Finding Danchenko

It had become a tradition that I would take the kids camping each summer for my birthday. In the past, we had rented an RV or a cabin but this time the kids wanted the barebones experience. Our journey took us to a lush forest near the shores of Lake Huron. We arrived on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Little did I know that the next three days would turn out to be anything but the tranquil camping trip we had come for.
After pitching our tent, we started our campfire. It was a perfect summer’s evening, the sky slowly turning dark and a light whiff of wind blowing through the leaves. Soon, the kids disappeared into the tent. They wanted to lie in their sleeping bags and watch the night sky. The weather forecast was good so I had left off the rain tarp. The kids were gazing at the stars above. It reminded me of when I was a kid, doing the exact same thing. I was still outside watching the embers glow. It was beautiful.
The next day, my phone lit up. The messages were from my friends Fool Nelson, Walkafyre and Stephen McIntrye. A year earlier, Fool had identified Eric Ciaramella, the so-called whistleblower who had triggered the first impeachment of President Trump. Ciaramella was upset that Trump had asked the President of Ukraine to liaise with Attorney General Bill Barr to look into the Biden family’s financial and other entanglements in Ukraine. However, Ciaramella himself was involved with those entanglements, at least to the extent that he had organized the White House meeting at which the idea of firing the Ukrainian prosecutor–which was what Trump wanted investigated–had first been raised. Fool uncovered that as well. Although by that point I knew their real names, I often thought that maybe it was for the better that Fool and Walkafyre remained anonymous.
I knew Stephen the best out of the group. We first met two years earlier. At the time, I was not part of any online research efforts. In contrast, Stephen had been doing it for a while, having himself made crucial discoveries along the way, including exposing the hockey stick fraud as part of the Climategate controversy.
My own interest started in 2018 when I read about the strange case of George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos was a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. He was supposed to have kicked off the Trump-Russia investigation in July 2016 by bragging about Russia helping the Trump campaign by dumping Hillary Clinton’s clandestine emails from her time as secretary of state to the Australian ambassador in London. That entire story sounded contrived.
I had also seen Robert Mueller’s special counsel team use Papadopoulos to advance their Russia collusion narrative. Their court filings, in which they alleged that Papadopoulos had lied to the FBI, were replete with anti-Russian and anti-Trump innuendo. That was par for the course. What wasn’t normal, at least not at the time, was that the legal documents did not match the facts. Why would Papadopoulos admit to things that did not happen, I wondered. Something wasn’t right.
Incidentally, my hunch was right. As has now been shown by special counsel John Durham in his report on the origin of the FBI’s Trump Russia investigation, “Papadopoulos made no mention of Clinton emails, dirt or any specific approach by the Russian government to the Trump campaign team with an offer or suggestion of providing assistance.”
It was my doubts about the origin of the Russia investigation which led me to contact Stephen who was frequently sharing his own doubts on Twitter. Stephen agreed to meet and what was scheduled to be a one hour chat turned into a five hour marathon. It was also the start of a close friendship that would grow over the months and years ahead.
At the time, not much was known about Russiagate. Other than a few court filings that were trickling out of special counsel Robert Mueller’s operation, our main source was what had become known as the Steele dossier. The dossier is a collection of 16 reports on Trump’s alleged Russian ties that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele had compiled for Glenn Simpson, the owner of Fusion GPS who, in turn, had been hired by law firm Perkins Coie which, in turn, had been hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. You can say what you want about the Clintons but they run their operations tightly. Using so many middlemen gave them lots of room for plausible deniability.
I remember reading the dossier the day it was first published by Buzzfeed, the now defunct online news platform. That was on January 10, 2017, before Trump had even been inaugurated. I did not take long to figure out that the whole thing was frivolous. The first sentence read: “Russian regime has been cultivating Trump for at least 5 years.” According to Steele, this operation was the brainchild of Vladimir Putin, who had the foresight in 2011 that Trump would become president.
As I read on, the list of transparent lies grew page by page. The dossier talked of Russian operatives working out of their Miami consulate. There is no Russian consulate in Miami. It said that Russia had offered Trump advisor Carter Page “the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft”. To anyone with even an iota of business sense, this was completely fantastical. Rosneft is the Russian oil giant. It has a market cap of $50 billion. The claim was on its face preposterous.
