Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham on Sunday accused the FBI of committing a “new crime” before a Senate committee in 2018 when the bureau testified that a key source backed up Christopher Steele and his anti-Trump dossier when in fact the source had not.
Mr. Graham said the primary sub-source told the FBI that his dossier feed to Mr. Steele was from friends passing along second- and thirdhand information. The source was outed on social media last month as U.S.-based foreign policy analyst Igor Danchenko, who has been described as being Ukrainian-born and as Russian.
Mr. Danchenko also told the FBI that Mr. Steele, a former British intelligence officer, seemed to have embellished some of the gossip he provided in 2016 while his work was being funded by the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Mr. Danchenko told the FBI that he took what his sources provided with “a grain of salt” and told Mr. Steele that the information was “just talk” out of Moscow.
But when the FBI testified a year later before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, senators heard a far different story.
Mr. Graham produced a newly declassified document that served as FBI talking points for the closed Senate testimony. The hearing was called because senators were hearing reports that the main dossier source provided unreliable information.
The FBI witness that day sought to shore up Mr. Danchenko and the dossier. The witness told the committee that Mr. Danchenko “did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier to the extent he could identify it.”
The FBI witness told the Senate that the sub-source confirmed that Mr. Steele did not fabricate dossier sections. But Mr. Danchenko said he corroborated “zero” allegations, according to the December 2019 report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.
Mr. Graham rebutted this statement. He said the sub-source made it clear that there were “multiple layers of hearsay.”
Mr. Graham said he does not know the identity of the FBI witness in 2018. But he said it likely came from the Crossfire Hurricane team that started the probe into President Trump and his campaign advisers on July 31, 2016.
The FBI had every reason to defend the dossier in 2018. Agents had come to embrace Mr. Steele’s 17 memos to the extent that they based four wiretap applications on its claims and used its allegations to investigate Trump associates. The FBI insisted that the CIA and other agencies include dossier claims in the official assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In the end, the Mueller and Horowitz investigations discredited the dossier’s anti-Trump allegations. For example, Mr. Steele wrote that candidate Trump was a spy for Russia for years and bankrolled Russian computer hacking against Democrats. Neither proved true.
“This is a second lie,” he said. “This is a second crime.”
Attorney General William Barr has appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to investigate how the FBI began its investigation into Mr. Trump and its alleged misleading of judges, and now of senators.
Mr. Horowitz found that on 17 occasions the FBI either provided false information to the court or withheld evidence that was favorable to the target, Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. An FBI attorney has been accused of falsifying a CIA email to the bureau to make it look like Mr. Page never worked for the agency when in fact he had.
“They did to the Senate intelligence committee what they did to the FISA court,” Mr. Graham told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. “They misled the hell out of them. They said there’s no evidence from the sub-source to suggest that Steele fabricated anything in the dossier. Actually, the sub-source said it was all bar talk, hearsay, speculation and conjecture, and the whole sexual activity of the president was made in jest.”
Mr. Graham previously released the FBI’s heavily redacted notes on its three interviews with Mr. Danchenko in January 2017. After hearing the source’s doubts, agents nonetheless obtained two more wiretaps on Mr. Page and cited the dossier as the main piece of evidence that he was a Russian agent. Mr. Page was never charged. The information came from two of Mr. Danchenko’s six sources.
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