Former British spy Christopher Steele was responsible for the dossier used to push the narrative that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. After a two-year-long investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that no collusion took place.
What many people wanted to know: where did this collusion narrative come from?
It turns out that 42-year-old Igor Danchenko, a Russian-born analyst living in America, was Steele's primary source, the Daily Caller reported. Although Danchenko's identity was redacted in a newly-released FBI memo, a Twitter user pieced together key pieces of information that revealed who the source was. The New York Times later confirmed Danchenko's identity.
Danchenko's attorney, Mark E. Schamel, confirmed the suspicion: his client was one of the main sources behind the Steele dossier.
From the NYT:
A lawyer for Mr. Danchenko, Mark E. Schamel, said that because his client’s name had already been exposed, he would not ask The New York Times to withhold it. He acknowledged that “Igor Danchenko has been identified as one of the sources who provided data and analysis” to Christopher Steele, the British former spy who compiled the dossier and whose last name has become shorthand for it.
Mr. Danchenko’s identity is noteworthy because it further calls into question the credibility of the dossier. By turning to Mr. Danchenko as his primary source to gather possible dirt on Mr. Trump involving Russia, Mr. Steele was relying not on someone with a history of working with Russian intelligence operatives or bringing to light their covert activities but instead a researcher focused on analyzing business and political risks in Russia.
According to his interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Steele contacted Mr. Danchenko around March 2016 and assigned him to ask people he knew in Russia and Ukraine about connections, including any ties to corruption, between a pro-Russian government in Ukraine and the veteran Republican strategist Paul Manafort. Mr. Steele did not explain why, but Mr. Manafort joined the Trump campaign around that time and was later promoted to its chairman. He was convicted in 2018 of tax and bank fraud and other charges that grew out of the Russia investigation.
Mr. Steele later expanded Mr. Danchenko’s assignment to look for any compromising information about Mr. Trump.
“Mr. Danchenko is a highly respected senior research analyst; he is neither an author nor editor for any of the final reports produced by Orbis,” Mr. Schamel said. “Mr. Danchenko stands by his data analysis and research and will leave it to others to evaluate and interpret any broader story with regard to Orbis’s final report.”
Interestingly enough, some of Danchenko's statements to the FBI contradicted the dossier. Danchenko made it clear that the information was "rumors and speculation" and couldn't be confirmed. Steele ended up using those rumors to make his case appear to be more solid than it actually was.
Danchenko heard rumors about Trump using hookers in Moscow back in 2013 and Russia had video evidence to prove it. Danchenko said one of his sources attempted to verify the rumor with the hotel but came up empty-handed
Another key area where Steele's dossier proved to be false: about Carter Page, one of the Trump campaign's national security advisers. The dossier claimed Page came up with the idea to use WikiLeaks to release emails from the Democrats throughout the campaign.
Then there's Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Steele claimed Cohen met with Russian officials in August 2016 to discuss the election.
The Mueller investigation revealed both those claims were false. In fact, the special counsel found that no Trump campaign staffers colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. Mueller also stated no Trump campaign officials helped to release the Democrats' emails WikiLeaks obtained.
Remember: the dossier was used to obtain a FISA warrant that resulted in Carter Page, one of the Trump campaign's national security advisers, being spied upon.