The entire dossier read like it had been written by a twelve-year old with a wild sense of imagination. Stephen and I had both come to that conclusion long before we ever met. We both suspected the entire dossier had been made from whole cloth in Steele’s office. But how do you disprove a fantasy? For that we needed to know who Steele’s alleged sources were. We suspected there weren’t any real sources. We suspected they were cutouts who were used, wittingly or unwittingly, to masquerade as real sources.
At the time, we did not know that there was a “primary sub-source” who was responsible for passing along most of the accusations in Steele’s dossier. The identification of that source would later become the core task of our little group of four.
In the early days, before we knew of the primary sub-source, we focused on specific issues that we had information on. For instance, we had Mueller’s court documents in the Papadopoulos case. There were also bits and pieces of information that we gleaned from Congressman Devin Nunes’ March 2018 memo which would later become the basis for Lee Smith’s fantastic book, The Plot Against the President.
As more information started filtering out over the next few months, including the Mueller Report in April 2019, it became clear that Steele was hiding behind someone. At the time, we did not know who it was and weren’t even sure that there was such a person but we inferred that someone had fed Steele information which he then used to write his dossiers. But who was his patsy? Or was it Steele who was the patsy? Had he been fed false information by a foreign government? That was highly unlikely but we wouldn’t know for sure unless we knew who the mysterious alleged source was.
Our group began collecting the clues. There weren’t many so we were essentially making educated guesses, including our basic premise that the alleged source had to have been someone with a modicum of credibility or else the FBI would not have used the materials in their FISA warrant applications on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
We thought Steele’s source would probably turn out to be a former member of the KGB or its successor organization, the FSB. Perhaps someone whom Steele had met as part of his assignment to Moscow in the 1990s, where he worked for British intelligence. That turned out to be wrong. As we would later learn, Steele could have told the FBI anything he wanted and they would just run with it, which is exactly what happened. Steele’s source was as credible as any random person picked out of a phonebook. But the FBI did not care. Like Steele, they only had one goal. To get Trump.
Our luck changed with the release of an FBI interview of the primary sub-source, which takes us back to the shores of Lake Huron.
Stephen, Fool and Walkafyre were sending messages about a big break in our endeavor. They asked me: “Have you seen it?” I didn’t know what they were talking about. “Lindsey released the primary sub-source interview!” read the next message. Lindsey was Lindsey Graham, the senior Senator from South Carolina and then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Attorney General Bill Barr had given him the primary sub-source interview which Graham released to the public, albeit in heavily redacted form.
This was huge news. There was no stable internet connection in the forest we were in so I put the kids in the car and started driving to the nearest town. The kids weren’t thrilled. I told them it was very important and that I would explain when they were older. As luck would have it, we found a Burger King three-quarters of the way along, which kind of made up for their inconvenience.
With the help of Burger King’s wifi connection, I got my first look at the source’s interview notes. They were astounding. Although his name and many other details were redacted, it became clear that Steele’s supposed source was not a former KGB agent at all. The dates suggested he was still a kid when the KGB was dissolved in 1991. At least that part of the puzzle was resolved. Steele was not a patsy. Instead, he had hired a Russian speaker to use as an intermediary to help him fabricate a story for the Clinton campaign.
As we continued dissecting the 57-pages of interview notes, we were able to deduce that the primary sub-source and his childhood drinking buddies had grown up in what appeared to be a large four-letter city in Russia. We narrowed the search down further and concluded that the city must be Perm, a city located near the Ural Mountains, about 1000 miles east of Moscow.
We continued what had by then become a game of deducing the redactions. Walkafyre was particularly good at it. Up to that point, the FBI’s reports had always used a monospaced font, which means a font whose letters and characters each occupy the same amount of horizontal space. We worked out that the primary sub-source’s name was 14 characters long, including a space between the first and the last name.
We used the same redactions trick to piece together additional information. We deduced that, after finishing school, the source had studied at a 21 character college. That one was easy: Perm State University. The one after that was more tricky but turned out to be a very helpful clue. As a student, Steele’s source had participated in some type of global leadership initiative. We knew the initiative had an 18 character name. We eventually worked out that this was the Open World Program, a program that brings students from Eurasia to the United States for a ten-day trip. It is somewhat ironic that this program had been devised in the 1990s to foster cultural and political ties between the United States and Russia. Instead, at least in this instance, it had brought someone to the United States who would become instrumental in the attempted take down of the Republican candidate for president and, then, the president himself.
