Dossier critic Fiona Hill introduced main source to Steele — and, Durham says, 'PR Exec-1'

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Fiona Hill has criticized Christopher Steele and said his dossier likely contained Russian disinformation, but she introduced Igor Danchenko, the main source for the research who was indicted in special counsel John Durham's investigation, to both the former MI6 agent and allegedly a Democratic public relations executive who volunteered for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Hill, who worked at the Brookings Institution with Danchenko for years before serving as the Russia expert on Trump’s National Security Council and testifying during the Ukraine-focused impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump, introduced Dachenko and Steele a decade ago.

The “PR Executive-1” in Durham’s indictment  against Danchenko is Charles Dolan, a longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, whom Durham alleges was an originator of a false dossier claim he passed to Danchenko who then gave it to Steele.

Danchenko, a Russian-born lawyer in the United States, was charged Thursday “with five counts of making false statements to the FBI” that Durham claims he made about the information he provided for Steele's dossier on alleged ties between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia.

Durham’s indictment stated Danchenko worked as a Russian analyst at “Think Tank-1,” Brookings, from 2005 through 2010. Durham also stated “Think Tank Employee-1,” identifiable as Hill, “introduced Danchenko to U.K. Person-1,” Steele. The indictment said Steele “retained Danchenko as a contractor at U.K. Investigative Firm-1,” Steele’s Orbis Business Intelligence — in 2011.

The special counsel also said Hill “introduced Danchenko to PR Executive-1,” Dolan, “in connection with potential business opportunities” around February 2016.

The Washington Examiner reached out to the Brookings Institution for comment on the indictment.

Hill talked about Steele's dossier in October 2019.

“I almost fell over when I discovered that he was doing this report,” Hill said.

Hill said she met with Steele in 2016 and noted he was “obviously out there soliciting information” and “was clearly very interested in building up a client base,” which made him a target for Russia, calling it “a great opportunity to … present him with information that he’s looking for that can be couched in some truth and some disinformation.”

Hill testified Steele’s dossier was a “rabbit hole” and Steele “could have been played” by the Russians. She stated that “I don't believe it's appropriate for him to have been hired to do this.”

Steele was hired by Fusion GPS which had been hired by the Perkins Coie law firm, which was working for Clinton's campaign.

‘PR EXECUTIVE-1' IDENTIFIED AS CLINTON ADVISER WHO FED DOSSIER FALSEHOOD TO STEELE SOURCE

Steele was asked whether the Russians fed him disinformation in an October interview .

“I think there is a chance. I think it’s very unlikely, and I’ll tell you why,” Steele said. “Ultimately, any disinformation operation has an objective, and it would’ve been disinformation about Hillary Clinton. Why would they run a disinformation campaign that was derogatory about the person they preferred to be elected?”

Hill testified behind closed doors in October 2019 that “it's very likely that the Russians planted disinformation” in the dossier.

Hill told the House in November 2019 that the Russians targeted both candidates in 2016.

“They seed misinformation, they seed doubt, they have everybody questioning the legitimacy of a presidential candidate, be it President Trump or potentially President Clinton,” Hill said.

Hill told House lawmakers it was Brookings President Strobe Talbott who showed her the dossier. Talbott, president of Brookings from 2002 through 2017, spoke with Steele in 2016 and received a copy of the dossier before the election, Steeled testified in a British court last year .

Talbott was a deputy secretary of state  during the Clinton administration and chairman  of former Secretary of State Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Talbott’s brother-in-law, Cody Shearer, wrote his own Trump-Russia dossier in 2016.

Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at Brookings, wrote  to then-FBI Director James Comey’s alias email, Reinhold Niebuhr, about receiving a copy of the dossier in late December 2016.

Steele told the FBI during a London meeting in September 2017 that he believed Hill knew about the involvement of Danchenko with his discredited dossier.

The FBI wrote, “Steele said Fiona Hill knows that the primary subsource,” Danchenko, “was involved in the dossier,” and “when the primary subsource went to ground in January and February 2017, Steele contacted Hill and told Hill that he was worried about the primary subsource.”

“I have no knowledge whatsoever of how he developed that dossier — none,” Hill said in 2019.

