“The FBI offered former British spy Christopher Steele $1 million if he could corroborate the claims in the now-infamous anti-Trump dossier.” The Washington Examiner reported the news unearthed from the testimony of Brian Auten, an FBI senior intelligence analyst who was the first witness called by special counsel John Durham in Igor Danchenko’s false-statements trial.
The Steele dossier claimed then-candidate Donald Trump was colluding with Russia; specifically, a corrupt “conspiracy of cooperation” with Russia’s infamous Vladimir Putin. Igor Danchenko was the “principal source” for the wild accusation.
National Review notes:
Danchenko was Steele’s principal source for the dossier, yet the FBI did not interview him until late January 2017. By that time, the bureau had relied on the dossier information twice (in October 2016 and January 2017) in sworn applications to the FISC that limned Trump — the GOP candidate for the presidency, and then the sitting president — as a tool of the Russian government. The purpose of interviewing Danchenko was to determine whether the Steele allegations were true or false. Obviously, the FBI is supposed to determine that the information has been verified before making an application to the FISC in the first place.
Additionally, “because proceedings before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are classified and ex parte — meaning only the FBI and Justice Department appear before FISC judges, and there is no notice or discovery ever provided to Americans who are monitored under the court’s warrants — the government has a higher legal obligation than in normal criminal proceedings to ensure that the information presented to the court has been verified.”
“It is thus breathtaking that the FBI would offer an informant $1 million to corroborate his allegations — which is tantamount to an admission that the information is not even supported, much less verified — and yet rely on that unverified and likely false information, not once but four separate times over the course of a year, under oath in applications to the FISC” adds National Review.
Auten was present when the FBI first interviewed Danchenko in January of 2017. National Review reports “Auten wrote a memo analyzing Danchenko’s undermining of Steele’s reporting. Yet the FBI did not share this memo with the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence, which oversees applications to the FISC, much less with the court itself.”
Furthermore, National Review writes:
Far from correcting the record, the FBI represented to the FISC in the April and June 2017 sworn surveillance-warrant applications that it had met with Danchenko (described as “the primary sub-source”) in “an effort to further corroborate Steele’s reporting.” The bureau asserted that it had found Danchenko to be “truthful and cooperative.” Of course, to the extent he had been truthful and cooperative, it was in confirming the FBI’s suspicions that Steele’s allegations were bogus. . . . But the bureau withheld that embarrassing concession. Worse, what it did say would lead any sensible person — particularly one who assumed that the FBI was acting lawfully and honorably — to infer that Danchenko had corroborated Steele’s claims, when the opposite was true.
Remarkably, the FBI did proceed to sign Danchenko up as a paid intelligence source, a status in which he was kept for over three years. It is not yet clear whether this maneuver made it more difficult for Horowitz, Durham, and Congress to investigate the FBI’s performance.
It gets worse, if that’s possible. Following the IG’s report, FBI director Christopher Wray referred Auten to the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility for an investigation and possible discipline. Yet, despite being under this inquiry, Auten was tapped by the bureau, in the stretch run of the 2020 election, to provide an intelligence assessment of derogatory information about the lucrative overseas business dealings of Hunter Biden and the Biden family — in the main, information that had been gathered by Republican Senators Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wis.). As I’ve previously recounted, Auten’s assessment was used to dismiss the Biden data as “Russian disinformation” — which it clearly was not.