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Durham investigation update: Top Steele dossier source arrested for lying to the FBI

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Federal authorities have arrested a key figure in compiling the so-called Steele dossier, a discredited report that compiled various allegations and rumors suggesting that former President Donald Trump's campaign was colluding with the Russian government.

U.S.-based Russian analyst Igor Danchenko — whom the New York Times referred to as the Steele dossier's "primary researcher" — was arrested Thursday on five counts of lying to the FBI, according to multiple reports.

The development comes as part of special counsel John Durham's probe into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation. Durham was appointed as a special counsel last year by the Trump administration in order to continue investigation into the "Crossfire Hurricane" probe without interference from President Joe Biden.

In a now-unsealed charging document, Durham's office alleges that in 2017 Danchenko knowingly made false statements to federal investigators about conversations he had with "sub-sources" while the FBI was interviewing him about his role in collecting information for ex-British spy Christopher Steele. Steele had been paid by Democrats to investigate links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Axios reported that "some of the false information in the Steele dossier that came from Danchenko was later used to obtain a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page."

According to the Associated Press, the indictment claims that "Danchenko misled the FBI by denying a relationship with a public relations executive and longtime Democratic operative and supporter of Trump's 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, when he had in fact anonymously sourced one of his allegations to that person."

"He also is accused of fabricating details of a phone conversation with someone who, he said, had described a 'well-developed conspiracy of co-operation' between the Trump campaign and Russia," the report stated.

In a damning report released in December 2019, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that Steele's Democratic-funded dossier was a "central and essential" factor in the FBI seeking FISA wiretap orders against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Horowitz also criticized the FBI for making at least 17 "significant errors" in the procedures that guided the FISA process.

Danchenko's arrest marks the third criminal action brought by the Durham probe. In September, Durham indicted Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer who previously represented Hillary Clinton, for lying to the FBI during a 2016 meeting. That indictment followed one against former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for falsifying a document used to obtain a surveillance warrant against Page. In August 2020, Clinesmith pleaded guilty to the charge.

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