In his case involving false statements against Igor Danchenko, the main informant in Christopher Steele’s dossier on Donald Trump, special counsel John Durham submitted a pre-trial petition in summary judgment on September 13. Danchenko, who is accused of five counts of lying to the FBI regarding the people who provided information for the dossier, has previously moved to have the accusations against him dropped.
Regular motions called motions in limine are used to limit the admissibility of certain evidence in court. The trial for Danchenko is set to start the following month.
Durham’s motion, however, is anything from standard and includes a number of astounding Danchenko disclosures.
The FBI’s designation of Danchenko as a confidential human source (CHS) in March 2017 is maybe the most astonishing revelation. It should be noted that this occurred after Danchenko disavowed the Steele dossier in a January 2017 FBI interview and acknowledged that it was based on hearsay and gossip. Given the admission, there was no justifiable reason to continue providing Danchenko with the benefits of his CHS status since he was no longer really useful to the FBI’s investigation into possible Trump-Russia connection.
In reality, the FBI’s inquiry should have come to a halt the moment Danchenko revealed the real source of Steele’s dossier.
Giving Danchenko the much sought-after CHS status appears to have been done so by the FBI in order to remove him from public view. Danchenko benefited from certain advantages and protections as a CHS. Importantly, the FBI was able to exploit his position to keep Danchenko and his revelations hidden from congressional investigations, such the one conducted by then-Rep. Devin Nunes under the direction of Kash Patel. The “sources and methods” defense for hiding the identity, or even the existence, of a CHS might be used to block further investigations, such Freedom of Information Act requests.
The FBI had compelling reasons to keep Danchenko secret. Danchenko’s main point was that the dossier was false, even though he admitted to telling the FBI a number of falsehoods in what Durham now claims as an effort to reconcile what Danchenko had told Steele. This essentially put a stop to any honest investigation of Trump-Russia cooperation. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants on Trump campaign aide Carter Page that were issued based on the Steele dossier were virtually nullified as a result of Danchenko’s disavowal.
Danchenko should have been disclosed to the FISA court by the FBI, but they did not do so. In reality, they used the Steele dossier, which they were aware was inaccurate, to successfully apply for two more FISA warrants against Page.
Danchenko was given CHS status at the same time as two significant events. First, on March 20, 2017, James Comey, who was then the FBI director, informed Congress that the Trump campaign was being looked into for potential links to Russia. At the time, Comey was aware that Danchenko had destroyed the foundation of the inquiry, yet he still decided to move on. Second, in March 2017, Nunes learned that the Trump transition team had been surveilled via a whistleblower in the intelligence community. Nunes expressed dissatisfaction about not providing the information to Congress.
Nunes accelerated his own probe into the Trump-Russia situation as soon as he assumed leadership of the House Intelligence Committee. The Nunes memo would result from the inquiry in February 2018. The Nunes memo, however, made no reference to Danchenko or the fact that he had renounced the dossier. Danchenko went entirely dark once the FBI hired him for CHS, and any information about him was kept from Congress because to the “sources and methods” defense.
The apparent FBI effort to bury Danchenko appears to have been successful. Prior to the release of Justice Department (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s FISA violations in December 2019, neither Nunes nor anyone else was aware of Danchenko or his denial of the Steele dossier. Horowitz withheld Danchenko’s identity and offered very little information other than the fact that Steele had a major sub-source whose account varied from his own.
When Sen. Lindsey Graham released substantially redacted interview notes in July 2020, a team of web sleuths, including me, were able to infer Danchenko’s name from several data points in Horowitz’s report (R-S.C.).
Upon Danchenko’s identification, the Steele dossier’s tenuous credibility was destroyed. Danchenko wasn’t a Russian-based source with connections to Kremlin officials, despite what the FBI claimed. Instead, he was a veteran of the Beltway who had spent several years working at the liberal Brookings Institution, where Fiona Hill, an opponent of Trump’s impeachment, served as his mentor.
However, the FBI kept paying Danchenko and kept him on the CHS list until October 2020. Durham had already spent 19 months looking into the beginnings of the Trump-Russia investigation by that point. When Durham learned of Danchenko’s CHS status is likewise unknown. After then-Attorney General Bill Barr revealed in September 2020 that Danchenko had been suspected of working for Russian intelligence, it’s probable that Danchenko’s CHS status was terminated.
