Eli Lake, Tribune News Service
John Durham, the US attorney appointed in 2019 by then Attorney General William Barr to investigate the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, has finally begun to show his hand. It doesn’t look good for either the FBI or the Democratic Party.
On Thursday he indicted a former Brookings Institution researcher named Igor Danchenko on five counts of lying to the FBI. Danchenko was the primary source for former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s infamous “dossier,” which alleged an elaborate conspiracy between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin.
That document set the media and Democratic Party narrative for the first two and a half years of Trump’s presidency, and was crucial evidence the FBI submitted to the federal surveillance court in late 2016 to obtain a warrant to monitor a Trump campaign aide.
It’s been clear for nearly two years that Steele’s dossier was garbage. This is mainly thanks to the work of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who released a report in 2019 skewering the FBI for its use of the dossier in its warrant applications, concluding that the bureau could not confirm any of its original reporting. The main takeaway from the Horowitz investigation was that the FBI cut corners and gamed the surveillance court.
Durham’s investigation has taken a different approach. His last two indictments suggest that the FBI was not a villain but a victim, conned by Democratic operatives to pursue bogus investigations into the Trump campaign.
In September, Durham indicted Michael Sussman, a lawyer who represented the Clinton campaign in 2016. That indictment alleges that Sussman failed to disclose to the FBI that he was representing the Clinton campaign when he presented evidence alleging that servers for the Trump campaign had unusual communications with servers from the Russian Alfa Bank. Sussman, whose lawyers have denied their client misled the FBI, also shopped the story to journalists.
Durham’s lengthy indictment quotes researchers warning that the Alfa Bank story would not withstand public scrutiny. It also says that if Sussman had acknowledged he was working for Clinton’s campaign, the bureau would have treated his claims with more skepticism. The FBI eventually concluded there was nothing to the Alfa Bank story.
Like Sussman, Danchenko is also charged with hiding his relationship to a prominent Democrat in interviews with the FBI about the dossier. In this case, the prominent Democrat is described as “public relations executive 1.” He was a state chairman for Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, and in 2016 “actively campaigned and participated in calls and events as a volunteer on behalf of Hillary Clinton.” The P.R. executive’s clients also included the Russian Federation and a Russian state-owned energy company.
This unnamed executive is Charles Dolan Jr., a senior strategist at KGlobal, his lawyer has now confirmed. Dolan did not return an email requesting comment.
According to the indictment, Dolan was likely the source for several items in the dossier. This undermines one of the central claims in the initial coverage of the dossier — that it was well-sourced Kremlin intelligence from a respected professional. It turns out that much of it was rumor conveyed in part by a Democratic partisan.
Durham’s indictment says Danchenko’s lies “deprived FBI agents and analysts of probative information” “that would have, among other things, assisted them in evaluating the credibility, reliability, and veracity” of the dossier. Again, Durham portrays the FBI as the victims of the Clinton campaign’s efforts.
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