Posted by Curt on 25 July, 2020 at 2:37 pm. 1 comment.


The mysterious “Primary Subsource” that Christopher Steele has long hidden behind to defend his discredited Trump-Russia dossier is a former Brookings Institution analyst — Igor “Iggy” Danchenko, a Russian national whose past includes criminal convictions and other personal baggage ignored by the FBI in vetting him and the information he fed to Steele, according to congressional sources and records obtained by RealClearInvestigations. Agents continued to use the dossier as grounds to investigate President Trump and put his advisers under counter-espionage surveillance.

The 42-year-old Danchenko, who was hired by Steele in 2016 to deploy a network of sources to dig up dirt on Trump and Russia for the Hillary Clinton campaign, was arrested, jailed and convicted years earlier on multiple public drunkenness and disorderly conduct charges in the Washington area and ordered to undergo substance-abuse and mental-health counseling, according to criminal records.

In an odd twist, a 2013 federal case against Danchenko was prosecuted by then-U.S Attorney Rod Rosenstein, who ended up signing one of the FBI’s dossier-based wiretap warrants as deputy attorney general in 2017.

Danchenko first ran into trouble with the law as he began working for Brookings – the preeminent Democratic think tank in Washington – where he struck up a friendship with Fiona Hill, the White House adviser who testified against Trump during last year’s impeachment hearings. Danchenko has described Hill as a mentor, while Hill has sung his praises as a “creative” researcher.

Hill is also close to his boss Steele, who she’d known since 2006. She met with the former British intelligence officer during the 2016 campaign and later received a raw, unpublished copy of the now-debunked dossier.

It does not appear the FBI asked Danchenko about his criminal past or state of sobriety when agents interviewed him in January 2017 in a failed attempt to verify the accuracy of the dossier, which the bureau did only after agents used it to obtain a warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The opposition research was farmed out by Steele, working for Clinton’s campaign, to Danchenko, who was paid for the information he provided.

A newly declassified FBI summary of the FBI-Danchenko meeting reveals agents learned that key allegations in the dossier, which claimed Trump engaged in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin against Clinton, were largely inspired by gossip and bar talk among Danchenko and his drinking buddies, most of whom were childhood friends from Russia.

The FBI memo is heavily redacted and blacks out the name of Steele’s Primary Subsource. But public records and congressional sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirm the identity of the source as Danchenko.

In the memo, the FBI notes that Danchenko said that he and one of his dossier sources “drink heavily together.” But there is no apparent indication the FBI followed up by asking Danchenko if he had an alcohol problem, which would cast further doubt on his reliability as a source for one of the most important and sensitive investigations in FBI history.

The FBI declined comment. Attempts to reach Danchenko by both email and phone were unsuccessful.

The Justice Department’s watchdog recently debunked the dossier’s most outrageous accusations against Trump, and faulted the FBI for relying on it to obtain secret wiretaps. The bureau’s actions, which originated under the Obama administration, are now the subject of a sprawling criminal investigation led by special prosecutor John Durham.

One of the wiretap warrants was signed in 2017 by Rosenstein, who also that year appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller and signed a “scope” memo giving him wide latitude to investigate Trump and his surrogates. Mueller relied on the dossier too. As it happens, Rosenstein also signed motions filed in one of Danchenko’s public intoxication cases, according to the documents obtained by RCI.

In March 2013 — three years before Danchenko began working on the dossier — federal authorities in Greenbelt, Md., arrested and charged him with several misdemeanors, including “drunk in public, disorderly conduct, and failure to have his [2-year-old] child in a safety seat,” according to a court filing. The U.S. prosecutor for Maryland at the time was Rosenstein, whose name appears in the docket filings.

The Russian-born Danchenko, who was living in the U.S. on a work visa, was released from jail on the condition he undergo drug testing and “participate in a program of substance abuse therapy and counseling,” as well as “mental health counseling,” the records show. His lawyer asked the court to postpone his trial and let him travel to Moscow “as a condition of his employment.” The Russian trips were granted without objection from Rosenstein. Danchenko ended up several months later entering into a plea agreement and paying fines.

In 2006, Danchenko was arrested in Fairfax, Va., on similar offenses, including “public swearing and intoxication,” criminal records show. The case was disposed after he paid a fine.

At the time, Danchenko worked as a research analyst for the Brookings Institution, where he became a protégé of Hill. He collaborated with her on at least two Russian policy papers during his five-year stint at the think tank and worked with another Brookings scholar on a project to uncover alleged plagiarism in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s doctoral dissertation — something Danchenko and his lawyer boasted about during their meeting with FBI agents. (Like Hill, the other scholar, Clifford Gaddy, was a Russia hawk. He and Hill in 2015 authored “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” a book strongly endorsed by Vice President Joe Biden at the time.)

“Igor is a highly accomplished analyst and researcher,” Hill noted on his LinkedIn page in 2011.

“He is very creative in pursuing the most relevant of information and detail to support his research.”

Hill also vouched for Steele, an old friend and British intelligence counterpart. The two reunited in 2016, sitting down for at least one meeting. Her boss at the time, Brookings President Strobe Talbott, also connected with Steele and passed along a copy of his anti-Trump dossier to Hill. A tough Trump critic, Talbott previously worked in the Clinton administration and rallied the think tank behind Hillary.

Talbott’s brother-in-law is Cody Shearer, another old Clinton hand who disseminated his own dossier in 2016 that echoed many of the same lurid and unsubstantiated claims against Trump. Through a mutual friend at the State Department, Steele obtained a copy of Shearer’s dossier and reportedly submitted it to the FBI to help corroborate his own.

In August 2016, Talbott personally called Steele, based in London, to offer his own input on the dossier he was compiling from Danchenko’s feeds. Steele phoned Talbott just before the November election, during which Talbott asked for the latest dossier memos to distribute to top officials at the State Department. After Trump’s surprise win, the mood at Brookings turned funereal and Talbott and Steele strategized about how they “should handle” the dossier going forward.

During the Trump transition, Talbott encouraged Hill to leave Brookings and take a job in the White House so she could be “one of the adults in the room” when Russia and Putin came up. She served as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019.

She left the White House just before a National Security Council detailee who’d worked with her, Eric Ciaramella, secretly huddled with Democrats in Congress and alleged Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation of Biden and his son in exchange for military aid. Democrats soon held hearings to impeach Trump, calling Hill as one of their star witnesses.

Under questioning by Republican staff, Hill disclosed that Steele reached out to her for information about a mysterious individual, but she claimed she could not recall his name. She also said she couldn’t remember the month she and Steele met.

“He had contacted me because he wanted to see if I could give him a contact to some other individual, who actually I don’t even recall now, who he could approach about some business issues,” Hill told the House last year in an Oct. 14 deposition taken behind closed doors.

Congressional investigators are reviewing her testimony, while taking a closer look at tax-exempt Brookings, which has emerged as a nexus in the dossier scandal.

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