Steele dossier source Igor Danchenko pleads ‘not guilty’ to lying to FBI

British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s main source, Igor Danchenko, pleaded not guilty in federal court after being charged in John Durham’s investigation, with the special counsel alleging the Russian national repeatedly lied to the FBI in 2017 when questioned about his role in generating the Steele dossier. 

Igor Danchenko appeared in an Alexandria courtroom in the Eastern District of Virginia on Wednesday morning, where he pleaded, “Not guilty, your honor.” Danchenko, a Russian-born lawyer and researcher who has lived and worked in the Washington, D.C., area for years, was charged last Thursday “with five counts of making false statements to the FBI” that Durham claims he made about the information he provided to Steele for his “Company Reports,” which became the Steele dossier. The indictment says Danchenko made false statements in March, May, June, October, and November 2017.

The “PR Executive-1” in Durham’s indictment against Danchenko is Charles Dolan, an ally of the Clintons, whom Durham alleges was an originator of a false dossier claim he passed to Danchenko who then gave it to Steele. Danchenko was charged with making false statements in 2017 to the FBI about his sources, including about the role Dolan played in supplying at least the basis of certain claims. Dolan spent years doing business in and for Russia, met with Danchenko in Moscow in 2016, and passed information to the Steele source during that election.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded Steele’s Democratic-funded dossier played a “central and essential” role in the FBI’s effort to obtain wiretap orders against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. 

Declassified footnotes from Horowitz’s report indicate the bureau became aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation. 

FBI notes of a January 2017 interview with Danchenko showed he told the bureau he “did not know the origins” of some of Steele’s claims. Horowitz said Danchenko “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier. 

Durham discovered Danchenko was investigated by the FBI as a possible “threat to national security,” according to documents declassified by then-Attorney General William Barr. The FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” team apparently became aware of this information by December 2016. 

“For the past five years, those with an agenda have sought to expose Mr. Danchenko’s identity and tarnish his reputation while undermining U.S. National Security. From the moment he was inappropriately revealed, he has been the focus of unrelenting politically motivated attacks,” Danchenko’s defense lawyer, Mark Schamel, said in a statement this week. “This latest injustice will not stand. We will expose how Mr. Danchenko has been unfairly maligned by these false allegations.” 

Fiona Hill, who worked at the Brookings Institution with Danchenko for years before serving as the Russia expert on Trump’s National Security Council and testifying during the Ukraine-focused impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump, introduced Danchenko and Steele a decade ago, and Durham says she introduced Danchenko and Dolan in early 2016. 

In her 2015 book, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, Hill said Danchenko “provided us with a wealth of insights into and information about” Putin.

“The special counsel’s use of a ‘speaking indictment’ that presents a false narrative designed to humiliate and slander a renowned expert in business intelligence for political gain is contrary to decades of Department of Justice policy,” Schamel said in his statement. “Mr. Danchenko is a respected research analyst who uncovered and exposed Vladimir Putin’s plagiarized Ph.D. thesis and whose work has been recognized all over the world for its intellectual rigor and accuracy. Mr. Danchenko’s body of work, for the United States, is above reproach.” 

FBI notes of a January 2017 interview with Danchenko showed he told the bureau he “did not know the origins” of some of Steele’s claims and that the most salacious allegations may have been made in “jest.” Horowitz concluded that Danchenko “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier. 

A trial date for Danchenko was set for April 2021.