By this point, I had persuaded the kids that we were going to move to a campground that had wifi. I promised we’d go back to barebones camping as soon as possible and I kept that promise. We got a cabin with a bunk bed, which the kids loved. Now I had proper internet and was able to really dive in.
Our next task was to figure out where the primary sub-source had studied after leaving Russia. All we knew was that it was a university with a ten character name, “University of 1234567890”. There were also some clues that he had moved to the United States after attending the Open World Program. There was mention of another ten character university, this time spelled as “1234567890 University”. Was this intentional or were these the same universities? We found out that Perm was twinned with Louisville. Using the same modus operandi, we had also worked out that Steele’s source had likely worked at the Brookings Institution and was an acquaintance of Fiona Hill, one of the main witnesses who testified against President Trump in the Ukraine impeachment affair.
We were looking for someone originally from Perm, who had participated in the Open World Program, who lived in Northern Virginia, who had studied at Louisville or Georgetown, or both, and had a four letter first name and nine letter last name.

The Swiftboat Project

On May 20, 2022, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, finally admitted that it was Hillary Clinton herself who had greenlighted her presidential campaign’s scheme to smear Donald Trump with Russia collusion claims. Mook’s admission, made during his testimony in Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann’s trial for lying to the FBI about Clinton’s scheme, marked the final chapter in a six year saga that ruined a presidency and turned the world order on its head.
It all began in early 2016 when Jennifer Palmieri, Director of Communications for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, received an email from Joel Johnson, a senior advisor to Bill Clinton. Johnson wrote: “who is in charge of the Trump swift boat project? Needs to be ready, funded and unleashed when we decide -- but not a half assed scramble.” Palmieri sarcastically replied: “Gee. Thanks, Joel. We thought we could half-ass it. Let’s discuss.”
The exchange was buried in a huge trove of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that were released by whistleblower group Wikileaks in October 2016. The significance of the two emails was largely overlooked at the time. It was only with hindsight, and the progressive unraveling of Hillary Clinton’s scheme to vilify Donald Trump, that their importance has become apparent.
We now know that the two emails marked the inception of the dirtiest political trick of all time: Hillary Clinton’s Russiagate scam, a multi-pronged and multi-layered campaign to paint Donald Trump as an asset of the Kremlin. Clinton’s scheme was completely unheard of and beyond the bounds of anything that had previously happened in the dirty world of American politics. In 1972, Republican operatives broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Office Building in Washington DC. The ostensible purpose of the break-in was to eavesdrop on a political opponent but even that act pales in comparison to what Clinton did.
Clinton’s intention was to execute an elaborate scheme that painted her opponent as an agent of a foreign power. It was a devious plan and it came at a heavy price for all Americans. Russiagate not only consumed Trump’s presidency, it also altered the geopolitical balance of powers for generations yet to come. In her failed attempt to become president, Hillary Clinton had swiftboated America herself.
Trump's slogan throughout the 2016 campaign was "Make America Great Again.” One of the central tenets of Trump’s platform was to get the United States out of its many foreign entanglements, wars and proxy wars. As part of that wider ambition, Trump was determined to improve relations with Russia.
American Russian relations had been deteriorating since the days of the George W. Bush presidency, perhaps captured best by Bush’s foolhardy 2008 Bucharest Declaration in which it was announced that Ukraine and Georgia would become members of NATO. Admitting these two countries into NATO was a well known red line for Russia. Crossing that red line was not only reckless, it flew in the face of a 1991 promise made by Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, not to expand NATO at all.
Trump recognized the problem of antagonizing Russia long before he became president. One of Trump’s campaign themes starting in 2015 was to improve relations with Russia. He would often ask at his rallies “If we could get along with Russia, wouldn’t that be a good thing, instead of a bad thing?”
Trump’s views were well-known. In his first foray into public policy writing in 2000, Trump noted in The America We Deserve: “The Soviet Union is no longer a threat to our Western European allies. America has no vital interest in choosing between warring factions whose animosities go back centuries in Eastern Europe. Their conflicts are not worth American lives”, continuing by lamenting that the “cost of stationing NATO troops in Europe is enormous, and these are clearly funds that can be put to better use." Trump repeated these sentiments on the campaign trail. In August 2015, he said he “would not care that much” about Ukraine’s NATO entry. This was anathema to the foreign policy establishment. The media ran breathless headlines proclaiming that Trump had abandoned Ukraine and ditched Europe.
