The nation argued for five years over the infamous Steele dossier, the document on which the FBI relied to investigate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. It should have been called the Clinton dossier.
Special counsel John Durham this week obtained an indictment of Igor Danchenko, a Russian who provided information for the dossier. Danchenko is charged with lying to the FBI, but the bigger story of the indictment is Democrats’ central role in every aspect of the dossier and the FBI investigation.
Never forget the original claim. According to the FBI, Democrats and the media, Trump harbored secret and nefarious ties with Russia. We knew that because — as Mother Jones explained in a 2016 article that became the reigning storyline — Christopher Steele was a “credible source with a proven record of providing reliable, sensitive and important information to the US government.” He had come across “troubling” evidence of Trump collusion and brought it to US law enforcement.
It took a year for congressional investigators to reveal the dossier had in fact been commissioned by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS, working for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It took two more years for Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to expose that Steele had relied on a Russian source who said he had never expected Steele to present his info as facts, since most of it was “hearsay.”
Two more years on, Durham’s indictment says this source — Danchenko — obtained material from a longtime Democratic operative who was active in the 2016 Clinton campaign. Clintonites here, Clintonites there, Trump “scandals” everywhere.
The revelation shouldn’t surprise us, given that Danchenko was never some high-level Russian in Moscow. From 2005 through 2010, he worked at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank. Around the end of that employment, the indictment asserts, he was introduced to “PR Executive-1,” a Clinton crony who The New York Times confirmed is Charles Dolan.
Dolan has long been in Clinton circles, having served seven years as head of the Democratic Governors Association and state chairman of Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns. President Clinton appointed him to a State Department advisory commission, and the indictment notes he was an active “volunteer” on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. He also had far more ties to Russians than anyone in Trump’s circle, having for eight years helped handle “global public relations for the Russian government” and throughout 2016 interacted frequently with senior Russian officials and Russian Embassy staff.
The indictment reveals that in August 2016, Danchenko asked Dolan for any “thought, rumor, allegation” regarding the summer’s resignation of Paul Manafort as Trump’s campaign manager. Danchenko explained he was working on a “project against Trump.”
Dolan replied that he’d had a drink with a “GOP friend of mine who knows some of the players” and provided gossip. Sentences of this e-mail appear nearly verbatim in the Steele dossier, though they are (hilariously) sourced to a “close associate of TRUMP.” To add farce to fantasy, the indictment says the Dolan later told the FBI he had fabricated meeting a GOP friend and had simply passed on info he had read in the press.
The indictment notes Dolan was connected to yet other people and events that appear in the dossier. He traveled to Moscow in June 2016 to plan a conference. He stayed at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton, where he met the general manager and staff and toured the presidential suite. The dossier’s ugliest accusation against Trump, which involves disgusting sexual acts, happens to be set in the Ritz-Carlton’s presidential suite and to mention the hotel manager and staff. Danchenko met with Dolan at the Moscow hotel on that trip. He flew soon after to London to provide information to Steele for his dossier.
The indictment flags meetings, e-mails and calls that suggests Dolan passed plenty of other information to Danchenko for the dossier. This includes information he might have obtained during visits to the Russian Embassy in Washington. (Did the Russians know where this was going?)
Dolan was also in regular communication with Olga Galkina, another Russian who fed information to Danchenko for the dossier. Galkina noted in two separate e-mails that she was expecting Dolan to get her a State Department job in a Hillary Clinton administration.
The indictment alleges Danchenko lied about Dolan’s interaction with the dossier when the bureau belatedly tried to check the dossier’s accuracy. The indictment says all this deprived the FBI of the ability to learn about the “reliability, motivations and potential bias” of the Democratic source. True, though this latest indictment again paints the FBI as either inept or biased.
According to the charges, Dolan told the FBI that the Clinton campaign didn’t direct him and wasn’t aware of his dealings with Danchenko and that he didn’t know his info would land at the FBI. Maybe, though the indictment notes that one Dolan e-mail in early 2017 expressed knowledge that Danchenko had supplied information to the dossier now in the news.
The Clinton dossier should go down as one of the biggest scandals in US political history. Not just for the breadth of the con, but for the time it has taken to expose it.
Lie, Cheat and Steele
Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid law firm Perkins Coie for various services, including opposition research. Perkins Coie hires Fusion GPS, “a strategic intelligence firm,” which pays former British spy Christopher Steele to look into Donald Trump.
Steele’s primary source is Igor Danchenko, a Russian citizen who had worked for the Brookings Institution think tank. Danchenko collected info from what he would at first claim was a “network of subsources” in Russia. He later revealed that he just asked people for gossip — or fabricated information. In 2017, he admitted to agents that it was “rumor and speculation.”
One of Danchenko’s sources was Charles Dolan, a p.r. exec who had worked on campaigns for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Dolan relayed to Danchenko gossip that he claimed to have gotten from “a GOP friend of mine who knows some of the players.” The gossip ended up the dossier. Dolan admitted later that he made up the GOP friend.
Another source was Olga Galkina, a Russian p.r. exec who thought she had been promised a job in the State Department if Hillary Clinton were to win the presidency. Fired from Webzilla, Galkina falsely implicated the Web-services company in the hacking of DNC e-mails and also seemingly invented a story about Michael Cohen visiting Prague (a claim debunked by the Mueller report).
Danchenko also had a made-up source. He claimed the president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce had revealed to him a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between Trump and the Kremlin. Later pressed on the purported exchange, Danchenko said he “thought” he was “probably” talking to the chamber president. Danchenko has been arrested on charges for repeatedly lying to investigators that this happened.
Danchenko delivers this collection of lies, rumors and inventions to Christopher Steele, who credits it as intelligence from “high-level Russian officials” and “close associates of Trump” — none of whom exist. Steele shops the dossier to the media and FBI, hoping to spark a public investigation of Trump.
The dossier gets passed around Washington (John McCain gives a copy to the FBI) and fuels speculation in the media that Trump is part of a Russian conspiracy. FBI Agent Peter Strzok interviews Danchenko and Steele and finds them unconvincing, but the investigation continues. BuzzFeed publishes the dossier in full, but admits nothing in it can be verified.
From The Wall Street Journal.
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