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Russian informant for Trump dossier charged with lying to FBI

The charges are part of a Trump-appointed special prosecutor’s probe into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into ties between Moscow and the former president’s 2016 campaign.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) — A Russian analyst who supplied information for the infamous Steele dossier on research into ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia was arrested Thursday on charges of lying to the FBI about his sources. 

The case is part of special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s probe into whether former President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Igor Danchekno's grand jury indictment charges him with five counts of making false statements during his 2017 interviews about his involvement in gathering information for Christopher Steele, a British spy paid by the Democratic Party. After receiving Steele’s dossier of research based on Danchekno’s information, the FBI applied for and received surveillance warrants targeting a former Trump campaign aide. 

According to the indictment filed in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court, Danchekno sourced one of his allegations to a public relations executive and longtime Democratic operative of Clinton after denying to the FBI that he had any relationship with that person. 

He is also accused of exaggerating details about a phone conversation with someone who he said described a "well-developed conspiracy of cooperation" between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Robert Kaufman, a political scientist specializing in U.S. foreign policy, national security, international relations, and various aspects of American politics, said in an interview that the "tainted sources shouldn’t have been relied on in the first place."

“The Russians care less about who won. What they really wanted to do, by my reckoning, is delegitimize whoever won the election," Kaufman said. "Given the FBI’s sloppy procedures, our institutions should have insulated us from something like this, not actually enabling it, and I think that's very disturbing.”

The dossier and the Durham probe are both politically charged. Trump appointed Durham after claiming the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation was a witch hunt. In that probe, special counsel Robert Mueller discovered questionable ties between Trump's campaign and Moscow but didn't find enough evidence to pursue criminal charges. The investigation was not driven by the dossier.

The Steele dossier includes allegations that Russian operatives have compromising personal and financial information about Trump. The former president has vehemently denied the claims.

With most of the dossier being discredited and evidence increasingly suggesting a tainted probe, the FBI and the Justice Department are now under scrutiny by the DOJ’s inspector general. 

They were even warned by Danchekno himself in a 2017 interview about the dossier's origins and credibility that there were "potentially serious problems with Steele's descriptions of information in his reports." He suggested that the information he provided was not meant to be portrayed as indisputable fact. 

The FBI’s final three surveillance applications failed to take Danchenko’s hesitations into account, making the dossier appear more credible than even one of its own sources thought it was, according to a 2019 report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Danchenko's indictment marks the third criminal action brought by Durham, after the September indictment of cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann, accused of making a false statement to the FBI in 2016, as well as a guilty plea from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to altering an email related to the surveillance of Trump aide Carter Page.

The Department of Justice did not immediately return a request for comment. 

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