This was happening long before Hillary Clinton had kicked off her smear campaign against Trump and long before the apprehension among Washington DC’s ruling class that Trump might upend their preferred world order, created the framework for Clinton’s decision to make Trump-Russia collusion the centerpiece of her Swiftboat project.
Like all political campaigns, the Clinton campaign was looking for an issue to hang around her opponent’s neck. There was a lot to choose from, including Trump’s checkered past in the real estate industry and his philandering. But those issues had strings attached. Reminding voters of Trump’s business past might have strengthened his image as an outsider who could get things done. Highlighting his extramarital flings would not have had the same effect as it would have in the 1980s. Ironically, it was Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill who broke that particular glass ceiling.
What was needed was something that would catalyze traditional political smears involving suspect business matters and extramarital affairs into something more explosive. Russia was that catalyst. Best of all, it was an issue that the entire Washington DC establishment could coalesce around.
By painting Trump as a Russian stooge, the Clinton campaign would garner a wide coalition of support ranging from globalists to war mongering neocons. The Russian stooge story could be interspersed with more familiar stories about shady business dealings and illicit affairs. Putting Trump and the Kremlin in the same corner also provided Hillary Clinton with an insurance policy in case any of her 30,000 deleted emails from the clandestine server she used during her time as secretary of state were leaked. Any disclosure could be blamed on the Russian government and, by extension, on Trump, thereby deflecting attention from whatever was in those emails. In the end, the 30,000 emails never surfaced. But that did not affect the implementation of Hillary Clinton’s devious plan. When unrelated emails from the Democratic National Committee were released in July 2016, Hillary pulled the trigger on her carefully crafted Swiftboat project.
It was Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri who initially got the swift boat plan rolling. As we would later find out from Wikileaks’ release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, a senior advisor to Bill Clinton during his second term as president, Joel Johnson, emailed Palmieri on February 26, 2016 to ask about “the Trump swift boat project”.
Three days after the February 2016 exchange between Palmieri and Johnson, a person by the name of Peter Fritsch sent an email to a “senior figure in the Democratic Party”, exclaiming that Trump “has to be stopped.” The reply was positive, “Yes. Let’s talk.”
Fritsch is the co-founder of Fusion GPS, a firm of political operatives that he founded together with Glenn Simpson who, just like Fritsch, is a former Wall Street Journal reporter.
The unidentified “senior figure in the Democratic Party” whom Fritsch had emailed, soon arranged for Fritsch and Simpson to meet Marc Elias. Elias is a Democratic Party elections lawyer who was known at the time for heading the political law unit at Democratic Party aligned law firm Perkins Coie and for helping to overturn the contested Minnesota Senate election in 2008 in favor of Al Franken. He has since also become known for spearheading Democrat’s “fortification” efforts in the 2020 presidential election.
In 2016, Elias was the Clinton campaign’s attorney of record. He was not only in charge of every aspect of campaign lawyering but also in charge of aspects of the campaign’s Swiftboat project, as well as being responsible for shielding the campaign from any fallout connected to the project. In practice, that meant creating multiple layers of deniability for Hillary Clinton herself. The Swiftboat project would be run out of Perkins Coie, with various parts farmed out to sub-contractors like Fusion GPS, who in turn hired their own sub-contractors, like dossier author Christopher Steele, who also had his own subcontractor, dossier source Igor Danchenko. Danchenko provided Steele with deniability. Steele provided Fusion GPS with deniability and Fusion GPS provided Perkins Coie with deniability.
In addition, Perkins Coie would claim attorney client privilege over all communications between themselves and their operatives, creating a further layer of protection for Hillary Clinton.
There were also other subcontractors, particularly in the media, including from ABC and the Wall Street Journal, who directly performed tasks for Fusion GPS in connection with the Swiftboat project.
After Elias hired Fusion on April 1, 2016, Fusion immediately set about to write a dossier on Trump. This wasn’t the Steele dossier but an early 15-page dossier written by Fusion’s own in-house operatives. The Fusion dossier’s claims ran along familiar lines, focusing on Trump advisor Carter Page, Russia’s Alfa Bank and Trump’s alleged dalliance with Moscow prostitutes. All these themes that were later picked up and repackaged by Steele.
