Over the last several days Shipwreckedcrew—in exchanges with Russia Hoax researchers—has raised a basic question about the now famous Danchenko interview. Which is to say, the first Danchenko interview, which took place in January, 2017. For example:
There’s a related question that SWC has been asking: Why was the EC written up by an FBI analyst rather than by an FBI agent?
In a formal sense, the fact that the Danchenko interview was written up in an EC rather than a 302 doesn’t surprise me. In fact, that’s as I would have expected it to be done. I spent about 22 years of my 30 years as an FBI agent working CI, and I can only recall (off the top of my head) having written one 302—which was with regard to the Hanssen case. I wrote plenty of 302s during my years working criminal matters, but not for CI cases. The reason is simply that—for a variety of reasons—few CI cases are worked with a view toward prosecution, and 302s are records of investigation with a view to preparing a case for (potential) prosecution.
Consider what the Danchenko interview was actually all about. It was part of an effort to determine the reliability of a CHS—a confidential human source. No, that source was not Danchenko. He was, as far as I’ve ever heard, never an FBI source. The source in question was the ‘former’ MI6 official, Christopher Steele. The FBI was interviewing Danchenko in order to assess Steele’s reliability, because they had—possibly as early as October, 2016—come to the realization that Danchenko was Steele’s primary source for the tarradiddles contained in what we now know as the Clinton Dossier.
So the FBI (analyst Brian Auten and agent Steven Somma) went into the interview—at least in a formal sense—not so much to obtain intelligence from Danchenko but to get Danchenko’s version of his relations with Steele. Obviously the FBI wasn’t planning on prosecuting Danchenko for lying to Steele, so it’s notable that Danchenko was represented in the interview by a prominent and Dem-connected lawyer. In fact, an agreement had been reached according to which Danchenko received immunity for purposes of the interview. From that standpoint, the FBI would normally have had the expectation that Danchenko would at least avoid obvious lies, or lies that the FBI could check up on.
Now, according to John Durham, Danchenko went ahead and lied. It’s true that in the true parts of the interview what he had to say reflected very poorly on Steele’s credibility and reliability as a source of intelligence. And that type of information, after all, is what the FBI was looking for from Danchenko. Well, then, should the interview have been written up as a 302 with the idea that the FBI might later use it to prosecute Steele? The FBI is normally not in the business of prosecuting dishonest CHSs. Even when those sources tell pretty consequential untruths, the FBI avoids those types of prosecutions. For starters, it’s not a good way to encourage other people to share information with the FBI. If a former source gets prosecuted, it will be for some other criminality. That criminality might include lying, but the lying would normally have to lead to crimes or wrongs against others (framing innocent people, etc.).
So, the bottom line for me is that I would not have expected—from this purely formal standpoint—that the interview would have been written up in a 302. It would have been entirely understandable if the FBI has simply decided that they had got what they were looking for and decided that it was time to just move on. And an EC was good enough for that type of resolution.
Of course, nothing in the Russia Hoax is that simple.
Danchenko was far from an unknown to the FBI. They had actually had a CI investigation open on him previously. Further, they knew he was super-connected to the Dems, through his position at Brookings. Those two factors, as well as the known fact that Steele had been working for the Clinton campaign, should have had red lights flashing all around Danchenko. So, from that standpoint the seeming lack of aggressive probing of Danchenko in the interview and the fact that the analyst Auten did the write-up does raise suspicions. And then there’s the fact that the FBI went ahead and got FISA renewals that utilized to an important degree the lies that Danchenko and Steele had purveyed to them.
It all gets even more complicated—viewed from the outside—when we learn from John Durham that the FBI actually interviewed Danchenko five more times during the first half of 2017. Is the FBI right handed and left handed? Do the two hands know what the other is doing? We don’t know, but perhaps Durham will be releasing those interviews.
So, let’s move past the formal sense of the Danchenko interview’s setting and ask: What was the interview really all about?
And for once we have a simple answer. It was really all about Carter Page.
