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Durham probe: Analyst charged with lying to FBI about Christopher Steele’s Trump-Russia dossier

Durham probe: Analyst charged with lying to FBI about Christopher Steele’s Trump-Russia dossier

A Russia analyst who contributed key research to the so-called Steele dossier that detailed alleged ties between ex-President Donald Trump and Russia during the 2016 election was arrested Thursday as part of a probe by special counsel John Durham.

Igor Danchenko, the analyst, was charged in a grand jury indictment with five counts of making false statements to FBI agents during several interviews with agents in 2017 about his work providing information to former British spy Christopher Steele for the dossier.

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Steele’s controversial dossier on Trump became the basis for the application of an FBI warrant to tap the phone of former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page a month before Election Day in 2016

Steele’s inquiry was funded by the firm Fusion GPS, which itself had been hired by the Democratic National Committee to conduct opposition research on the then-Republican candidate Trump.

Danchenko, 43, is the third person criminally charged in Durham’s investigation, which is focused on the origins of the federal probe into the Trump campaign’s suspected coordination with Russian agents to influence the outcome of the 2016 race for the White House. The Department of Justice stated that Danchenko, who is a Russian national and lives in Virginia, was taken into police custody on Thursday morning. He later appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where he reportedly was released on a $100,000 bond.

The indictment charges that Danchenko lied when he told FBI agents he had never communicated with a public relations executive who was active in Democratic politics about allegations in Steele’s reports, when in fact Danchenko had sourced at least one of those allegations to the executive. The indictment does not identify the public relations executive, but a lawyer for him confirmed that he was Charles Dolan Jr. who most recently worked at KGlobal in Washington. Dolan has been involved in issues related to Russia.

Dolan also served as state chairman of the Virginia presidential campaigns of President Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and is a former executive director of the Democratic Governors’ Association. A biography online shows that he was also a member of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, State Department.

“Chuck is understanding and appreciating your interest,” Ralph Martin, Dolan’s lawyer, told CNBC. “I can confirm that he was PR Executive-1 in this indictment. Chuck is not permitted to comment on the allegations in the indictment as he is a witness in a continuing case. “

Danchenko also is accused of falsely telling agents that he received an anonymous phone call in July 2016 from a person he believed to be the then-president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce about information that later was described by Steele as a “conspiracy of cooperation” between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. The anonymous caller purportedly relayed information that included the allegation of communication between Trump campaign and Russian officials, and that the caller had suggested that the Kremlin might help him get elected.” Durham’s office stated in a press release. The indictment states that Danchenko “never received such an information or a phone call” from the person and that he never made arrangements to meet the person in New York, contrary to what he claimed to FBI agents. The indictment alleges that Danchenko’s lies had a significant impact on the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign.

It is noted that the FBI’s warrant applications for Page related warrants heavily relied upon Steele’s Fusion GPS reports, which were based in part on information Danchenko had gathered. The indictment states that the FBI was “ultimately unable to confirm or corroborate most substantive allegations.”

Some of Danchenko’s alleged lies “deprived FBI analysts and agents of probative information” that would help them verify the reliability of the reports received, according to the indictment.

Christopher Schafbuch, a lawyer who represented Danchenko in a 2017 civil case, would not confirm or deny that he was currently Danchenko’s lawyer.

In September, Durham obtained an indictment against then-Perkins Coie law firm partner Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI when he offered a tip in 2016 about the possible secret electronic channel between Trump’s company and a Russian bank. Sussmann denied the allegation.

In January a former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith , received a probation sentence for falsifying a claim that was used in order to maintain Page’s surveillance.

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent in London where he speaks to the media for the first time, March 7, 2017.

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Trump and his allies have strongly criticized the Steele dossier, which contains unsubstantiated and refuted claims. They claim that the original federal probe into Trump’s Russian ties and possible obstruction by Trump of justice for trying to undermine the inquiry was flawed and tainted with political motivations due to the Steele dossier. The investigation by Robert Mueller, a former special counsel, found that Russian agents were actively using social media and computer hacking in order to aid Trump’s bid for the presidency. Mueller stated that he didn’t find enough evidence to accuse Trump campaign associates of conspiring with Russians in this effort.

Mueller did not accuse Trump of any wrongdoing but his final report did not exonerate him.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller told reporters in 2019.

Mueller did file more than 100 criminal charges against three Russian companies and nearly three dozen individuals, including half a dozen former Trump advisors, among them former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort.

Durham was assigned to investigate the roots of Trump-Russia’s probe during Trump’s presidency.

Trump had called the Mueller probe a witch hunt. However, Trump has expressed frustration with Durham’s investigation, which has so far not led to criminal charges that seriously undermine Mueller’s findings.

– Additional reporting by CNBC’s Brian Schwartz

Correction: In September, Durham obtained an indictment against then-Perkins Coie law firm partner Michael Sussmann. An earlier version misspelled Sussmann’s name.

Durham probe: Analyst charged with lying to FBI about Christopher Steele’s Trump-Russia dossier