Stories from the early Fusion GPS dossier were shared with members of Clinton-friendly media, including ABC’s Matthew Mosk, Reuters’ Mark Hosenball and Slate’s Franklin Foer. As email exchanges between Fusion and these media allies would later reveal, this wasn’t just a symbiotic relationship but rather full fledged collaboration. As early as April 2016, Hosenball and Foer were actively helping Fusion to shape the Trump Russia collusion narrative. By July 4, 2016, Foer was publishing hit pieces painting Trump as “Putin’s puppet”. All of this was long before July 26, 2016, when the FBI received a tip about the Trump campaign from Australian diplomat Alexander Downer. While the tip marked the official starting point of the FBI’s Trump Russia collusion investigation, the collusion project had already been in motion for months.
While Fusions’s early dossier was sufficient for dissemination by a select group of Fusion’s familial media collaborators such as Foer and Mosk, something bigger was needed to make the story viral with other media outlets. Hillary needed a 007 and she found him in London. It was dossier author Christopher Steele who was hired by Simpson in May 2016.
Hiring Steele had many advantages. First and foremost, as a former British intelligence officer, Steele brought a huge amount of persuasive power. A British agent who had unraveled a plot between the Kremlin and a billionaire real estate magnate sounded like something straight out of a Bond movie. Steele had another huge advantage. He had extensive contacts in both the FBI and in the State Department. His background gave the Trump Russia allegations a veneer of credibility, as well as access to those agencies, something that Fusion GPS did not have. Lastly, Steele created distance. Anything he did could be disavowed by Fusion, Perkins Coie and the Clinton campaign itself.
Once Steele completed the first of his fake dossier reports on Trump Russia collusion, the second phase of Clinton’s Swiftboat project kicked in. Pushing the false accusations into the media was only the first step. The next step was to trigger an FBI investigation of Trump. Once the investigation was underway, the fact that there was an investigation into Trump’s ties to the Kremlin would be leaked to the media, thus sustaining the earlier false leaks and creating a perfect feedback loop.
By design, Clinton’s swift boat project did not concern itself with whether the allegations would stand up to scrutiny, or with anything that might happen after the election. The purpose was simply to ensure a Clinton victory.
Steele’s first dossier report was completed on June 20, 2016. It was the infamous Report 80 which set the foundations for Clinton’s Trump Russia collusion narrative, including the pee tape story, alleging that the Kremlin was helping Trump get elected and had compromising material on Trump in the form of lewd sex tapes from Trump’s 2013 trip to the Miss Universe competition in Moscow. Those stories, as well as all the other stories in subsequent Steele reports, were transparently false. That was the point. On July 5, 2016, Steele personally shared Report 80 with FBI agent Michael Gaeta and by mid-July, the pee tape report was circulating in the upper echelons of the FBI.

Framing Millian

Why have Steele’s dossier lies been so successful? Why have they persisted? To understand this, we need to go beyond the media and intelligence community that covered for both Christopher Steele and, more recently, for Biden. They can only do so much without a good narrative. And a good narrative is what Hillary Clinton’s Swiftboat project gave them. The Clinton campaign did not just put out a story for the media to parrot. They had worked out a meticulous plan with many moving parts and layer upon layer of complexity and deniability. They used a former British intelligence officer to give the story a veneer of credibility. They also used compromised members of the media to advance both the overall narrative and specific parts of it. One of those parts was the framing of Sergei Millian which ranks as perhaps the most egregious episode of the entire Russiagate affair.
As his long-time friend from New York described him to me, Millian had been a gregarious character who enjoyed life. But that changed after Hillary Clinton’s operatives put him through hell. He became wary. The wary Millian is the one I got to know. Millian and I first connected online where I was posting my research on Russiagate. He could see that I understood that he was framed. But it still took a while to gain his trust. When you have been framed as the fall guy in an elaborate scheme to take down the president of the United States, your default position is not to trust anyone. Only now that Special Counsel John Durham’s report has fully and publicly exonerated him of any involvement in the Russiagate affair, has Millian shaken off the shackles of the relentless stream of false accusations which he endured.
