Durham and the Clinton Dossier

By Kimberley A. Strassel, Nov. 4, 2021 6:44 pm ET

A new indictment continues the slow unraveling of a 2016 political scandal.

Igor Danchenko leaves Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse in Alexandria, Va., Nov. 4.

The nation argued for five years over the infamous “Steele dossier,” the document on which the Federal Bureau of Investigation relied to investigate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. It should have been called the Clinton dossier.

Special counsel John Durham this week obtained an indictment of Igor Danchenko, a Russian who provided information for the dossier. Mr. Danchenko is charged with lying to the FBI, but the bigger story of the indictment is Democrats’ central role in every aspect of the dossier and the FBI investigation.

The revelation shouldn’t surprise us, given that Mr. Danchenko was never some high-level Russian in Moscow. From 2005 through 2010 he worked at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank. Around the end of that employment, the indictment asserts, he was introduced to “PR Executive-1,” a Clinton crony who the New York Times confirmed is Charles Dolan.

Mr. Dolan has long been in Clinton circles, having served seven years as head of the Democratic Governors Association and state chairman of Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns. President Clinton appointed him to a State Department advisory commission, and the indictment notes he was an active “volunteer” on Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign. He also had far more ties to Russians than anyone in Mr. Trump’s circle, having for eight years helped handle “global public relations for the Russian government” and throughout 2016 interacted frequently with senior Russian officials and Russian Embassy staff.

The indictment reveals that in August 2016, Mr. Danchenko asked Mr. Dolan for any “thought, rumor or allegation” regarding the summer’s resignation of Paul Manafort as Mr. Trump’s campaign manager. Mr. Danchenko explained he was working on a “project against Trump.” Mr. Dolan replied that he’d had a drink with a “GOP friend of mine who knows some of the players” and provided gossip. Sentences of this email appear nearly verbatim in the Steele dossier, though they are (hilariously) sourced to a “close associate of TRUMP.” To add farce to fantasy, the indictment says the Mr. Dolan later told the FBI he’d fabricated meeting a GOP friend and had simply passed on info he’d read in the press.

The indictment notes Mr. Dolan was connected to yet other people and events that appear in the dossier. He traveled to Moscow in June 2016 to plan a conference. He stayed at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton, where he met the general manager and staff and toured the presidential suite. The dossier’s ugliest accusation against Mr. Trump, which involves disgusting sexual acts, happens to be set in the Ritz-Carlton’s presidential suite and to mention the hotel manager and staff. Mr. Danchenko met with Mr. Dolan at the Moscow hotel on that trip. He flew soon after to London to provide information to Mr. Steele for his dossier.

The indictment flags meetings, emails and calls that suggests Mr. Dolan passed plenty of other information to Mr. Danchenko for the dossier. This includes information he might have obtained during visits to the Russian Embassy in Washington. (Did the Russians know where this was going?) Mr. Dolan was also in regular communication with Olga Galkina, another Russian who fed information to Mr. Danchenko for the dossier. Ms. Galkina noted in two separate emails that she was expecting Mr. Dolan to get her a State Department job in a Hillary Clinton administration.

The indictment alleges Mr. Danchenko lied about Mr. Dolan’s interaction with the dossier when the bureau belatedly tried to check the dossier’s accuracy. The indictment says all this deprived the FBI of the ability to learn about the “reliability, motivations, and potential bias” of the Democratic source. True, though this latest indictment again paints the FBI as either inept or biased.

According to the charges, Mr. Dolan told the FBI the Clinton campaign didn’t direct him and wasn’t aware of his dealings with Mr. Danchenko and that he didn’t know his info would land at the FBI. Maybe, though the indictment notes that one Dolan email in early 2017 expressed knowledge that Mr. Danchenko had supplied information to the dossier now in the news.

The Clinton dossier should go down as one of the biggest scandals in U.S. political history. Not just for the breadth of the con, but for the time it has taken to expose it.

Write tokim@wsj.com.