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20 Jul, 2020 23:21

‘Russian agent’ or Steele’s patsy? ‘Revealed’ identity of primary sub-source for Russiagate dossier sparks fresh speculation

‘Russian agent’ or Steele’s patsy? ‘Revealed’ identity of primary sub-source for Russiagate dossier sparks fresh speculation

In the latest twist in the ‘Russiagate’ saga, internet sleuths say they have figured out the identity of the source Christopher Steele used to embellish and fabricate what would become the notorious Trump-Russia dossier.

The identity of Steele’s “primary sub-source” (PSS) has long been the subject of speculation, as the former British spy had no actual sources in Russia himself. The 59-page transcript of the FBI interview with the PSS, conducted in February 2017 and published on Friday, was heavily redacted. Several sources online now say they figured it out, and point to former Brookings Institution researcher Igor Danchenko as the match.

An anonymous blog that seems to have been created for the purpose lays out the case for Danchenko, saying his resume posted online “matches every detail in the summary to a degree that it is almost certain that this is the primary sub source.”

In addition to the resume, Danchenko’s name and the name of his hometown, Perm, match the length of the redactions in the document. So does the timing of his trips to Europe and Russia, and the unredacted job title – facilitator – at the Open World program run by the US Library of Congress, whose name was redacted.

Also on rt.com Real Russiagate bombshell: FBI knew Steele dossier was fiction, Strzok notes show NYTimes reporting ‘misleading and inaccurate’

A picture that emerges is of a Russian-born Danchenko who was recruited by the US program, and came to the US to get a master’s in Kentucky. He appears to have been introduced to Steele in the mid-aughts, by his professor from Louisville Paul Weber, and paid several hundred dollars for small tasks while he had no income.

Danchenko then got hired as a researcher at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, where he worked on Russia and the Balkans. He actually made headlines in 2008, when he claimed that plagiarism is rampant in Russian academia, and that President Vladimir Putin himself plagiarized his doctorate from an American study.

Danchenko’s name is subsequently listed at events with Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, Brookings fellows who went on to write ‘Operative in the Kremlin,’ a 2012 anti-Putin book.

British-born Hill would later join the national security council – after the firing of Russiagate-entrapped General Michael Flynn – and return to Brookings in July 2019. She later testified for the Democrats during the November 2019 impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump.

Danchenko appears to have reacted to the online identification of the PSS by locking down and scrubbing his social media accounts over the weekend. RT has reached out to Danchenko for comment. 

Why would any of this matter? Because the Steele Dossier has been the keystone of ‘Russiagate’ – the manufactured scandal accusing Trump of having ties or “colluding” with Russia during the 2016 election – from the very beginning. It was the grounds for the FBI to get a FISA warrant for spying on the Trump campaign via adviser Carter Page, which began prior to the election and continued for almost a year. It was also funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, using a series of cutouts: the Democratic National Committee, its law firm Perkins Coie, and Fusion GPS. Steele was also paid an undisclosed amount by the FBI. 

Yet the supposedly former British spy had not traveled to Russia, nor did he have any contacts there, so the crucial question about his dossier depended on how well informed the PSS was – and the FBI interview neatly demolished pretty much all of it, revealing that his “sources” were drinking friends and his intelligence consisted of “warmed-over rumors and laughable gossip,” as Eric Felten of Real Clear Investigations described it.

In one particular instance, the PSS told the FBI that Steele asked him for information about Paul Manafort – Trump’s campaign manager at the time – which he thought was a “strange task” because he was “clueless” about who Manafort was. The story about Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visiting Prague – repeatedly debunked but refusing to die – was apparently a fabrication of a female acquaintance described only as ‘Source 3.’ The claim that Trump had hired prostitutes to urinate on the bed of a Moscow hotel where President Barack Obama had stayed? The PSS said he heard third-hand that the hotel manager didn’t outright deny it.

While experts have described much of the dossier as fabricated, Steele has long hidden behind the PSS that he insisted had an inside line to the Kremlin itself. The FBI interview pretty conclusively debunks that – and so could Danchenko, if he is indeed the PSS and is willing to talk about it on the record. 

Ironically, Danchenko’s Russian birth may feed the conspiracies of Republicans who sought to defend Trump from ‘Russiagate’ by adopting the Democrats’ framing but insisting it was Clinton and the DNC who actually colluded with Moscow. If Danchenko is the PSS, then some of the dossier is indeed “Russian disinformation” in the strictest sense of the term – though not what people tracing it to the Kremlin had in mind. 

Yet the FBI interview makes it clear that the PSS fed Steele rumor and innuendo the British spy then used as a “smokescreen” for the claims of collusion, manufactured to please his Democrat employers, argued researcher Hans Mahncke.

The anonymous blogger who first fingered Danchenko agreed, saying he was “set up to be the fall guy” while the real villains of the piece are “people who used his information and pretended it came from legitimate sources” – meaning Steele, the FBI and DOJ who used his dossier, and the Democrats and their operatives who paid for it. 

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