While special counsel John Durham’s prosecution of Steele dossier source Igor Danchenko appears to be headed toward acquittal, Durham has used the trial to make public a number of revelations that cast the entire Trump–Russia collusion narrative in a fresh light.
Then, after Trump won the presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016, the U.S. intelligence community, which included the FBI, began drafting an intelligence community assessment (ICA) on Russian interference in the election. The ICA was issued in early January 2017, claiming that Russia had helped Trump win the election.
Danchenko on FBI’s PayrollAnother major revelation exposed by Durham in a pre-trial motion was that Danchenko had been on the FBI’s payroll between March 2017 and October 2020 as a confidential human source (CHS). By bestowing this coveted status on Danchenko, the FBI was able to conceal his existence from congressional and other investigators. This was crucial, as he had told FBI investigators in January 2017 that the dossier was based on rumors and gossip made in jest. The admission that the Steele dossier was nothing more than bar talk needed to be concealed if the FBI was to continue its investigation of Trump.
Comey’s LiesIn March 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey briefed congressional leaders, the so-called Gang of Eight, on his investigation of the Trump campaign. As Comey’s briefing notes reveal, members of Congress weren’t told about Steele’s failure to back up his dossier, despite the huge reward offer, nor were they told that Danchenko had disavowed the dossier.
Mueller’s LiesMueller has denied having investigated the Steele dossier. In congressional testimony on July 24, 2019, he repeatedly said the dossier was outside his purview. However, evidence elicited by Durham last week from two counterintelligence agents, Brittany Hertzog and Amy Anderson, paints a very different picture.
Hertzog and Anderson were assigned to Mueller’s special counsel office in the summer of 2017. Hertzog testified last week that she was assigned the task of investigating the Steele dossier, a task that Mueller claimed was outside the purview of his investigation. According to Anderson’s testimony, Mueller’s dossier team was made up of at least five agents.
As part of their assignment, Hertzog and Anderson investigated two of Danchenko’s alleged sub-sources, Olga Galkina, a Russian national living in Cyprus, and Charles Dolan, a public relations executive with decades-long ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Illustrating the depths to which Mueller’s team went to investigate the dossier, Anderson flew to Cyprus to personally interview Galkina.
According to Anderson’s testimony last week, Galkina admitted that Dolan was a source for the dossier. Given Dolan’s longstanding ties to the Clintons, this presented a huge problem for Mueller’s team. When Anderson also found out that Dolan was well connected in the higher echelons of the Russian government, she recommended that an investigation into Dolan be opened. However, according to her testimony, the team blocked the investigation from going forward and destroyed her memo on the matter.
It appears that the reason Mueller didn’t want to talk to Millian—and later lied about this fact—is that Millian is central to the dossier. According to Steele, Millian was the originator of the dossier’s key allegations, including that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between Trump and the Kremlin, the infamous pee tape story, and that Russia had helped Trump by passing hacked Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks.
However, there was a snag. Millian never spoke to Steele or Danchenko. Danchenko later admitted to the FBI that he had told Steele otherwise. This wasn’t only a problem for Danchenko, but also for Mueller and the FBI. Without Millian, the dossier’s main allegations would have collapsed. That’s why Mueller couldn’t afford to talk to Millian.
While Durham’s revelations explain crucial aspects of the false witch hunt against Trump, they don’t amount to much unless those responsible are held to account.
Durham himself has shown a marked disinterest in pursuing key government actors such as Comey or Mueller, focusing instead on private actors. A possible reason for this may be that Durham’s hands are tied by U.S. President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice. If that’s the case, Durham’s final report, which will likely be issued in the next few months, should detail instances of such obstruction.
Whatever the reasons for Durham’s failure to pursue FBI leadership and Mueller’s team, he has now left a trail of evidence for others to pursue.
For instance, Mueller’s untrue statement that he didn’t investigate the Steele dossier is still within the statute of limitations until 2024 for charges to be brought. The concealment of Danchenko behind CHS status carried on until 2020, meaning that the statute of limitations on related charges doesn’t expire until 2025. Durham may be nearing the end of his work, but there’s plenty left for others to pick up.