Briefly Noted: Durham Arrests Igor Danchenko
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Why do I say “Briefly Noted”? Isn’t this a big story?
Well, it may end up being a big development in Durham’s Russia Hoax investigation—we certainly hope so—but very little is actually known about the significance of this arrest because the indictment on which the arrest was based has not been made public. All we really know is what a relatively brief NYT article tells us. The most important information contained in that article is confirmation that the arrest is part of Durham’s investigation:
WASHINGTON — Federal authorities on Thursday arrested an analyst who in 2016 gathered leads about possible links between Donald J. Trump and Russia for what turned out to be Democratic-funded opposition research, according to people familiar with the matter.
The arrest of the analyst, Igor Danchenko, is part of the special counsel inquiry led by John H. Durham, who was appointed by the Trump administration to scrutinize the Russia investigation for any wrongdoing, the people said.
Mr. Danchenko, was the primary researcher of the so-called Steele dossier, a compendium of rumors and unproven assertions suggesting that Mr. Trump and his 2016 campaign were compromised by and conspiring with Russian intelligence officials in Moscow’s covert operation to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.
The rest of the article simply summarizes the basics of what is known about Danchenko.
This is breaking news—the arrest took place just this morning—so the indictment could be released as soon as later today. Obviously the NYT is correct to focus on Danchenko’s role in connection with the Steele Dossier. A guess at this point is that the indictment could charge Danchenko with false statements to the FBI when he was interviewed/debriefed in January, 2017. That could be the low hanging fruit in the investigation—relatively easy to prove but carrying with it the possibility of a serious felony conviction.
I remain of the opinion that Danchenko, despite being Steele’s “primary source”, is not anything like Mr. Big in this Russia Hoax. He was probably a necessary placemarker, to lend verisimilitude to Steele’s tale of having a “network” of Russian sources. Where Danchenko’s role in the Russian Hoax could take on added importance is if he is offered a plea deal in return for testimony against the main actors in compiling the Steele dossier. The idea would be to determine whether Danchenko received what amounted to directions from Steele or others—directions as to the type of thing they wanted Danchenko to say. Since these stories ended up being a key to the Carter Page FISA application, Durham would have a powerful narrative to tell about a conspiracy to mislead the FBI and the FISC through false statements.
However, that could be—probably is—only the beginning of where Durham wants to go with this. Durham is already exerting pressure on Sussmann, who is also closely connected to Fusion GPS/Clinton Campaign but who also is charged with making a false statement to the FBI. You could view this as pressure from the bottom of the ladder (Danchenko) and pressure from much higher up the ladder (Sussmann). The people in between would be those like Glenn Simpson, Chris Steele, and Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS, but possibly others. Obviously, if Sussmann wants to make any sort of deal that could truly benefit him, he would have to provide a way for Durham to proceed higher up the ladder—here we’re talking about people like Marc Elias.
There are a lot of moving parts here—more than I’ve named—so we’ll have to await developments. My working assumption is that the timing of these events has most likely been carefully worked out in advance by Durham. As with the Sussmann indictment, if/when the Danchenko indictment is released I expect the information that is revealed will also be carefully calculated by Durham.
Two things to keep in mind going forward.
Zerohedge raises this point of Danchenko’s connection to Fiona Hill:
Danchenko first ran into trouble with the law as he began working for Brookings - the preeminent Democratic think tank in Washington - where he struck up a friendship with Fiona Hill, the White House adviser who testified against Trump during 2019 impeachment hearings. Danchenko has described Hill as a mentor, while Hill has sung his praises as a "creative" researcher.
This is pure speculation, but it would be a mistake at this point to underestimate how wide ranging Durham’s investigation is.
The second thing to keep in mind is Danchenko’s ties to Chris Steele. Since Steele was Danchenko’s primary connection to the Russia Hoax—to the best of our knowledge—the question remains: Does Durham have (or does he potentially have) any leverage over the British subject Steele? Steele’s value as a witness should have been apparent long ago. What I keep coming back to, however, is the late September or early October meeting of DoJ and FBI Russia Hoaxters. Here’s why.
The meeting I’m referring to is described in some of my old posts, which may repay a rereading:
When Ohr met Steele again in either late September or early October, 2016 he did so in company with quite a group: Peter Strzok and Lisa Page from the FBI, and three DOJ career officials from the criminal division, Bruce Swartz, Zainab Ahmad, and Andrew Weissman--currently Robert Mueller's deputy. ... this also probably means that they were planning for the FISA application, given that the application was submitted on October 21, 2016, immediately after Steele's October 20 report--the report in which Michael Cohen's famous trip to Prague for a "clandestine" meet superseded the clandestine Moscow meet of Carter Page, who was no longer with the Trump campaign. Which leads to the supposition that this meeting with Steele was to tell him, inter alia, that more detailed information was needed for the FISA application--which Steele duly provided, in the form of the now famous Cohen-Prague miscue.
All in all, it's an interesting picture: three officials from DoJ's Criminal Division meeting with the second in command of the FBI's CI division (accompanied by the Deputy Director's counsel) to plan for a FISA on--in effect--a candidate for the presidency. Coaching the asset on what was now needed for the FISA to go through, which would be typical Weissman tactics. And all this without informing the Acting AG, Sally Yates. Or so they say.
Let’s put this in perspective. Bruce Swartz, Zainab Ahmad, and Andrew Weissman were all at that time in the Criminal Division. They had no business getting involved in an FBI counterintelligence investigation—as Michael Horowitz forcefully pointed out in his FISA report. And guess what? Nobody knew that better (with the possible exception of those three themselves) than Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. This smells of a conspiracy because the participants at this meeting were knowingly going outside normal jurisdictional boundaries within the DoJ. That very much includes Bruce Ohr, who at the time was Associate Deputy Attorney General—as high as you can go without needing Senate confirmation. In addition, who thinks Lisa Page—who reported directly to Andy McCabe as his counsel—didn’t tell McCabe about this meeting?
Obviously Ohr—who isn’t giving interviews like some of the others—can fill out that picture, but two witnesses are better than one. Steele? Strzok? Page? I remain of the belief that this meeting was a key event, and I doubt that Durham has missed its significance for his investigation. It’s possible that Danchenko may move Durham one step closer in that regard. Again, speculation. Something to keep in mind.