence because, notwithstanding the fact that Danchenko held multiple advanced degrees, he stayed at Brookings in a low-level research assistance position.
“The implicit assumption,” Durham concluded, was “that Brookings unwittingly provided Danchenko access to information of high value to the Russians.”
The information provided by the Brookings employees led the FBI’s Baltimore field office to launch a preliminary espionage investigation into Danchenko, with agents later converting the probe into a full investigation. While Durham did not stress the point here, the FBI’s decision to originally launch only a preliminary investigation against Danchenko furthers the special counsel’s conclusion that the immediate opening of a full investigation into the Trump campaign was unjustified and contrary to how the FBI handled other investigations.
The special counsel did, however, highlight several more aspects of the initial investigation into Danchenko, such as that agents interviewed several people at Georgetown University who knew Danchenko. One individual questioned by the FBI explained she had recently interned at an intelligence agency and that afterward, Danchenko quizzed her on her “knowledge of a specific Russian military matter.” The former intelligence agency intern also revealed that Danchenko claimed his Russian passport listed him as GRU, which is the Russian military intelligence service.
These additional details make the decision by the Crossfire Hurricane team to hire Danchenko as a CHS even more troubling.
Durham’s report also found disquieting what Danchenko’s handler, FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson, told investigators. According to Durham, the special counsel’s office determined that Helson became aware of the investigation into Danchenko shortly after he opened Danchenko as a source. Yet Helson failed to update the CHS paperwork. Here, Durham noted that data showed Helson had conducted a “Sentinel” search, querying the counterespionage case file on Danchenko. But when confronted with that fact in an interview by the special counsel’s team, Helson claimed he had no recollection as to why he had searched Danchenko’s case file.
Durham dinged Helson on several other facts related to Danchenko, suggesting the special counsel didn’t believe Helson’s version of events. But either way, Durham explained, “Helson and the Counterintelligence Division missed another opportunity to make any needed course corrections to Crossfire Hurricane and the use of Danchenko as a CHS.”
Besides his scathing summary of the FBI’s use of Danchenko as a CHS, Durham also revealed several new aspects of the initial botched investigation of Danchenko that was headed out of the FBI’s Baltimore field office. While Durham had revealed during Danchenko’s trial that the FBI had mistakenly closed out its investigation against Danchenko, wrongly believing he had left the country, Monday’s report showed how bush league that mistake was: All it took was for the special counsel’s office to review the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Person Encounter List for Igor Danchenko to determine he had not departed the U.S. on a one-way ticket to London, as the Baltimore field office believed.
But that was not the only mistake. According to Durham, in 2012, after the FBI had closed out the investigation into Danchenko, another FBI agent informed the Baltimore field office that Danchenko may not have left the United States as had been believed. Yet the investigation into Danchenko was never reopened. And when interviewed by Durham, the Baltimore field office agent admitted that “certainly a lot more investigation” of Danchenko should have occurred.
Given that the FBI’s Baltimore field office covers the Delaware U.S. attorney’s office — the office conducting the investigation into Hunter Biden — one can’t help but wonder what investigative steps were botched by agents in that case.