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Judge Narrows Trial of Analyst Who Gathered Steele Dossier Claims About Trump

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However the F.B.I. didn’t open the investigation based on the dossier, and the ultimate report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, didn’t cite anything in it as evidence. The F.B.I. did cite some claims from the dossier in applying for court permission to wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser with ties to Russia.

The dossier grew out of opposition research not directly funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Their law firm, Perkins Coie, contracted with the research firm Fusion GPS, which subcontracted research about Trump business dealings in Russia to an organization run by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent.

Mr. Steele in turn subcontracted to Mr. Danchenko, a Russian-born analyst living in the USA, who canvassed people he knew, including in Europe and Russia. Mr. Danchenko verbally relayed what the analyst later called “raw intelligence” — essentially uncorroborated gossip — to Mr. Steele, who drafted the dossier.

A bureau counterintelligence analyst determined Mr. Danchenko’s identity and the F.B.I. first spoke to him in early 2017, during which he said he had not seen the dossier until BuzzFeed published it. Its tenor was more conclusive than was justified, he said, and he portrayed the blackmail tape story as mere rumor and speculation.

Mr. Danchenko talked to the F.B.I. for hours about what he had gathered, and court filings by Mr. Durham disclosed that the bureau formally deemed him a confidential human source.

An inspector general report revealed in late 2019 that Mr. Danchenko’s interview had raised doubts in regards to the credibility of the dossier and criticized the bureau for failing to inform that to a court in wiretap renewal applications that continued to cite it. The report essentially portrayed Mr. Danchenko, whom it didn’t name, as a truth-teller, and the F.B.I. as deceptive.

But after further investigation, Mr. Durham accused Mr. Danchenko of deceiving the F.B.I. — including by concealing that a public relations executive with ties to Democrats, Charles Dolan, had been his source for a minor claim involving office politics within the Trump campaign. That assertion made its way into the dossier.

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