FBI Hired Steele Dossier Source as Secret Informant, Court Filings Say

Igor Danchenko (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
September 13, 2022

The Russia analyst charged with lying to the FBI about his role in crafting the infamous Steele dossier was on the bureau’s payroll as a confidential informant, according to an explosive new court filing released Tuesday.

Special Counsel John Durham revealed the FBI hired Igor Danchenko in March 2017, months after the bureau first interviewed him about his work on the dossier. Durham charged Danchenko last year with repeatedly lying to the FBI about his work on the dossier, and his sources for the discredited document. Durham alleges that Danchenko "fabricated" allegations in the dossier that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Danchenko worked at the time for dossier author Christopher Steele, who investigated Donald Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

The filing is likely to raise questions about the FBI’s relationship with Danchenko, which ended in October 2020. The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation against Danchenko in 2009, when he worked as an analyst at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. One of Danchenko’s colleagues claimed that Danchenko asked whether he would be willing to sell him classified information. The FBI closed the investigation after Danchenko left the United States in 2011 but did not reopen the probe when he returned.

Danchenko began working for Steele’s private intelligence firm, Orbis, after leaving the Brookings Institution. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Steele, a former British intelligence officer, used Danchenko to collect information about Trump’s possible links to Russia. Steele compiled 17 memos based on Danchenko’s claims in what is now known as the dossier. He provided some of the information to the Clinton campaign, the FBI, the State Department, and numerous media outlets.

It is unclear whether the FBI used Danchenko to provide information about the Steele dossier, or as part of the investigation into the Trump campaign. The FBI first interviewed Danchenko in January 2017, shortly after BuzzFeed News published the dossier. Danchenko downplayed the allegations in the salacious document, telling FBI agents that Steele had embellished claims that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia.

Though Danchenko undermined aspects of the dossier in those interviews, the FBI failed to disclose the information to the federal court that granted surveillance warrants against the Trump campaign.

The Justice Department’s inspector general blasted the FBI for failing to verify the dossier before relying on it to obtain the surveillance warrants. The inspector general also found that FBI agents withheld exculpatory evidence that undercut the collusion theory.

The FBI did not return a request for comment.