Those reports, known as the Steele dossier, helped fuel the FBI probe and provided fodder for requests the law enforcement agency made to a secret surveillance court to obtain warrants to examine the communications of a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, Carter Page.
However, several claims in the dossier turned out to be false, prompting congressional, inspector general and criminal investigations into how the reports were compiled and why the U.S. government gave them such credence.
Danchenko was first identified as Steele’s source amid a Senate GOP investigation that culminated in the final weeks of last year’s presidential election. Then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham released the transcript of an interview Danchenko conducted with the FBI in January 2017, in which he revealed that some of the most explosive allegations in the Steele dossier were based on hearsay and rumor.
The transcript was declassified by Attorney General William Barr shortly before the Justice Department handed it to Graham.
Though Graham didn’t identify Danchenko when he released the redacted interview summary, the document included enough identifying information that Danchenko was quickly revealed to be the unnamed Steele source.
Around that time, Graham also released another document — also declassified by Barr — that included a synopsis of a counterintelligence investigation the FBI conducted into Danchenko from 2009 to 2011. The probe included an examination of whether Danchenko sought to obtain classified information on Russia’s behalf, but it was closed without any findings, and Danchenko has continued to reside in the United States.
Yet Trump’s allies pointed to the closed investigation to label Danchenko a “spy” and accuse Democrats and the FBI of weaponizing Russian disinformation by deploying the dossier to obtain the surveillance warrant on Page.
Danchenko is the third person to face criminal charges in the Durham probe, which Barr gave formal special counsel status in October 2020.
A lawyer for Danchenko, Mark Schamel, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last month, Durham brought an indictment against D.C. lawyer Michael Sussmann for allegedly making a false statement to the FBI’s general counsel early in the Russia probe. Sussmann, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of misleading the FBI by denying that he was representing the Democratic National Committee or any other client when he passed along suspicions about potential ties between computers at Trump Tower and a Russian bank.
In January of this year, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced to a year probation for altering an email related to a surveillance request that was part of the Russia probe.
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