The primary researcher on the so-called Steele dossier—a 2016 compilation of raw intelligence into potential coordination between then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian government officials to help him win the election—was arrested Thursday by federal agents.
An indictment charges Igor Y. Danchenko with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. He was taken into custody by the FBI as part of a special counsel inquiry overseen by Trump appointee John H. Durham, who was tasked with rooting out any improprieties in the origins and use of the dossier.
According to the indictment, Danchenko lied about the sources of “certain information” he provided to Steele, which was then passed along to the feds. One count alleges that Danchenko denied speaking with “a particular individual” about material that wound up in the dossier “when [Danchenko] knew that was untrue.” Another count stems from statements Danchenko allegedly made to FBI agents “regarding information he purportedly had received from an anonymous caller who he believed to be a particular individual, when in truth and in fact he knew that was untrue.”
The anonymous caller claimed there were “communications ongoing between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and that the caller had indicated the Kremlin might be of help in getting Trump elected.”
Danchenko’s arrest was first reported by The New York Times.
Danchenko worked on the dossier for former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who, it turned out, had been hired to compile opposition research with indirect funding from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Many of the assertions included in the report were based on rumor and hearsay, which Danchenko defended at the time as business as usual.
“Even raw intelligence from credible sources, I take it with a grain of salt,” Danchenko said last October, denying he was a Russian agent. “Who knows, what if it’s not particularly accurate? Is it just a rumor or is there more to it?”
Danchenko was outed in July 2020 as the dossier’s “primary subsource” by an anonymous blog.
He insisted that he had not known who was funding the dossier, and that his work was completely nonpartisan in nature.
The FBI first questioned Danchenko in 2017 while trying to corroborate the dossier’s claims, which included a wild tale about Trump allegedly receiving a golden shower from prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room. In 2019, a review by the DOJ’s Inspector General revealed that Danchenko had come under suspicion for being a Russian agent while working for the Brookings Institution 10 years earlier. Danchenko denied the accusation, calling it “slander.”
Danchenko’s arrest comes two months after cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussman was indicted for allegedly making false statements to the FBI in 2016 about supposed secret backchannel communications between the Trump campaign and Russia’s Alfa Bank. The FBI “ultimately determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.”
Danchenko is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday afternoon.