SWC begins with the question several have commenters raised here: Why? Why did the FBI interview Steele? I speculated that Comey and the top levels of the FBI needed to be on solid ground as they proceeded with their coup attempt against a recently inaugurated president. As SWC puts it:
Let’s begin with the fact that Danchenko did not just walk into an FBI building, show his driver’s license and say “I’m Igor Danchenko. I was Christopher Steele’s primary source on his Steele Dossier memos about President Trump. I’d like to talk with someone about what I said to Mr. Steele.”
However, SWC's conclusion is even more pointed than mine: FBI Interview of Christopher Steele’s Primary Sub-Source Was To Prepare for Him To Work Directly With Crossfire Hurricane Team.
Now, that scenario might be one thing, if the FBI had, like, just a bit of predication for Crossfire Hurricane. Of course, we all know that they didn't. And you may recall that I've always maintained that, in spite of the FBI's nonsensical claim that CH was predicated on the Downer - Papadopoulos chat, the real "predication" for CH was always the Steele dossier. By going with the Papadopoulos story they were simply steering clear of Steele's connections to the Clinton campaign.
SWC takes a closer look at just how Danchenko figured in the Horowitz Report, and what he comes up with feeds directly into that. SWC argues persuasively that--while Horowitz doesn't say so in so many words--the FBI knew that Danchenko was Steele's Primary Subsource, or "PSS", and that they had this information as early as October, 2016. Before the election:
The IG Report on Four FISAs says that the FBI had tentatively identified the PSS as “Person 1” ... as early as October 2016, and that Person 1 was known to the FBI and that the FBI had an open investigation on Person 1.
Given that Danchenko wasn't interviewed until late January, 2017, SWC makes the very sensible observation:
If that is true, then the FBI waited a long time — from October to January — to put some pressure on the PSS to submit to an interview. But that assumes that it was the FBI who went to Danchenko, and not the other way around.
The second sentence there is important, because it answers our first question: Why? It's conceivable that Danchenko could have walked in to the FBI and offered to tell them about the Steele dossier--which was much in the news at that time--in order to preemptively put himself in the right, but how would he even know that the FBI knew who he was? It does seem far more likely that it was the FBI that reached out to Danchenko. And that leaves us still asking, Why?
Before we get to that, I want to jump ahead of SWC's argument, because I think it will clarify the position the FBI found itself in immediately after Trump's inauguration.
As SWC points out, by late January, 2017, the FBI should have been deeply suspicious about Christopher Steele and everyone and anyone remotely connected to him. After all, CH and its sub-investigations had been active for 6 months and the Bureau had NOTHNG to show for their efforts. Not unless you count getting a FISA and a window into the Trump campaign, transition team, and now administration as an accomplishment. Haha! But who's the joke on? If this had been a legit investigation the FBI should have been looking to shut this POS down. Either that, or assessing with a very skeptical eye whether there was some basis for going forward with it--some real basis unconnected with, say, Christopher Steele and the Clinton campaign and, now, the resistance. After all, we are talking at this point about the President of the United States.
In those circumstances you might expect the FBI to reach out to George Papadopoulos. After all, technically, as documented in the CH Opening EC, it was his conversation with Aussie "diplomat" Alexander Downer that was supposedly the predication for CH. Why not brace Papadopoulos and see what he had to say--if you really believed Downer's story? Problem: That could lead back to the DNC "hack" can of worms that the FBI obviously wanted no part of.
Instead, what the FBI did--as SWC will argue--was to, in effect, double down on Steele, but by cutting Steele out and going directly to his source: Danchenko. Now, follow this closely. To me, this is a clear indication that the FBI knew there was no 'there' there as far as the Downer - Papadopoulos story was concerned. They also surely suspected and would shortly confirm through Danchenko that the Steele Dossier was total horsesh*t. Yet, knowing and strongly suspecting they pulled Danchenko in for a three day interview.
So, now you see where SWC is going. First, Comey makes sure that there's a publicized (although classified) justification for conducting a "Russia probe" of some sort--that was the ICA with its incorporation of the Steele Dossier as Annex A. But they didn't open a new investigation, because there was no actual predication. Instead they kept CH open, with its bogus Downer - Papadopoulos predication as a cover story, while they doubled down on Steele's "dossier" by renewing the Carter Page FISA--even though there were no new developments. That's what the ICA did for the coup plotters. Then they set about considering how to come up with some "dirt" on Trump that would be independent of the Hillary campaigns' oppo research through Steele and Fusion GPS. And that's where Danchenko came in. Danchenko would be used as a Confidential Human Source (CHS) for the FBI, targeting "dirt" against Trump from Russia.
How do we know this?
At this point SWC brings up the legal context surrounding the Danchenko interview. There was nothing preventing the FBI from showing up unannounced on Danchenko's doorstep, as Team Mueller was so fond of doing. Hey, just a chat between new acquaintainces, no need for lawyers, we all only care about the truth, right? However, as we know, Danchenko was represented by a Dem lawyer, Mark E Schamel. That seems to have been a wise precaution, prevent Danchenko from saying anything indiscrete to the FBI--things the FBI didn't really want to know.
