An attorney for the primary source for the Steele dossier threatened to sue Sen. Lindsey Graham on behalf of his client, the Republican said in a letter released on Tuesday.
Mark Schamel, a lawyer for Steele source Igor Danchenko, threatened to sue Graham and other Republicans for accusing Danchenko of being a Russian spy, according to Graham’s letter.
Last month, Graham released a declassified FBI memo that said that the bureau had opened an investigation in 2009 into whether Danchenko was working covertly for the Russian government.
Graham has called Danchenko a “Russian spy” in interviews conducted about the dossier.
Danchenko, a former analyst at the Brookings Institution, served as Steele’s primary collector of information for the now-infamous dossier on Donald Trump.
Politico reported on Monday that Schamel sent a cease-and-desist letter to Graham and the White House.
“As you know, Mr. Danchenko is not, nor has he ever been, an asset of the Russian Federation,” Schamel wrote, according to Politico.
Schamel accused the Republicans of endangering Danchenko’s safety and of harming his reputation.
The lawyer also asserted that there was “substantial evidence that directly contradicts your public statements about Mr. Danchenko,” Politico reported.
Any lawsuit that Danchenko might file is likely to face legal hurdles, as lawmakers have broad protections against defamation lawsuits for comments related to government business.
Danchenko was identified in July after Graham released a declassified FBI memo of interviews conducted in January 2017 with the dossier source. Danchenko’s name was redacted from the memo, but a Twitter user was able to piece together clues to identify him.
The memo showed that Danchenko told investigators that he did not verify allegations about Trump and his campaign that he provided to Steele. (RELATED: Steele Dossier Source Had Meeting In Russia At Crucial Point In Dossier Saga)
Steele asserted in portions of his dossier, which he gave the FBI, that the Trump campaign took part in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.
The special counsel’s probe found no evidence to support Steele’s allegation. A Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) report also said that one of Steele’s most specific allegations of collusion were false.
The IG report said in footnotes that the FBI received evidence in early 2017 that Russian intelligence officers may have fed disinformation to Steele. Another footnote said that Steele’s source was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation.
The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s information to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
According to the IG report, the FBI failed to inform the FISA Court about evidence that undercut the dossier’s credibility, including statements from Danchenko.
Graham said he was releasing the letter to Schamel because he has received multiple press inquiries about the legal threat.
“The materials you cite in your letter neither support your allegations, nor undercut the suspicions surrounding your client’s relationship with Russia,” Graham wrote.
The FBI considered obtaining a FISA warrant against Danchenko in 2010 but tabled the effort after he left the U.S., according to the declassified memo released last month.
The document said that Danchenko had interactions in 2005 and 2006 with officials at the Russian embassy in Washington, as well as with a known Russian intelligence officer.
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