Chuck Ross, DCNF
Former FBI Director James Comey said Friday that he has not read explosive new reports showing that the primary source for dossier author Christopher Steele was the target of an FBI counterintelligence investigation.
Comey said during an interview on CNN that he plans to read the documents and will answer questions about it when he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 30.
“I haven’t read what they put out. I’ll read it before I testify next week, and I’ll answer whatever questions that they have,” Comey said.
The bureau began the process of pursuing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Danchenko in 2010 but tabled the effort after he left the country.
Graham called the revelations “stunning,” noting that the FBI relied heavily on information from Steele’s dossier to obtain warrants to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page.
The FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team learned the identity of Steele’s source in December 2016 and also found bureau case files showing the earlier investigation of Danchenko. Graham said that the FBI did not inform the FISA Court of the information about Danchenko.
Graham has said he wants to find out Comey and other top officials when they learned about Danchenko and the dossier, and why the information was not disclosed in FISA applications against Page.
Comey downplayed Republican theories about the dossier, saying that the Crossfire Hurricane probe “was begun based on information having nothing to do with Steele dossier.”
“Setting aside the merits of the Steele dossier, which are important to debate, this was begun based on credible information unconnected to that material, and we should have been fired if we didn’t investigate,” Comey said.
An FBI special agent and a supervisory intelligence analyst interviewed Danchenko, a Russian analyst who previously worked for the Brookings Institution, over the course of three days in January 2017.
Danchenko had worked for Steele for several years before the former British spy asked him to collect information on the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
During the interview, Danchenko undercut several aspects of the dossier and said Steele overstated several claims in the document.
The dossier’s most explosive claims have been either debunked or remain uncorroborated. The special counsel’s report and a Justice Department inspector general’s report said that the dossier’s claim that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet Kremlin insiders was inaccurate.
Danchenko told the FBI that his source for the Cohen allegation also fed him information about Page that the FBI used in its FISA applications.
The FBI memo about the prior investigation of Danchenko said that he had contact with two known Russian intelligence officers in 2005 and 2006. According to the memo, the FBI opened its investigation after receiving a tip from one of Danchenko’s colleagues that he had suggested that employees of a think tank who were poised to join the Obama administration could use their security clearances “to make some money.”