Originally from Belarus, a former satellite state of the Soviet Union, Millian first came to the United States in his early twenties, having been offered a scholarship. He speaks six languages so it is not surprising he ended up taking a job as a translator in Atlanta. Millian became an American citizen and later moved to New York. He also started a real estate business which is how he briefly got into the Trump Organization’s orbit in the mid-2000s. Like any real estate agent, Millian made sure to let people know he had sold Trump apartments. There was nothing nefarious about that but it would end up being used against him.
Millian’s problems began in April 2016, when he gave an interview to Russian media outlet RIA Novosti about why he supported Donald Trump for president. Having represented the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce and been interviewed many times before, including a prominent Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo in 2014, the RIA Novosti interview was nothing unusual for him. But as Millian recounts, it is what kicked off the Clinton operatives’ interest in him. “Imagine,” he tells me, “you have been instructed to create a false narrative about Trump and Russia. The first thing you would do is an internet search on ‘Trump Russia’. And one of the first results might have been my interview with RIA Novosti. Even if it wasn’t the first result, the name Millian would have come up pretty quickly in a search for Trump and Russia.” Millian’s business required him to be highly visible.
All that Clinton's Swiftboat operatives needed was someone with a Russian sounding name who could be tied to Trump. The fact that Millian had once sold Trump condominiums was helpful, as was the fact that he publicly supported Trump’s run for president. Everything else could be made up and falsely pinned on Millian.
Glenn Simpson, the Clinton campaign contractor who had hired Steele to come up with fake Trump Russia collusion reports, had also hired his own researcher, Nellie Ohr, the wife of Bruce Ohr, who was then a high-ranking United States Department of Justice official. Nellie Ohr’s task was to find connections between Trump and Russia and she was the first to come up with the name Sergei Millian. Simpson then passed the name Millian to Steele who in turn tasked his own operative, Igor Danchenko, with framing Millian.

Danchenko tried to reverse engineer his supposed identification of Millian by claiming that he had gotten the name from the same RIA Novosti reporters who had interviewed Millian in April 2016. Simpson, who appears to have been read in on the reverse engineering plan, falsely claimed in his 2019 book, Crime in Progress, that it was Steele who first told Simpson about Millian. But the timeline does not support this narrative. Ohr’s first report on Millian is dated April 22, 2016. Steele told a London court that he was tasked by Simpson during a meeting they had at Heathrow Airport in May 2016 which was followed up by a phone call from Simpson, in which Steele was formally hired. In truth, Nellie Ohr was already writing reports on Millian before either Steele or Danchenko arrived on the scene. Accusing the RIA Novosti reporters of having kicked off the Clinton campaign’s interest in Millian was yet another instance of blaming innocent Russians for the misdeeds of Clinton operatives.
Even worse, through her husband Bruce, Ohr passed her Millian reports–she ended up writing twelve–to the FBI. Knowing that Steele would separately accuse Millian, Ohr created the false impression of a second source stream, the idea that someone else, other than Steele, had independently identified Millian as a Trump Russia collusion conduit. Nothing was left to chance, such was the sophistication of the Swiftboat operation.
As luck would have it, Bruce Ohr was also a close friend of Steele’s, a fact that proved helpful later in 2016 when the FBI found out that Steele had leaked his false dossier stories to the media. This was a big problem because the FBI had vouched for Steele in front of the FISA court and so they had no choice but to formally cut ties with Steele in his role as an FBI source. Operationally, it did not matter though, as they still had Bruce Ohr as an informal conduit by which Steele and the FBI kept communicating.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, by July 2016 Millian was being used by the Ohrs, Steele, Simpson to build a false Trump Russia collusion narrative. Nellie Ohr was pushing her reports to the FBI, as was Steele. As for Simpson, he tasked ABC News’ Michael Mosk and Brian Ross with setting up an interview with Millian under a false pretext. The idea was to use edited footage from the interview in Clinton campaign ads. These ads would create an additional vehicle for pushing the false narrative that Millian was involved in Trump Russia collusion. Mosk reached out to Millian on July 5, 2016. Being no stranger to interview requests, Millian agreed to talk to ABC News but, as he was on his way to Asia for business meetings, the interview was scheduled for July 29, after Millian’s return to New York.
