Meet the Steele Dossier’s ‘Primary Subsource’
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.
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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 She met with the former British intelligence officer during the 2016 campaign and later received a raw, unpublished copy of the now-debunked dossier.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.
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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.