The primary source for the infamous Steele dossier was a business analyst from Russia who lived in Washington, the source’s attorney confirmed to The Epoch Times on July 26.
Following the lead of open-source reporting by internet sleuths, The Epoch Times identified and contacted the analyst, Igor Danchenko, on July 19, but received no response and refrained from publicizing his identity.
“Igor Danchenko has been identified as one of the sources who provided data and analysis to Orbis Business Intelligence,” Mark Schamel, Danchenko’s attorney, wrote in an email.
Orbis Business Intelligence is the company co-founded by former UK intelligence office Christopher Steele.
“Mr. Danchenko is a highly respected senior research analyst,” Schamel added. “He is neither an author nor editor for any of the final reports produced by Orbis. Mr. Danchenko stands by his data analysis and research and will leave it to others to evaluate and interpret any broader story with regard to Orbis’s final report.”
While Schamel didn’t say his client was Steele’s primary source, the confirmation that Danchenko is one of the sources is sufficient to establish that he’s the primary source based on the recently declassified record of Danchenko’s January 2017 interview with the FBI.
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 dossier played a central role in the FBI’s decision to secure a warrant to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page in October 2016.
The Department of Justice inspector general determined that the FBI’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (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 Danchenko had passed on as credible claims.
The FBI interviewed Danchenko for three days in late January 2017. During the interview, Danchenko disputed some of the claims attributed to him in the dossier and told agents that allegations Steele had presented as credible were merely bar talk.
Despite learning of the issues with the dossier, the FBI—and subsequently special counsel Robert Mueller—went on to renew the spy warrants on Page. Instead of telling the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) about the major issues with the dossier exposed during the Danchenko interview, the bureau repeated the claims Danchenko had disputed and simply said that he was “truthful and cooperative.”
After the release of the inspector general’s report and a severe rebuke from the FISC, the FBI conceded that it shouldn’t have sought to renew the warrants.
In addition to playing a central role in the spying on Page, the dossier appears to have figured in the FBI’s decision to investigate the Trump campaign, a mounting body of circumstantial evidence suggests. The Hillary Clinton campaign ultimately paid for the dossier, a fact the bureau also omitted in its FISA applications.
The Department of Justice released a heavily redacted copy of the electronic communication summarizing the January 2017 interviews with Danchenko (pdf) on July 17. Despite the extensive blacking out of personal details, the length of the redactions as well as other details in the document made it possible to triangulate on Danchenko.
A Twitter user who goes by the pseudonym “Hmmm…” was the first to identify Danchenko as the source after locating the man’s resume, the details of which match exactly with both the redacted and unredacted portions of the declassified document. Danchenko locked down his social media profiles shortly after internet sleuths mentioned his name.
Danchenko’s identification is the latest of many severe blows to the credibility of the Steele dossier. While the inspector general’s report described Danchenko as a Russia-based source, Danchenko in fact lived in Washington for more than a decade, including at the time when he provided information for Steele’s dossier. Danchenko’s resume, LinkedIn profile, and FBI interview paint a picture of an ordinary business analyst who connected with Steele when he was eager to earn an income.
None of what Danchenko told the FBI or what is in the public realm suggest he had access to the inner workings of the Kremlin. Danchenko told the bureau he relied on conversations with childhood friends and other acquaintances for the information he passed on to Steele.
The leadership of the FBI, including then-Director James Comey, believed the dossier was so significant that they pushed to include it in a classified annex of the seminal January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian interference in the U.S. election. Three intelligence agencies assessed at the time that Russia interfered in the election to hurt Clinton and help Trump.
The FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign evolved into the special counsel probe by Robert Mueller. After a large-scale, 22-month inquiry, Mueller found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.