Meanwhile, Steele’s part of the plan was to place Millian in a room with Danchenko in the days ahead of the interview. This was crucial as you cannot plausibly claim that someone said something unless you are able to place that person in the same room as your purported source. If, however, you can place two people in the same location at the same time, the worst outcome is a he said, she said situation, which was more than good enough for Steele’s purposes. Steele and Danchenko could claim that Millian talked about Trump Russia collusion and if Millian ever found out that words had been put in his mouth, it would be much too late to change the course of history, which at that point was supposed to have been a Hillary Clinton election victory.
Danchenko emailed Millian on July 21, under the false pretext of representing a construction company in Switzerland that was supposedly looking for investors. He was hoping to bait Millian with the prospect of a lucrative project. Danchenko sent a second email on August 18, this time falsely pitching a project in Moscow.
Danchenko’s modus operandi was extremely sloppy. Why would Danchenko email Millian, a person he had never met or spoken to, with lucrative business deals? The whole thing had a distinct Nigerian prince ring to it. Millian wisely ignored the messages. Millian later told me that one of the immediate clues that something wasn’t right was Danchenko’s suggestion in his first email that the two men meet over a few beers. No serious business inquiry would mention meeting over beers. Millian had smelled a rat and he was right.
Even though Danchenko never received a reply, on July 26, he traveled from his home in Northern Virginia to New York and tried to find Millian at his office. He stayed until July 28. The timing of Danchenko’s trip is noteworthy as Millian’s ABC interview was scheduled for July 29. The goal of the Swiftboat collaborators was to frame Millian in person ahead of his ABC interview. Perhaps they felt that if Danchenko didn't meet Millian ahead of the ABC interview, Millian would become suspicious and not agree to meet. They were right to be worried. Seeing ABC's unaired footage of himself being featured in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad would undoubtedly have raised a lot of suspicions on Millian’s part. However, despite carefully planning his trip to New York, Danchenko failed to find Millian and returned to Virginia empty handed.
Notwithstanding Danchenko’s failure to meet Millian in person, Steele went ahead with using Millian as a source anyway. Steele’s infamous Report 95, in which Steele cited Millian as having confessed that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between Donald Trump and the Russian government, was drafted on July 28. Report 95 also claimed that Millian, whom Steele called Source E, had admitted that Russia had passed hacked Democratic National Committee emails to Wikileaks. This was vitally important as the Clinton campaign had just started to put out the message that Russia was responsible for the hack and leak operation.
Steele must have known that his story about Millian’s supposed revelations was completely untenable, especially if he couldn’t place his own source in the same room as Millian. But he had no choice but to forge ahead. The Clinton campaign was already running with the hack story and other parts of the Swiftboat project–such as the false story that Trump was communicating with the Kremlin via Russia’s Alfa Bank–were about to be unveiled.
The fact that Danchenko never met Millian would later prove to be Steele’s undoing who had attributed almost every major false dossier claim to Millian. Without Millian, the entire dossier would collapse. The fact that Steele was not undone immediately, is owed to the FBI, which incredibly never bothered to verify Steele’s impossible story about Millian. It wasn’t until our group, including Stephen McIntyre, Fool Nelson and Walkafyre, exposed the fraud that the truth slowly started to seep out in July 2020.
The FBI could have very easily blown up Steele’s fairy tales four years ahead of us, if only they had wanted to. Immigration records would have shown that Millian was out of the country when Danchenko allegedly met him. Even more incredibly, Steele had cited Millian as a source for an earlier report, Report 80, dated June 20, 2016, which was more than a month before Danchenko reached out to Millian.
By the time Danchenko was interviewed by the FBI in January 2017, Steele started to panic, knowing that his entire construct of lies would fall apart. Steele sent a stream of messages to Bruce Ohr, insisting that Danchenko’s life was in grave danger. Steele knew that Danchenko would likely have no choice but to disavow the Millian story if pressed by the FBI. By claiming that Danchenko’s life was under threat, he hoped to get the FBI to disregard whatever Danchenko said and to conclude that he was only saying it to protect himself.
Steele’s panic was completely unnecessary. What he probably did not realize at the time was that the FBI had an even bigger incentive to cover up Steele’s lies than Steele himself did. Based on Steele’s lies, the FBI had already spent six months investigating the campaign of the person who had become president of the United States, including dishonestly obtaining a FISA warrant on campaign aide Carter Page and spying on the incoming National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. The FBI had to keep Steele's lies alive if they didn't want their entire investigation exposed as a fraud.