August 4, 2020 | 10:35pm
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
Years of unending media hysteria and alarming abuses of federal law enforcement were premised on the belief President Trump was compromised by Russian intelligence.
Now it turns out that the biggest political scandal of the century was sourced almost entirely to a man with a history of public drunkenness who did little besides traffic in debunked gossip.
The breathless attacks on Trump, as well as the FBI’s spying on his campaign, were largely sourced to the dubious “Steele Dossier.” The author of the dossier was former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, but it’s long been known that Steele relied on a “primary sub-source” to supply him with the substance behind the wild allegations that Trump was engaged in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin.
Recently declassified FBI information and reporting by my colleague at RealClearInvestigations, Eric Felten, confirms the identity of the source as a 42-year-old Russian national living in America named Igor Danchenko.
The FBI memo recounting the agency’s meetings with Danchenko confirms that the Steele Dossier was sourced with little more than Danchenko gossiping with childhood friends back in Russia — not exactly high-level sources in the know. Some of Danchenko’s most prominent allegations, such as the dossier’s claim that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague to meet Russian intel operatives, have been subsequently disproven.
Danchenko was also the source of the dossier’s most infamous allegation — Russian security services possessed a tape of Trump being urinated on by Russian prostitutes. Steele said this allegation was “confirmed” by a senior employee at the hotel. But Danchenko later admitted to the FBI that when his source contacted someone at the hotel to discuss what he characterized as “rumor and speculation” about Trump’s bedroom proclivities, all the employee said, was when it comes to celebrity guests, “one never knows what they’re doing.”
Danchenko further told the FBI he didn’t know or recall information Steele attributed to him, said that Steele mischaracterized Danchenko’s sources and said they had direct access to information when they did not, and generally presented Danchenko’s information as being more substantiated than it was.
The FBI also confirms that much of Danchenko’s supposed intel gathering occurred while drinking heavily with his friends back in Russia. In fact, in 2013 Danchenko was arrested in Maryland and charged with being “drunk in public, disorderly conduct, and failure to have his [2-year-old] child in a safety seat,” according to a court filing. The FBI knew Danchenko’s heavy drinking was a factor in his “intelligence gathering,” but it doesn’t appear to have given the bureau any second thoughts about his credibility.
Danchenko also worked at the respected liberal think tank, the Brookings Institution. At Brookings, Danchenko was reportedly close to Fiona Hill, whom he described as a mentor. Hill went on to be at an official at the White House’s National Security Council specializing in Russian and European affairs, and became a star witness against Trump last November during the impeachment proceedings.
The president of Brookings, Strobe Talbott, was a prominent former Clinton-administration official who was instrumental in circulating the Steele Dossier around Washington before it became public. And some of the Steele Dossier’s earliest and most prominent media defenders were Brookings legal scholars such as Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey, both associated with the Lawfare blog, which has become an infamous clearinghouse for all manner of Trump-related conspiracies.
After credulously parroting the dossier’s debunked accusations for years, there’s been near-total silence from the discredited mainstream media regarding what we’ve learned about Steele’s primary source. But if you were trying to convince people that the Trump-Russia hoax was the result of a cabal of DC elites who couldn’t accept the results of the 2016 election, the Danchenko revelation couldn’t be more perfect.