he Washington-based Russian national who supplied former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele
with most of the unverified claims in the infamous Russia dossier was himself investigated by the FBI
on suspicions of being a spy for the Kremlin, according to documents released by Attorney General William Barr on Sept. 24.
Though he is not named in the documents released on Thursday, Igor Danchenko was identified in July as the primary source for the Steele dossier. The FBI investigated Danchenko from 2009 to 2011 because he “may be a threat to national security,” according to an unclassified summary (pdf) of the probe provided by Barr to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Despite knowing about the counterintelligence concerns with Danchenko, the FBI failed to disclose the fact to the secret surveillance court in as part of an application to surveil former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page.
“To me, failure of the FBI to inform the court that the Primary Sub-source was suspected of being a Russian agent is a breach of every duty owed by law enforcement to the judicial system,” Graham said in a statement.
The FBI opened a full investigation into Danchenko after they learned he was an associate of two known FBI counterintelligence subjects. In 2006, he was in contact with the Russian embassy and a known Russian intelligence officer, according to the summary. During the interactions, Danchenko told the officer that he wanted to one day enter into the Russian diplomatic service. He also contacted the officer seeking a reply “so the documents can be placed in tomorrow’s diplomatic mail pouch.” One associate interviewed by the bureau noted that Danchenko “persistently asked about the interviewee’s knowledge of a particular military vessel.”
The FBI began the process of seeking a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil Danchenko, but cut the process short and closed the investigation in late 2010 after learning that Danchenko had left the country and had not renewed his visa. The closing documents noted that the FBI would consider reopening the investigation if Danchenko returned.
“This is the most stunning and damning revelation the committee has uncovered,” Graham said.
The investigation of the Trump campaign, codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane,” identified Danchenko in December 2016, two months after securing a warrant to spy on Carter Page. The Steele dossier played a crucial role in the bureau’s decision to seek the spy warrant.
Steele claimed that he based the vast majority of his dossier on reports from Danchenko, who, in turn, had a network of sub-sources.
The Department of Justice inspector general determined that the FBI’s FISA applications were riddled with errors, some of the most egregious of which had to do with Steele falsifying and overhyping what he had learned from Danchenko. Steele also presented rumors from Danchenko as credible claims.