Some explosive allegations come out of the trial of Igor Danchenko, a Russian analyst indicted on five counts in 2017 of making false statements to the FBI, which he denies.
The trial relates to attempts by the FBI to corroborate allegations of contact between then-presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign and Russian government officials.
One of the moments from Danchenko’s trial that drew attention was testimony from a senior FBI analyst about a substantial financial inducement.
He said the agency offered retired British spy Christopher Steele – who now runs private research and intelligence firm Fusion GPS – “up to $1 million” in 2016 to provide information about Trump that could back up claims of collaborating with Russia to have to win the election.
“I know no one cares anymore, but today we learned that the FBI attempted to use taxpayer money to pay a foreign spy $1 million to provide campaign-damaging information about Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 election,” @bonchieredstate tweeted more than 20,000 likes in a post.
While the tweet doesn’t specifically say so, pulling the context suggests it’s referring to Christopher Steele.
The controversial “Steele dossier” was initially triggered by the website linked to the GOP Washington Free Beacon and later picked up by Democrats for “opposition research” during the 2016 presidential campaign.
It included allegations of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, including those (as later determined) made by Danchenko, the report’s main source.
Prosecutors now accuse Danchenko of lying about the information provided and his sources, an accusation he denies.
Special Counsel John Durham, who is leading the case against Danchenko, asked FBI regulatory analyst Brian Auten on October 11 if the FBI had ever offered to give Steele any inducements in exchange for information corroborating the claims in his dossier.
Auten replied, “Yes, it has. Mr. Steele has been offered anywhere up to a million dollars.”
According to Auten, Steele was made the $1 million offer by the agency in October 2016 during a meeting in the UK between the former British spy and a number of FBI officials.
Auten, the prosecution’s first witness at the trial, said the Steele dossier was used to increase surveillance surrounding Trump, although the FBI could not confirm the claims made in the report.
However, a number of details in the above tweet and other social media comments are not entirely accurate and in some cases misleading.
Although Steele previously worked for the British foreign intelligence agency MI6, he did not represent them in this case and acted as a private individual, not as a “foreign spy”.
It is also a mischaracterization of the FBI’s work to say it attempted to “incite a spy … to provide campaign-damaging information” about Trump. The FBI sought to “confirm or disprove” the serious allegations as part of its investigation.
The reference to “tax money” is also misleading, as it is not uncommon for the FBI to pay whistleblowers and the agency makes no secret of it.
In information available on its website, the FBI writes that “Whistleblowers are individuals who provide information to the FBI on a confidential basis,” adding that “They are not employed or trained by the FBI, although in some cases can receive compensation their information and expenses.”
It’s also worth noting that the money was never paid, according to Auten’s testimony.
Pressed by Durham as to whether Steele ever received the promised $1 million in exchange for information about Trump, Auten said Steele was unable to provide any information confirming the agency’s allegations against Trump and was therefore never paid.
While the essence of the claim is correct, the details lack key context. The FBI offered money a former foreign government agent, now a private citizen. It did so as part of standard information-gathering procedures (including offering redress to sources) to “confirm or disprove” the allegations.
NEWSWEEK FACT CHECK
https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-fbi-offer-foreign-spy-1m-donald-trump-information-1751114 Did the FBI offer foreign spies $1 million for information on Donald Trump?