Igor Danchenko, the primary researcher behind Christopher Steele’s dossier of rumors and unproven assertions that Donald Trump was colluding with the Russian government during the 2016 election, was arrested on Thursday.
The Washington Post reported that a spokesperson for special counsel John H. Durham, the prosecuting authority in the case, confirmed the arrest. Sources familiar with the matter initially told the New York Times about the arrest on conditions of anonymity, as an indictment against Danchenko had yet to be unsealed.
Danchencko is a subject in Durham’s special-counsel investigation into the origins of claims Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. Some of the claims in Steele’s dossier ended up forming the basis for an FBI wiretap application targeting a former Trump campaign adviser in October 2016. The FBI interviewed Danchencko in 2017 as they were investigating some of the Steele dossier claims.
Many of the claims in Steele’s dossier remain unproven and others have been refuted outright. According to the New York Times, Danchencko suggested in the interview that some of the claims in the Steele dossier were misleading and more speculative than the way the dossier presented.
Trump and his allies have long challenged the credibility of the Steele dossier and have accused the FBI of conducting an investigation into the claims his campaign colluded with Russia with little credible evidence to support the claims.
The New York Times noted a 2019 investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general criticized the FBI for continuing to reference material from the Steele dossier without alerting judges that Danchenko had cast doubts on the accuracy of the dossier claims.
Steele was a former British intelligence officer and had gone on to found business intelligence firm. Steele’s firm was a subcontractor to another research firm, Fusion GPS, which in turn had been hired by Perkins Coie, a law firm that was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 campaign.
Danchenko’s arrest is the third in Durham’s ongoing investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion claims. In September, Durham indicted cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussman. Sussman was worked for Perkins Coie at the time the dossier was taking shape and he is accused of lying to the FBI about who he was working for as he brought claims to the agency of collusion between Trump and Russia.
Last year, FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was indicted by Durham on charges of making false statements in documents the FBI used to apply for a warrant to surveil a member of President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Clinesmith admitted to altering an email in June of 2017 to say former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was “not a source” for the CIA, when in fact he had been a source for the agency on Russia-related matters. The alteration of the email obscured Page’s past efforts to help the CIA on Russia-related matters, while his expertise on Russia had added to the FBI’s suspicions against him. Clinesmith’s alteration of the email came as the FBI was applying for the third extension of its foreign intelligence surveillance act warrant against Page.
Clinesmith plead guilty to the charges and Politico reported he received a punishment of one year of probation and 400 hours of community service.