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Speaker 1: From the Opinion Pages of the Wall Street Journal, this is Potomac Watch.
Kyle Peterson: Special Council John Durham gets another indictment as the Biden administration rolls out its vaccine mandate for employers. Welcome, I’m Kyle Peterson with the Wall Street Journal. We’re joined today by my colleagues, WSJ columnists, Kim Strassel, and Bill McGurn. On Thursday, the Special Council who’s investigating the Trump Russia investigation of 2016 indict Igor Danchenko who provided some of the information that made its way into the Steele Dossier. And, Kim, you’ve been covering the story for a long time, since the beginning, so what does this latest twist tell us?
Kim Strassel: Yes. Does anyone want to feel sad for me? Because I feel sad for me having done this so long. But we’re getting somewhere finally. Five years on, we’re finally getting some information. So as you note, Durham obtained this indictment against Danchenko. He’s a Russian national who we now know was the main source for most of the allegations that went into Christopher Steele’s infamous Dossier, the one that alleged Donald Trump was secretly working with Russia. He’s officially been indicted for lying to the FBI. The FBI interviewed him back in 2017 as part of its “due diligence” into the Dossier. And this indictment claims that Mr. Danchenko lied repeatedly in those sessions, thereby depriving the FBI of crucial information. Most notably in terms of that crucial information, the indictment says Danchenko hid the fact or papered over the fact that he was working with a surrogate for the Clinton campaign in obtaining this information, putting this information together.
He had struck up a relationship with a man named Charles Dolan, who’s been in the Clinton orbit for a very long time. The indictment suggests that Mr. Dolan helped to produce some of the allegations that were in the Dossier. There’s one example of a very straightforward thing in which Danchenko asks him for any rumors or allegations about Paul Manafort and some of the language that Dolan sends back is almost verbatim in the Dossier that came out. But there’s another example that more suggests rather than claims that he was involved in other ways. For instance, we all may remember the infamous Dossier allegation about Donald Trump being gauged in salacious activity in a Moscow hotel. It turns out that Mr. Dolan was at that hotel, that particular Ritz Carlton in Moscow, talked to the manager there, had a tour of the Presidential Suite.
At some point, Danchenko met him on that trip. Danchenko then flew down to London to give information to Mr. Steele and, viola, in the Dossier is this allegation of Trump being at the Ritz Carlton, and this supposedly came from a manager and it supposedly happened in the Presidential Suite. It seems, and as the indictment makes clear, a little too close to be coincidental. All of this matters because it shows that not only did the Clinton campaign commission this Dossier from Mr. Steele, so they got a hold of it on the front end, but it looks now that a Clinton surrogate was also on the back end helping to craft the contents of it. And then, of course, it was all wrapped up and presented as intelligence to the FBI.
Kyle Peterson: And that really is an amazing turn here. We’re giving oh Henry a run for his money on surprise his endings. Because, Bill, just to take everybody back in time there when the Dossier was first published, it was presented as this British spy who was pulling together information, an outside source external to the 2016 campaign. And now we come to find out, as Kim’s says, not only was this whole thing being funded by Democrats here in the United States, some of the information was coming from Democrats here in the United States. I mean, how do you make sense of that, Bill?
Bill McGurn: Well, I think I agree with Kim. I think this is one of the sleaziest political stunts in American political history. Again, you go back to this, they’re selling this story to the FBI in the midst of a campaign. So what they’re really doing is the campaign is selling the FBI a false story to get an FBI investigation of their opponent during a campaign, and then there are other things later on down the line that other people in the FBI did. Now, I think the FBI looks really horrible here because either it is just so incredibly inept that they couldn’t figure these connections out, that they were being sold a bill of goods, or they were in on it. There’s a lot of questionable eye behavior later, but let’s remember that some of this information that we’re talking about now, that ended up in the FISA warrants on Carter Page, who was associated with the Trump campaign.
And the allegation in it for a FISA warrant is that the person who’s a subject is an agent of a foreign power. And now we know the FBI used not only information that was false and that came from a Democratic campaign to do that. So I think the implications of this are just tremendous. There was a lot of bad judgment by people who should have known better, and my personal feeling is that there were too many at the FBI who were eager to go down this line and participate rather than express the appropriate skepticism and look for the appropriate level of investigation to get to the truth.
Kyle Peterson: Kim, let me ask you about that too what this says about the FBI’s role. And just a reminder of why this matters, because the Dossier didn’t come out in the public until after the 2016 election. And so it’s easy to dismiss it as something that happened post-Trump’s victory. But Bill makes a good point here about especially the FSA stuff.
Kim Strassel: Right. The FBI began this investigation in July of 2016 based on a different piece of information, if they are to be believed, and then the Dossier came a bit later. But the bigger point is that they knew all along or very early on that they were dealing with the Clinton campaign here. And that’s why it’s a little frustrating. I just need to point out that these Durham indictments are incredibly important and they’re telling a very important tale, but by necessity, because of the way he’s going about this, he’s indicting people for lying to the FBI. It has the effect of making it look as though the FBI was duped here and that’s just nonsense. It willingly closed its eyes. We have documented this many times. Former Justice Department Official Bruce Ohr testified that he told the FBI leadership in the end of the summer of 2016 that this Dossier came from the Clinton camp.
The FBI’s wire tap application, which came the next month, had a footnote in it that revealed that the bureau knew what was going on. When you look at this most recent indictment, there’s a transcript in there in which the FBI makes clear itself it knew that Danchenko wasn’t being straight with it in that interview, but it did nothing. And so what you have here is this FBI, and we can only guess at the motivations, but Jim Comey and his team decided to close our eyes to all the red flags and preferred to believe this narrative, which they’ve said ever since, that they were somehow saving America from a Russian plant when everything showed that there was horrible political shenanigans going on here. And they get no credit. They look terrible, as Bill said.
Kyle Peterson: So, Bill, how do you size up the Durham investigation so far? There was some eye rolling in some corners when Durham was appointed and defenders said that he had a good record as a straight shooter. I mean, where do you think we are in his investigation? And where do you think he goes from here?
Bill McGurn: Well, we don’t know. He’s kept it very close to the vest, but we do know he’s turning up things of substance. The time is a problem. I mean, I do think that we need faster investigations, but remember, we were held up with all…