By Katabella Roberts
The Justice Department is set to produce a “large volume” of classified materials this week pertaining to the main source for Christopher Steele’s dossier on the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
The infamous “Steele dossier”, also known as the Trump–Russia dossier, contained allegations that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump had colluded with Russian intelligence officials to help him win in the 2016 presidential election against Hillary Clinton.
Special counsel John Durham has asked a judge in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia for a deadline extension on the production of the classified discovery, citing the Classified Information Procedures Act, a law that establishes procedures to protect classified information in criminal cases.
He also cited the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine as a reason to need an extension.
The deadline was initially set for March 29, 2022, and Durham asked for an extension until May 13, 2022.
“To date, the government has produced over 60,000 documents in unclassified discovery. A portion of these documents were originally marked ‘classified’ and the government has worked with the appropriate declassification authorities to produce the documents in an unclassified format,” Durham said in the filing submitted to federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia.
“However, recent world events in Ukraine have contributed to delays in the production of classified discovery. The officials preparing and reviewing the documents at the FBI and intelligence agencies are heavily engaged in matters related to Ukraine. Nevertheless, the government will produce a large volume of classified discovery this week and will continue its efforts to produce documents in classified discovery on a rolling basis, and no later than the proposed deadlines set forth below,” Durham added.
Igor Danchenko, a Eurasia political risk, defense, and economics analyst, was identified in July 2020 as the primary source for the Steele dossier.
The analyst provided information to Steele, who was hired by Fusion GPS, a research strategic intelligence firm based in Washington, to conduct opposition research on members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
In turn, Fusion GPS was retained by law firm Perkins Coie on behalf of the Democratic National Committee.
Danchenko had previously told the FBI that he obtained the information that was published in the dossier by “word of mouth and hearsay” from a network of sub-sources in Russia.
However, he was charged in November 2021 with five counts of making false statements to the FBI in 2017 when he misled officials about the sources of the information he provided to Steele.
According to the November indictment, all of Danchenko’s alleged lies “were material to the FBI because … the FBI’s investigation of the Trump Campaign relied in large part” on the dossier to obtain warrants to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page.
“The FBI ultimately devoted substantial resources attempting to investigate and corroborate the allegations contained in” the dossier, including whether Danchenko’s sub-sources were reliable, the indictment states. The dossier and information provided by Danchenko “played a role in the FBI’s investigative decisions and in sworn representations that the FBI made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court throughout the relevant time period.”
Danchenko has pleaded not guilty.
In December, he signed a waiver agreeing to be defended by the same law firm representing members of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign despite the fact that this could pose a conflict of interest, The Washington Examiner reported.
Trump had repeatedly denied accusations that he had colluded with Russian intelligence officials in an effort to beat off Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, claiming he was the target of a “witch hunt” designed to discredit his presidency.
Numerous claims made in the dossier later turned out to be false and a number of criminal, congressional, and inspector general investigations were prompted into how the reports were used as the basis for surveilling Trump campaign officials.
Durham also made a similar request for an extension earlier this month, again citing delays due to recent events in Ukraine, in a separate case against former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.