That probably is part of the reason that, before the interview ever happened, Schamel and David Laufman from DoJ negotiated a "use immunity" deal for Danchenko. Now, the fact that Laufman was involved in this should raise eyebrows, because, as SWC points out, since Danchenko had already been involved with Steele in the Carter Page FISA--which was vetted by DoJ's Office of Intelligence (OI, Stu Evans, cooperating with Durham)--logically OI should have been involved. SWC points out, however, that that could be cleared up by talking to Mary McCord, who was at that time head of DoJ's National Security Division (she later was a key fake impeachment adviser to Adam Schiff). The strong implication is that the coup plotters knew that Stu Evans would cut up rough if he learned about all this, and that argues strongly in favor of conspiratorial intent. Just for a laugh, SWC quotes Horowitz regarding what Laufman said about his role in all this:
Laufman told us that he negotiated with the Primary Sub-source’s counsel to facilitate the FBI’s interview and sought to “build a cooperative relationship that could … result in the Bureau’s being in a position to assess the validity of information in the [Steele election reporting] resulting from [the Primary Sub-source’s] activities or the collection of [his/her] sub-subsources. So I saw my role as a broker to get that relationship consolidated .”
We'll see shortly how little believable that story is.
What's the significance of Danchenko getting "use immunity" for his interview? Use immunity for Danchenko meant that the government would not be able to use anything Danchenko said in his interview--or any evidence derived from what he said--against him. Here's how that would work:
You only go down the road of giving “use immunity” if two conditions are met.
First, the person you are giving “use immunity” to has substantial information that will advance the investigation in a meaningful way.
Second, the information the person has might also tend to implicate that person himself in criminal conduct of others he is going to provide information about.
Laufman would have answered those questions before agreeing to give Danchenko “use immunity” by having the attorney make a “proffer” about what it is Danchenko would say on certain subjects if asked. The Steele memos had been public for nearly 3 weeks at the time of the FBI interview with Danchenko. He said in the interview that he had never seen the Steele memos prior to their publication, so it was only at that point that he knew what Steele had attributed to him and his sources.
Before going into the interview, Danchenko’s attorney would have gone over each memo with him, line by line, and found out from Danchenko what was accurately attributed to Danchenko, what was inaccurately attributed, and what was a mix of the two. Regarding inaccuracies, Danchenko’s attorney would have gotten accurate information from him — or a statement from him that he didn’t know anything about the subject.
With that information in hand, Danchenko’s attorney would have been in a position to negotiate a “use immunity” agreement with Laufman. He would have “proffered” to Laufman what Danchenko would say about a variety of matters set forth by Steele in his memos, which would have established why interviewing Danchenko could advance the investigation. Laufman would then have conferred with the FBI CH team about the value of Danchenko’s information as described by his attorney and reached a decision on how to proceed with the interview.
Here's the kicker. After interviewing Danchenko for three days, the FBI should have known everything that Danchenko knew. Havin determined through Danchenko that the Steele material was a pack of lies the FBI should have thanked Danchenko and sent him on his way--either that or use him to lure Steele to the US where he could be arrested and prosecuted. However, as it turns out the FBI met with Danchenko two more times--once in March and once in June. And June, of course, means that it was actually Team Mueller meeting with Danchenko. SWC argues that this means that the FBI was trying to use Danchenko as a CHS, in the hope that he could use his "sources" (or as Danchenko actually said, his "social contacts") in Russia to gin up some sort of usable "dirt" to tarnish Trump with. Taking all the circumstances into account, I find that scenario quite plausible. Here's how SWC puts it:
Laufman said it himself – his role was to develop a “cooperative relationship” with the PSS. What Laufman and the CH team members who participated really imagined was that the PSS would become a “Cooperating Human Source” — cutting out Steele — and he would bring to them directly evidence about Pres. Trump from inside Russia through his network of sources.
As the IG Report notes — and has been largely ignored in the reporting on the 53-page EC — Danchenko was interviewed in March and June 2017, long after his initial interview revealed the vacuous and specious nature of the information he had given to Steele. Establishing that continuing relationship is what led to those later interviews.
Now you can see why I was convinced that Comey and McCabe would absolutely have been made aware of the results of the Danchenko interview, and not just in some airy, general kind of way. This was a shift in gears, a hoped for new initiative that could lead to taking down the President of the United States. There was NOTHING of more importance in the world of the FBI than this. Nobody in the FBI below the Director was going to take that responsibility on themselves, and the Director had to be aware of anything of importance going forward with a coup. Even something that might otherwise seem routine, such as a decision to open Danchenko as a CHS, could not have been regarded as routine business in such circumstances, because all this was being done with no predication, no basis at all for investigating the President of the United States. It was all a pretext. A hoax.
You can bet that John Durham has been discussing all this with Peter Strzok, Bill Priestap, James Baker, and others at both the FBI and DoJ. I simply cannot see how Comey is not between a rock and a hard place, unless something has gone terribly wrong with the Durham investigation. If even half of this scenario is accurate, Comey should be facing criminal charges.
And that leads to interesting speculation regarding the rumors that he has been interviewed by Durham. Earlier today I stated that I can't see Comey doing an interview except in the context of a plea deal. I'll stick to that. The question then becomes, Does Comey have any bargaining chips in plea negotiations with Durham? Could he seek a use immunity agreement based on those chips? The only such chips I can imagine would be if Comey could offer confirmation--solid confirmation--that he was taking direction in all this from persons higher up in the DC world than he.