An analyst who worked on the so-called Steele dossier — the salacious, largely unverified collection of former President Donald Trump's links to Russia — was arrested Thursday on charges that he lied to the FBI.
Igor Danchenko, who's been described as the dossier's primary researcher, was arrested as part of an investigation by John Durham, the special counsel appointed by Trump’s Justice Department to investigate the origins of the Russia probe.
Danchenko, 43, is expected to appear in federal court in Virginia Thursday afternoon.
The indictment charges Danchenko, a Russian citizen who lives in Virginia, with lying to FBI agents back in 2017 about some of the sources of information that he passed on to former British spy Christopher Steele.
The indictment charges that Danchenko told agents he hadn't used any information from a public relations executive, a longtime Clinton supporter with Democratic party ties, for his reports when he in fact had.
The indictment suggests — but doesn’t actually assert — that the person, identified as PR-Executive 1 in the court filing, might have been a source for the dossier's most salacious allegation — an encounter between Trump and prostitutes in the presidential suite of Moscow's Ritz Carlton Hotel in 2013. The court filing notes the executive stayed at the hotel and took a tour of the presidential suite in June of 2016 days before Steele's report on the topic.
Had Danchenko been more honest, the indictment says, the feds would have asked the executive more questions about his involvement in the story.
Danchenko is also charged with making misleading comments about receiving an anonymous phone call that he believed was from a prominent Russian-American businessman. "Danchenko never received such a phone call," the indictment said.
Danchenko is the second person to be charged in recent months as part of the Durham probe. In September, prominent Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann was charged with making a false statement to the FBI. Sussmann, who shared concerns with the bureau in 2016 about communications between the Trump campaign and Russia, allegedly failed to disclose during the meeting that he was working for multiple clients, including Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report found the Russian government did try to interfere in the 2016 election for Trump's benefit and that Trump's campaign had numerous undisclosed contacts with Russians, but much of the information in the dossier compiled by Steele has largely been discredited.
The FBI used information from the Steele dossier as part of its legal argument for secret government surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, during the 2016 election, without noting any red flags about the information.
Danchenko told The New York Times last year that he'd simply passed along raw intelligence information to Steele. “Even raw intelligence from credible sources, I take it with a grain of salt,” Danchenko said. “Who knows, what if it’s not particularly accurate? Is it just a rumor or is there more to it?”