MORE ON: RUSSIA
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- Arrest illustrates how the Steele dossier was a political dirty trick orchestrated by Hillary Clinton
- Authorities arrest Steele dossier contributor Igor Danchenko
An elusive ally of the Clintons was a key figure in Thursday’s indictment Igor Danchenko, the analyst who contributed key information to the now-infamous “Steele Dossier.”
Charles H. Dolan Jr., a former aide to Hillary Clinton, is identified only as “PR-Executive 1” in the indictment, which stemmed from special counsel John Durham’s long-running investigation into the FBI’s probe of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and its alleged ties to the Russian government.
Danchenko intentionally misled the FBI when he denied in a 2017 interview that he had spoken to Dolan about any material contained in the file, according to the charging document.
Dolan was Danchenko’s primary source for a section of the dossier that analyzed Paul Manafort’s resignation as Trump’s campaign chairman in August of 2016, the document claims.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Dolan cut his teeth in the rough-and-tumble world of Bay State Democratic politics before moving to Washington to work on Capitol Hill as a legislative director. In 1983, he was named the founding executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.
After leaving the DGA, Dolan was a member of Bill Clinton’s presidential exploratory committee, then served as Virginia state chairman for the Clinton-Gore campaign in both 1992 and 1996. (On both occasions, Clinton won the election, but lost the commonwealth.) After winning his second term, Clinton appointed Dolan to two four-year terms as the vice-chairman of the State Department’s Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
Dolan returned to the Democratic campaign trail in 2004, serving as a senior communications consultant for John Kerry’s unsuccessful White House bid. Four years later, he advised Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire during her unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination.
By that time, Dolan was cultivating connections in Russia.
In 2006, the Kremlin had signed a deal with Ketchum, the PR firm where Dolan rose to become senior vice president for public affairs. As part of the agreement, according to the indictment, Ketchum was to “handle global public relations for the Russian government” as well as state-owned energy company Gazprom.
As a result, the indictment states, Dolan “frequently interacted with senior Russian Federation leadership whose names would later appear” in the dossier, such as Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and then-Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
According to the indictment, Dolan and Danchenko were on speaking terms by April 2016, having discussed a “potential business collaboration” involving Dolan’s new PR firm, kglobal.
That August, Danchenko emailed Dolan, saying he was working on a “project against Trump” and asking for “[a]ny thought, rumor, allegation” related to Manafort, who had recently resigned as Trump’s campaign chairman amid media investigations of his past work for pro-Russia Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.
The following day, Dolan responded to Danchenko, claiming that “I had a drink with a GOP friend of mine” who had dished the dirt. Dolan’s email stated that a Trump campaign staffer, identifiable as former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, “who hates [Manafort] and still speaks to Trump regularly played a role. He is said to be doing a happy dance over it.
“I think the bottom line is that in addition to the Ukraine revelations, a number of people wanted [Manafort] gone,” Dolan added. “It is a very sharp elbows crowd.”
In the Steele dossier, which was published in full by Buzzfeed News in January 2017, Dolan’s email is related nearly verbatim, though it is cited as coming from “an American political figure associated with Donald Trump and his campaign.”
The indictment says Dolan later told the FBI that he fabricated his “drink with a GOP friend” and merely sent Danchenko information about Manafort that he had gleaned from news reports.
Dolan also may have played a role in the dossier’s most scurrilous claim: that Trump had hired prostitutes to urinate on the bed of the presidential suite in Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel out of loathing for then-President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, who had previously stayed there — and that the Kremlin had it all on tape.
According to the indictment, Dolan visited the Moscow Ritz-Carlton in June 2016 while helping to plan a conference. While there, he met the hotel’s general manager and staffers and received a tour of the presidential suite. Danchenko visited Dolan at the hotel before flying back to London to meet with Christopher Steele, the former MI-6 spy who lent his name and credibility to the dossier.
The section of the Steele dossier dealing with what became known as “the pee tape” was written three days after Danchenko returned to London and cited as sources a female staffer and “a senior (western) member of staff at the hotel.” Dolan and another unidentified person claimed a hotel staff member had revealed to them that Trump had stayed there, but didn’t mention any sexual or salacious activity.
Danchenko, meanwhile, told the FBI that he had heard about “Trump’s purported activities,” as the indictment put it, from the hotel’s general manager and staffers — but had been unable to confirm their stories and described them to Steele as “rumor and speculation.”
The indictment states that had Danchenko not lied to the FBI about Dolan’s involvement in the dossier, investigators would have been able to grill Dolan about his time at the hotel, what he heard or did not hear from employees about Trump, and whether he spoke with Danchenko about the claims.
“In sum, given that [Dolan] was present at places and events where Danchenko collected information for the [dossier], Danchenko’s subsequent lie about [Dolan]’s connection to the [dossier] was highly material to the FBI’ s investigation of these matters,” the indictment reads.
Trump, for his part, has repeatedly denied the pee tape allegation, citing his well-known status as a germaphobe.
An attorney for Dolan, Ralph Drury Martin, declined to comment further on the ongoing investigation Thursday when contacted by the Associated Press.