Key Steele dossier source indicted on charges of lying to FBI

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Igor Danchenko, an analyst hired to compile key parts of the infamous Steele dossier of alleged ties between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, was charged with five counts of lying to the FBI on Thursday, according to an unsealed indictment.

Why it matters: It's the third indictment in special counsel John Durham's investigation into the origins of the Russia probe and possible misconduct by U.S. law enforcement.

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Details: During FBI interviews seeking to corroborate allegations in the Steele dossier, Danchenko recounted purported conversations he had with sources who described contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to the indictment.

  • The indictment alleges that Danchenko knowingly lied about conversations with "sub-sources" that in fact never happened, or came from somewhere else.

  • Some of the false information in the Steele dossier that came from Danchenko was later used to obtain a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

  • Danchenko was arrested and taken into custody on Thursday, according to the Justice Department.

Background: Many of the allegations in the Steele dossier, which was indirectly funded by the Clinton campaign, have since been refuted. The overarching claim of a criminal election conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia was not corroborated by the Mueller investigation.

  • The Justice Department's inspector general was highly critical of the FBI's handling of the dossier in a 2019 report, and said Danchenko told agents at the time that some of his information came from "hearsay" and "word of mouth."

  • One of the leads Danchenko passed along was about an alleged sex tape involving Trump and prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, which became a source of massive attention and controversy when BuzzFeed published the full dossier in January 2017.

The big picture: Trump allies have long claimed that the Durham investigation, which has been ongoing since April 2019, would result in charges against top Obama-era intelligence officials and validate allegations that the Russia investigation was a political "witch hunt."

  • In August 2020, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to altering email evidence used to obtain the surveillance warrant against Page.

  • Trump aggressively pushed for former Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report on the rest of Durham's findings before the 2020 election, but Barr declined.

  • In September, Clinton-linked lawyer Michael Sussmann was indicted for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Read the indictment.

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