A Russian analyst who contributed to a dossier of Democratic-funded research into ties between Russia and Donald Trump has been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI about his sources of information.
The case against Igor Danchenko is part of special counsel John Durham’s ongoing investigation into the origins of the FBI’s probe into whether Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia had conspired to tip the outcome of that year’s US presidential campaign.
The five-count indictment accuses Danchenko, a US-based Russia analyst, of making multiple false statements to the FBI when interviewed in 2017 about his role in collecting information for Christopher Steele, the former British spy who was paid by Democrats to investigate connections between Mr Trump and Russia.
Danchenko functioned as a source for Mr Steele, whose dossier of research was provided to the FBI and used by federal authorities as they applied for and received surveillance warrants targeting a former Trump campaign aide.
The indictment says Danchenko misled the FBI by denying a relationship with a public relations executive and long-time Democratic operative and supporter of Mr Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, when he had in fact anonymously sourced one of his allegations to that person.
He is also 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.
Both the dossier and the Durham probe are politically charged.
Mr Trump’s Justice Department appointed Mr Durham as Mr Trump claimed the investigation of campaign ties to Russia was a witch hunt and pointed to the dossier, some of which remains uncorroborated or has been discredited, as evidence of a tainted probe driven by Democrats.
But the dossier had no role in the launching of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller ultimately found questionable ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, but not sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.
Democrats have lambasted the Durham probe as politically motivated, but the Biden administration has not stopped it.
The Justice Department’s inspector general has faulted the FBI and the Justice Department for their handling of the dossier.
Danchenko – who was not identified by name in the watchdog report – had told FBI investigators during a 2017 interview about the dossier’s origins and veracity that there were “potentially serious problems with Steele’s descriptions of information in his reports”.
But those qualms from Danchenko were omitted from the final three surveillance applications, making the dossier appear more credible than even one of its own sources thought it was, according to the report from inspector general Michael Horowitz.
Danchenko, who previously worked for the Brookings Institution, has himself suggested that the information he offered to Mr Steele was not meant to be portrayed as indisputable fact.
“Even raw intelligence from credible sources, I take it with a grain of salt,” Danchenko told The New York Times last year.
“Who knows, what if it’s not particularly accurate? Is it just a rumour or is there more to it?”
It was not immediately clear what charges Danchenko might face.
But it would be the third criminal action brought by Mr Durham, following the September indictment of Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer accused of making a false statement to the FBI during a 2016 meeting, and a guilty plea last year from an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email related to the surveillance of the Trump aide, Carter Page.
Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle confirmed Danchenko’s arrest.
A lawyer for Danchenko had no immediate comment.