Danchenko previously cast doubt on Steele’s claims that Hill had been aware of his dossier work up until the time public disclosures of investigative materials revealed his role.

“I am not aware of any third party having any knowledge of any projects that I worked on in the private sector. … I never shared any details of my work with anyone, including with Dr. Hill,” Danchenko told the Washington Examiner earlier this year. “To my knowledge, no one had been aware of my role in the Steele Dossier until my outing in July 2020.” Durham’s indictment makes it clear numerous people were aware of Danchenko’s involvement.

Danchenko had kind words for Hill, adding, “I hold her and all the scholars I have had the privilege to work with in high regard.”

“Hill has a very high opinion of the primary subsource, and she told Steele that he and Orbis should take a look at him,” the FBI wrote of Steele's comments. “Hill is one of Steele’s close friends.”

In her 2015 book, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, Hill said  Danchenko “provided us with a wealth of insights into and information about” Putin . Hill wrote Danchenko a LinkedIn recommendation in 2011, saying that “Igor has built an extensive network of professional research connections that complements his network in Russia and Europe.”

Danchenko defended the years he spent working at Brookings in April. Durham used a subpoena  to obtain documents from Brookings related to its employment of Danchenko.

“While I see this news of the Brookings angle of Durham inquiry as an attack on the integrity of the Brookings Institution, I can only welcome the review of my file,” Danchenko told the Washington Examiner. “There is no ‘there there' but a lot of groundbreaking research and analysis.”

Michael Cavadel, general counsel at Brookings, distanced the left-leaning think tank from the dossier.

“Brookings provided the responsive documents, none of which contained information associated with the reports known as the Steele dossier,” he said.

FBI investigators received  information in 2017 “indicating the potential for Russian disinformation  influencing Steele’s election reporting,” according to declassified footnotes from a Justice Department inspector general report.

Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska is known for his ties to President Vladimir Putin, as well as his prior business relationships with Steele and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. A mansion in Washington, D.C., tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska was raided  by the FBI last month.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 1,000-page report last year found that “the Russian government coordinates with and directs Deripaska on many of his influence operations.”

Steele worked for Deripaska in 2016, helping recover millions of dollars the Russian oligarch claimed Manafort  had stolen from him.

The investigation found “indications that Deripaska had early knowledge of Steele's work.” Steele’s continued relationship with Deripaska “provid[ed] a potential direct channel for Russian influence on the dossier.”

Durham discovered that Danchenko was investigated  by the FBI as a possible “threat to national security,” according to documents declassified by then-Attorney General William Barr.

A declassified footnote from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report states, “The Primary Sub-source was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation” from May 2009 to March 2011 that “assessed his/her documented contacts with suspected Russian intelligence officers.”

FBI notes of a January 2017 interview  with Danchenko showed he told the bureau he “did not know the origins” of some of Steele's claims. Horowitz said Danchenko “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier.

During a “The Interview” podcast with Mediate last month, Hill said the Russians were “popping champagne” over Democrats giving Kremlin credit for Trump’s 2016 win.

“The fact that we then said, ‘Well, the Russians did it,’ and the Russians said, ‘Well, we did this?’ You know, made fun of it. And of course they were thrilled,” Hill said. “Because, on the other hand, what a great achievement and a victory for the Russian intelligence services. I bet those guys were out there popping the champagne, giving each other medals, high fives, you know, ‘We never did that during the Soviet period.’ … They tried to meddle in all sorts of elections, and we’re telling them that you elected Donald Trump.”

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Hill wrote in her new book, There is Nothing for You Here, “I don’t believe Trump was intentionally doing something for Putin or anyone else.” She claimed Trump “simply could not distinguish between Russia’s broad-based attack on the American election and democratic system and his own position and ego.”

Hill was made clear she did not believe that the 2016 election had been stolen by the Russians.

“The outcome of the November 2020 presidential election … showed that the 2016 result and Trump’s election in the United States had not been manufactured by Vladmir Putin,” Hill wrote, adding, “The voters who had swung the ballot for Donald Trump in critical countries in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan were swayed by consideration of their own personal, family, and communal circumstances, not by the fake internet personas derived by Russian intelligence services.”

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