Comey Claims Revelation That Steele's Primary Source Was Investigated as a Russian Agent Doesn't Necessarily Harm His Credibility: 'I See It Cutting Both Ways'

James Comey, former director of the FBI, testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Reuters)

Former FBI director James Comey testified in a Senate hearing on Wednesday that if the source for the Steele dossier was a Russian agent, that could make the source either “more” or “less” credible in his dealings with the bureau.

Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee head Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) publicized an FBI summary indicating that the Steele dossier source, Igor Danchenko, was investigated by the FBI between 2009-2011 as a possible Russian spy.

Danchenko, who was trained as a lawyer in Russia and worked for the Brookings Institution in Washington from 2005-2010, had connections to Russian intelligence and tried to recruit two people connected to “an influential foreign policy advisor in the Obama administration,” telling the pair that if they “did get a job in the government and had access to classified information,” he had a way for them “to make a little extra money.” Danchenko also had contact with two other individuals who were the subjects of “FBI counterintelligence subjects” and had contact with “the Russian Embassy and known Russian intelligence officers.”

The revelations have led Republicans to question whether the dossier, which was used as evidence during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation against the 2016 Trump-campaign, was based on Russian disinformation. However, Comey, who served as FBI director from 2013 until he was fired by President Trump in 2017, maintained that even if Danchenko was a Russian spy, that would not necessarily impinge on his credibility.

“Director Comey, according to [former FBI agent] Peter Strzok, you were briefed on [former British agent Christopher] Steele’s reporting and okayed the Crossfire Hurricane team’s approach to use Steele in the investigation,” Senator Joni Ernst (R., Ind.) said at the Wednesday Judiciary Committee hearing . “Do you recall being told about the counterintelligence investigation against [Danchenko]?”

“I do not,” Comey said.

“Do you believe that this information would have been relevant information for the director of the FBI to have received?” Ernst continued?

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Comey replied. “Maybe, at some point, it would definitely be important for the team to consider whether it made [Danchenko] less credible or more credible. I could see it cutting both ways.”

The Wednesday hearing was held as part of Senator Graham’s ongoing investigation into the Crossfire Hurricane probe against the 2016 Trump-campaign. During the hearing, Comey repeatedly claimed that he learned much of the details of FISA abuse by FBI agents during that probe from the Justice Department Inspector General report released in December 2019.

“I learned a lot about the Steele material and the sub-source interviews from the Horowitz report that I didn’t know before then,” Comey said in response to a question from Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas).

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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