Nobody would have cared about the Russia Hoax for more than a week or so, but for the fact that the FBI got a FISA on Carter Page—meaning, for practical purposes, on the Trump campaign—and then got three renewals of that FISA. But for that, nobody would be talking about Danchenko and Steele, certainly not at this late date. Nor, I wager, would Durham have ever been appointed, but for the Carter Page FISA. There would have been no SC looking into the Alfa Bank hoax or asking uncomfortable questions about the DNC “hack” and so forth.
Therefore it may prove worthwhile to reacquaint ourselves with Carter Page, because I’m willing to bet that John Durham—in his inquiries into Russia Hoax origins—has spent one helluva lot of time getting to know all about Carter Page. Various well connected commentators—Kash Patel is one who comes to mind—have strongly suggested that there could be additional indictments of FBI officials. It seems to me that any case against most of the FBI officials who come readily to mind—Strzok, Page, McCabe, Comey, Priestap, Baker, and more—might well run up against this question: Since the core of FBI wrongdoing revolves around the Carter Page FISA, what did these people know about Carter Page? If they honestly believed Page was a Russian agent, the case against them gets more difficult.
Let me summarize briefly what we know about Carter Page.
Page was a Russophile from his days at the Naval Academy. He lived and worked in Russia for some years, and continued to make a living off his Russian connections when he moved to NYC. During much of that time, certainly after his return to the US, Page was a source for the CIA, due to his ongoing contacts with Russian officials who were of interest to the Agency.
The FBI first contacted Page about his Russian connections in 2009—not at all surprising. Actually, it would have been quite routine—it’s what the FBI does in CI work. However, in 2013 the FBI became aware that Page was in contact with three Russian officials in whom they had a special interest. My estimation is that, at this point, the FBI and the CIA came to an understanding. They agreed that Page would be of more value to the FBI than to the CIA, because the FBI had big plans for their Three Russians case.
In the CI world any case that leads to prosecution—especially the prosecution of officials from major hostile powers like Russia or China—is a Big Deal. As I’ve said in the past, I’d be astonished if Obama was not briefed on this case. Jim Comey obviously would have been aware of the case and of Carter Page’s role in it. It was a big feather in the cap of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
What went wrong was that, shortly before the prospective trial date for the one Russian who had been arrested, Page mentioned to his FBI handlers that he had disclosed his role in the case to several Russian officials. This was in early March, 2016. The FBI and the USAO went ballistic, and the FBI immediately began the process of opening a Full Field Investigation of Page, based on his continuing contact with Russian officials—contacts that the FBI would have encouraged in the past. I have maintained from the get go that the FBI did not have predication for the investigation that they opened. That issue could be crucial for Durham.
Things happened fast after that. As it turned out, the Russian pled guilty and on March 11 the USAO was able to put out a press release on this successful outcome. Meanwhile the NYFO was in contact with FBIHQ and by early April had received the go ahead to open the FFI on Page. In the meantime, Page had been announced as a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign—all of this happening within the span of about a month.
So, did the FBI brief Trump on this situation? They did not, although Comey did brief Loretta Lynch.
For the next few months very little happened, until the Clinton Dossier with its story about Carter Page being the cut out between the Trump campaign and its supposed masters in the Kremlin was fortuitously delivered to the FBI. The rest is the Russia Hoax as we’ve come to know it.
Now, there’s much, much more. I’ve done some digging and I plan on republishing three of my past posts on Carter Page’s dealings with the FBI. These posts—at least the first two—take the form of excerpts from the OIG’s FISA report and my comments on those excerpts. Here are the links to those posts for now:
A Closer Look At The FBI's Carter Page Investigation (Part 1)
A Closer Look At The FBI's Carter Page Investigation (Part 2)
A Closer Look At The FBI's Carter Page Investigation (Part 3)
Also the podcast with shipwrecked is a good idea, maybe also with John Solomon.
Mark, what is your opinion? Were there really grounds for the FBI to think that CP was a russian agent? At best it would make the FBI look like a bunch of Inspector Clouseau’s. At worst, it looks deliberate.