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FBI offered foreign agent $1 million bounty to corroborate anti-Trump smears. He couldn't.
Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

FBI offered foreign agent $1 million bounty to corroborate anti-Trump smears. He couldn't.

The trial for Igor Danchenko, the Russian information analyst charged with lying to the FBI during its investigation into the Russian collusion hoax, began on Tuesday. His trial is part of special counsel John Durham's probe into the origins of the FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" operation.

"Crossfire Hurricane" began in 2016 to examine and advance now-debunked claims that former President Trump, along with elements of his campaign team and administration, colluded with Russia to secure victory in the presidential election.

According to new testimony, the FBI ultimately spied on the Trump administration on the basis of uncorroborated claims compiled by a paid foreign agent who, like his sources, had alleged links with top Democrats.

No proof? No problem

The first witness called on Tuesday was FBI supervisory counterintelligence analyst Brian Auten.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley noted in his July 25, 2022, letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that Auten, named by an FBI whistleblower, was said to have been involved in an FBI campaign to "discredit negative Hunter Biden information as disinformation and caused investigative activity to cease."

While in 2020, the FBI allegedly worked to help bury "derogatory information linked to Hunter Biden, James Biden, and their foreign business relationships," Auten testified on Tuesday that in October 2021, the FBI was still trying to substantiate discredited allegations aimed at Trump.

Auten stated that he and a group of FBI agents met with former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, offering the foreign agent $1 million if he could corroborate allegations in his dossier. According to Auten, Steele was unable to do so.

The Steele dossier was originally commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS' Peter Fritsch and Glenn Simpson and paid for both by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the law firm Perkins Coie.

Much of the discredited information contained in the dossier was sourced from Danchenko, formerly of the Brookings Institution, now on trial. Danchenko allegedly lied to the FBI about the sources of his information.

While Danchenko contends that one of his sources was Sergei Millian, a former U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce president, Millian denied ever having spoken to Steele's Russian agent.

Durham has indicated that most of the Russian agent's information came instead from Democrat operative and Clinton acolyte Charles Dolan Jr..

Dolan, who worked for the Clintons as well as for John Kerry, served as senior vice president for public affairs at the PR firm Ketchum, which signed a deal with the Kremlin in 2006. Dolan was allegedly in frequent communication with Danchenko by 2016.

The Daily Mail reported that in August 2016, Danchenko wrote to Dolan about his "project against Trump," asking about "any thought, rumor, allegation" related to Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Spies, lies, and Democrat ties

According to Auten, the FBI began receiving Steele's reports on September 19, 2016. The FBI took the spurious report and inserted it into its October 21, 2016, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application to spy on then-Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

On Tuesday, Durham asked Auten, "On October 21, 2016, did you have any information to corroborate that information?"

Auten answered, "No."

Fox News reported that September 19, 2016, was also the day that then-Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann brought white papers to a meeting at FBI headquarters and met with then-FBI general counsel James Baker. The papers advanced rumors about debunked ties between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank.

Sussmann billed former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign that day 3.3 hours "for work and communications regarding confidential project." Sussmann had allegedly told the FBI he was not working on behalf of any client, but acting as a concerned citizen. He was found not guilty of lying to the FBI.

Auten claimed that, years prior to offering $1 million to a foreign agent to corroborate his debunked claims, the FBI sought the help of other intelligence agencies in an effort to substantiate the allegations made in Steele's dossier.

Despite the FBI never having been able to corroborate the allegations in Steele's dossier, even with the help of other intelligence agencies, it was the dossier that secured for the agency its FISA warrants against Carter Page. Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz attested to this fact in 2019.

In early 2020, the Justice Department acknowledged that it lacked probable cause to surveil Page in at least two of four warrant applications.

At the time, Sen. Grassley stated, "For years, the American people were fed false allegations of Russian collusion based on the FBI's detective FISA warrants. ... And only after the inspector general exposed these failures did the Justice Department begin to take corrective action."

"Time will tell if the department will continue working to fix its errors and restore trust that it won't disregard Americans' civil liberties," Grassley added.

Durham's probe

While Sussmann was acquitted in May, Durham has secured one conviction in his probe.

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pled guilty to one charge of making a false statement and was sentenced in January 2021 to one year of probation and 400 hours of community service. Clinesmith doctored a June 15, 2017, email that was used to renew a wiretap against Page.

When asked by his supervisor whether Page had ever been a source for the CIA, which would have made sense of the Russian intelligence Page had passed onto the American agency, Clinesmith lied, saying Page was "not a 'source'."

Although claiming his politically expedient lie was not politically motivated, Clinesmith was removed from the Russia probe after his partisan messages came to light. He had written to another FBI agent of the 2016 election result, "The crazies won finally. This is the Tea Party on steroids. And the GOP is going to be lost."

Clinesmith also texted, "Viva le resistance."

In light of Clinesmith's guilty plea, Trump said, "The fact is, they spied on my campaign, and they got caught. ... What happened should never happen. It's a terrible thing."

Carter Page was never charged with a crime.

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.
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