A Democratic operative who admitted to lying to the source for the Steele dossier about the Trump campaign serves on the board of a taxpayer-funded nonprofit that aims to "build resilient democracies" around the globe.
Charles Dolan, who testified in Special Counsel John Durham’s trial on Thursday, is also a longtime adviser to the Russian government, raising questions about his position on the board of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. The Virginia-based organization receives millions of dollars in federal government funding each year to help foreign countries build their Democratic systems. The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development gave the Foundation roughly $4 million this year alone for programs in countries including Cambodia, Lebanon, and Uzbekistan, according to a federal spending database.
Dolan’s position on the pro-democracy foundation marks an ironic twist given his links to the authoritarian Russian regime and the bogus dossier, which Democrats cited to question Donald Trump’s legitimacy as president. Dolan testified Thursday at the trial for Igor Danchenko, a Russia analyst who was the primary source for the discredited Steele dossier. Danchenko, who is charged with lying to the FBI about his sources for the dossier, allegedly included information he received from Dolan in the salacious document, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. Dolan testified that he lied to Danchenko regarding information about Trump campaign officials that appeared in the report.
"I thought I’d embellish a bit," he testified.
Dolan, who worked in the Clinton administration and consulted for Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, has longstanding ties to Russian government officials. According to the indictment against Danchenko, Dolan has a "professional relationship" with Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov. Dolan also handled public relations from 2006 to 2014 for Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom. He did not register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department, as is required of lobbyists and public relations gurus who work for foreign governments, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.
Dolan is not accused of wrongdoing, but he stayed silent about his knowledge of Danchenko and the dossier for years after the report surfaced in January 2017. He sent emails after the dossier was published in which he said that Danchenko—whom he called "a Russian agent"—was the likely source. Dolan’s connection was not revealed until Danchenko was indicted last year.
According to Durham, Danchenko asked Dolan in August 2016 whether he had any "thought, rumor, or allegation" about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Dolan said he would "dig around on Manafort," and later provided Danchenko with information about Manafort that he said came from a GOP source. Danchenko told dossier author Christopher Steele that Manafort was working with Trump campaign aide Carter Page as part of a "well-developed conspiracy" with Russia. Dolan testified on Thursday that he lied to Danchenko about meeting with a Republican source to discuss Manafort. Instead, he passed along tidbits about the Trump aide that he gleaned from public reports of internal strife in the Trump campaign.
Durham alleges that Danchenko’s lies about Dolan prevented the FBI from fully investigating the claims in the dossier. Danchenko allegedly fabricated details from a visit Dolan made in 2016 to the Ritz-Carlton Moscow to arrange a conference to be held later that year. The dossier alleges that Ritz-Carlton staff members said that a video tape exists of Trump with Russian prostitutes at the hotel in 2013. According to Durham, Dolan met with hotel managers to discuss arrangements for the conference but never discussed Trump.
Though it is Danchenko who is on trial, Durham excoriated the FBI during the first days of witness testimony. Under questioning, FBI intelligence analyst Brian Auten acknowledged that the bureau did not verify any of the serious claims from the dossier before citing the document extensively in applications to surveil Page. Auten also testified that the FBI offered $1 million to Steele if he could provide proof of the dossier’s allegations. Auten said that Steele was unable to do so.
Dolan serves on the International Foundation for Electoral Systems board with Tad Devine, a Democratic consultant who worked with Manafort on behalf of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was aligned with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Devine testified for the prosecution in Manafort’s federal trial in 2019. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) also serves on the foundation’s board.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems declined comment about Dolan. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.