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FBI Failed To Tell Surveillance Court About Investigation Of Primary Dossier Source, Senator Says

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • Sen. Lindsey Graham has notified the secret surveillance court that the FBI failed to disclose it previously investigated the primary source for the Steele dossier as a possible Russian agent. 
  • Graham released an FBI memo on Thursday that said the bureau opened an investigation on the source, Igor Danchenko, in 2009. 
  • The memo also said that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team learned of the previous investigation on Danchenko but failed to disclose that fact in applications to surveil Carter Page. 

The FBI failed to inform a federal court that oversees surveillance of Americans that the primary source for Christopher Steele was suspected of being a Russian agent, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, formally notified James Boasberg, the judge presiding over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) about the information in a letter on Thursday.

“This letter, and the attached summary, details what appear to be further failures on the part of the FBI to fully inform the court of all of the facts related to the probable cause determination for the Carter Page FISA applications,” Graham wrote.

“I feel that it is my duty to alert the court to this information so that it can consider it as part of its
ongoing review of this matter.”

Graham included an FBI memo that revealed that the bureau opened a counterintelligence investigation on Steele’s source, Igor Danchenko, in 2009. The memo said that investigators pursued a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against him in 2010, but tabled the effort after Danchenko left the country. (RELATED: FBI Investigated Steele Dossier Source As Possible Russian Spy)

Danchenko, a Russia analyst who has worked for the Brookings Institution, would later return to the U.S., and begin working as a contractor for Steele, who operates an intelligence firm in London. Danchenko was the primary source for Steele’s dossier claiming that the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin.

The dossier was “central and essential” to the FBI’s decision to obtain FISA orders against Carter Page, according to a Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) report.

The new revelations call Danchenko’s motives into question. It also marks another black eye for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team.

Christopher Steele in London (VICTORIA JONES/GETTY IMAGES)

The IG report said that investigators made 17 “significant” errors and omissions in its FISA applications. Rosemary Collyer, who preceded Boasberg as the FISC’s chief judge, admonished the FBI over the IG’s findings and ordered the bureau to revamp its FISA procedures.

According to the latest FBI memo, the Crossfire Hurricane team learned in December 2016 that Danchenko was the target of the prior counterintelligence investigation. The bureau continued to cite the dossier in applications to renew FISA coverage of Page.

Despite red flags about Steele and his source, Peter Strzok, the lead agent on the Crossfire Hurricane team, capitalized on the dossier’s publication on Jan. 10, 2017, saying in a text message that he wanted to use the release “as a pretext to go interview some people.”

According to Graham, the FBI failed to disclose that it had previously investigated Danchenko in any of the four FISA applications against Page.

“Specifically the three FISA applications filed after December 2016 make no mention of the previous counterintelligence investigation against the Primary Sub-source and the last two FISA applications additionally misled the court about the results obtained of the interviews of the Primary Sub-source in January and March of 2017,” Graham said in a statement.

It is unclear whether the FBI or Justice Department notified the FISC about Danchenko before Graham submitted his letter to Boasberg.

The Justice Department sent a letter to the FISC on July 12, 2018 acknowledging other FBI omissions regarding Steele and an alleged sub-source for Danchenko.

The IG report criticized the FBI for failing to tell the FISC that investigators also had a counterintelligence probe open against an alleged sub-source for the dossier, Sergei Millian.

The IG report also said that the FBI failed to disclose in its FISA applications that Steele told the FBI in October 2016 that he considered Millian to be a “boaster” and “egoist” who might have embellished claims that were put in the dossier.

“We also were concerned that the FISA application did not disclose to the court the FBI’s belief that this sub-source was, at the time of the application, the subject of such an investigation,” the IG report says.

The IG report said that Justice Department officials conveyed that FISA applications typically disclose whether sources are the subject of an open investigation.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment about whether the information about Danchenko was given to the FISC.

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