Donald Trump was handed a boost last night after a key source of the Steele dossier was arrested for allegedly lying to the FBI about his connections with the Democratic Party.
Igor Danchenko, who provided information on Donald Trump’s links to the Kremlin for an explosive intelligence report written by a former MI6 spy, was accused of misleading investigators about his main source being a senior Hillary Clinton ally.
Mr Trump has long denied the claims in the dossier, which he says were part of a Democrat-led witch hunt to discredit him.
The dossier was commissioned by Democratic Party consultants and put together by British former intelligence agent Christopher Steele. It was brimming with lurid and shocking allegations, sparking concerns that Trump could be beholden to Moscow, but much of what was suggested has never been proven or have been shown to be false.
The new allegations will bolster Mr Trump’s claims that his links to the Kremlin were confected by the Democrats, as the former president considers another run for the White House.
Igor Danchenko, a Russian analyst who gathered material for the Steele dossier
Credit: Jonah M. Kessel/The New York Times
The case against Mr Danchenko is part of a special investigation set up by Mr Trump to examine the foundations for the Justice Department’s own 2016-2017 probe into Trump’s ties to Russia.
Democrats have lambasted it as politically motivated, but the Biden administration has not stopped it.
Mr Danchenko was taken into custody and was expected to appear in Federal court in Virginia last night charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. It is not known if he denies the charges.
He is accused of misleading the FBI by denying a relationship with a public relations executive and longtime Democratic operative and supporter of Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, when he had in fact anonymously sourced one of his allegations to that person.
In the indictment, that person is named as ‘PR Executive-1’ and is said to be a former “chairman of a national Democratic political organisation, state chairman of former President Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, and an advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign.”
“With respect to the 2016 Clinton Campaign, PR Executive-1 actively campaigned and participated in calls and events as a volunteer on behalf of Hillary Clinton,” it says.
The Telegraph has identified the executive and approached them for comment.
Mr Danchenko, a Russia analyst, is also accused of fabricating details of a phone conversation with someone who, he said, had described a "well-developed conspiracy of co-operation" between the Trump campaign and Russia.
They are labelled as Chamber President-1 – a US citizen who the indictment says “was then president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.”
US Attorney John Durham
Credit: U.S. Department of Justice via AP, File
The Justice Department’s inspector general has faulted the FBI and the Justice Department for their handling of the dossier. Mr Danchenko, who was not identified by name in the watchdog report, had told FBI investigators during a 2017 interview about the dossier’s origins and veracity that there were "potentially serious problems with Steele’s descriptions of information in his reports."
But those qualms from Mr Danchenko were omitted from the final three surveillance applications, making the dossier appear more credible than even one of its own sources thought it was, according to the report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Mr Danchenko, who previously worked for the Brookings Institution, has himself suggested that the information he offered to Steele was not meant to be portrayed as indisputable fact.
"Even raw intelligence from credible sources, I take it with a grain of salt," Danchenko told The New York Times last year. "Who knows, what if it’s not particularly accurate? Is it just a rumor or is there more to it?"
The Durham investigation comes after Robert Mueller’s inquiry, which found questionable ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, but not sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.