The FBI has been aware of that knowledge since 2009, but Barr’s public revelation may have made the bureau act.
Danchenko’s designation as a CHS appears to have been made solely for the purpose of hiding FBI wrongdoing from Congress, the FISA court, and the general public; this provides Durham with fresh opportunities to prosecute FBI agents. These individuals include Brian Auten, a Danchenko case agent, former counterespionage chief Peter Strzok, former deputy director Andrew McCabe, and former FBI director James Comey.
When five years had gone since the various activities of the FBI officers, it was believed that the statute of limitations for filing charges against them had run out earlier this year. However, given that the FBI continued to utilize Danchenko under false pretenses until October 2020, it now looks as though the time restriction has been extended. Durham has plenty of time to pursue FBI agents if he chooses to do so.
Durham’s new motion clarifies the CHS revelations as well as the previously mentioned incident in which Barr revealed that Danchenko allegedly approached two Brookings Institution employees and suggested that they contact “some people to whom they could speak” if they “had access to classified information” and wanted to “make a little extra money.”
The FBI launched a “full investigation” into Danchenko after learning that he “(1) had been identified as an associate of two FBI counterintelligence subjects and (2) had prior contact with the Russian Embassy and known Russian intelligence officers” after the incident was reported to law enforcement in 2009.
The status of that probe was uncertain up until September 13. Durham has now disclosed that the FBI ended its inquiry into Danchenko in 2010 because it “incorrectly assumed” he had left the country.
It is unknown if Durham accepts the FBI’s flimsy justification. The fact that Durham hasn’t accused Danchenko of lying about his interactions with Russian intelligence agents is remarkable. Danchenko asserted during his FBI interview in January 2017 that he was unaware of or had never encountered any such police.
It’s also noteworthy that Durham hasn’t accused Danchenko of fabricating the well-known “pee tape” tale. The dossier asserts that a top Western employee at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow is where the story first appeared in June 2016. Durham has now disclosed, however, that his office located the lone Western hotel employee there at the time, a German citizen.
Durham asserts that the German citizen who will testify at Danchenko’s trial will state that before the media began reporting on the dossier in 2017, neither he nor Danchenko had ever heard of the pee tape narrative.
It’s unclear why Durham hasn’t accused Danchenko directly of lying about his purported encounters with the German hotel manager, similar to the scenario with the Russian intelligence agents. It would have seemed like a logical course to take given the enormous interest that the pee tape story created, especially given that the hotel manager is competent and ready to testify in court.
Charles Dolan, a political advisor with ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, supports the manager’s claim. Durham claims that Dolan will mention in his testimony during Danchenko’s trial that he and Danchenko had visited Moscow in June 2016, but that, in contrast to Dolan, Danchenko had not stayed at the Ritz-Carlton and had not interacted with the German hotel manager. Danchenko erroneously claimed that the German manager, whom he had never seen, was the source of the pee cassette tale, which appeared to have been made up out of whole cloth.
Durham is requesting that the hotel manager be allowed to testify in addition to the fact that Danchenko is accused of lying about his encounters with Dolan in order to show how he “attempted to create and misattribute material represented in the Steele Reports.”
In yet another shocking admission, Durham has now revealed that Danchenko briefed a business intelligence firm’s managing partner on how to create sources in February 2016, just a few months prior to his work on the dossier. Durham claims that Danchenko advised the partner to “use oneself as a source” and conceal this information by citing others in order to “save the situation” if there were no other sources.
Durham is asking the judge to let the information to be shown before the jury as a means of exposing Danchenko’s method of creating sources, even if his interactions with the business intelligence partner aren’t directly connected to the dossier or to Danchenko’s alleged lying to the FBI.
Durham’s most recent revelations are very incriminating for Danchenko, but they are much more damning for the FBI, which seems to have used the CHS system dishonestly to remove Danchenko from the public eye and conceal the fact that he had rejected the dossier. The FBI leadership lied to Congress, the courts, the inspector general of the DOJ, and the general public by doing this. Worst of all, they did it so they could keep up their campaign to unseat then-President Trump.
With these most recent findings, Danchenko’s chances of being found guilty have significantly increased; nevertheless, Durham’s filing demonstrates that the true prize is FBI leadership. Danchenko’s conviction or not will not matter much if the FBI leadership is not held responsible.