‘Close Friends’: Trump Impeachment Witness Was Key Link Between Christopher Steele And His Dossier Source, FBI Notes Say
- A Trump administration official was a key link between Christopher Steele and his primary source for his dossier on Donald Trump, according to newly declassified documents.
- Fiona Hill, who served as a witness at the Trump impeachment hearings in 2019, introduced Steele and his eventual source, Igor Danchenko, in 2011, according to FBI notes.
- Hill told Congress that she saw the dossier before it was published, and was “shocked” to learn that Steele had written it. She also said she was concerned that Steele had been snookered by Russian disinformation.
- Hill did not reveal how deeply she was connected to Steele or the dossier.
Fiona Hill, a top Russia expert in the Trump administration, was the person who introduced former British spy Christopher Steele to a former think tank analyst who would serve as the primary source for an infamous dossier he compiled on President Donald Trump, according to newly declassified FBI notes.
Hill, who was the director for Russia and Eurasia on the National Security Council during most of the Trump administration, introduced Steele in 2011 to Igor Danchenko, according to a summary of Steele’s interviews with the FBI in September 2017.
Hill kept secret her role introducing Steele and Danchenko all throughout her tenure in the Trump administration, as well as during congressional testimony she gave as part of the Trump impeachment hearings in November 2019.
Hill’s role in linking Steele to Danchenko was revealed on Tuesday, with the declassification of notes from interviews that Steele had with investigators working for the special counsel’s office in September 2017.
“The primary subsource was introduced to STEELE and ORBIS by FIONA HILL in or around 2011,” read the notes, which were first reported by Just the News. (RELATED: Fiona Hill: Russians Could Have ‘Played’ Christopher Steele)
Trump on Tuesday ordered the FBI notes and other documents related to the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign to be declassified.
Republicans have pushed for declassification of documents related to the dossier.
Federal and congressional investigations have poked holes in several of the dossier’s key allegations, including that the Trump campaign was involved in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.
Steele, a former MI6 officer, said that Hill was one of his “close friends.
Steele acknowledged the sensitivity of Hill’s connection to the him and Danchenko given her role at the White House. He also asserted that Hill held a favorable view of Danchenko.
“Emphasizing the sensitivity, STEELE explained that HILL now worked for the White House on the National Security Council,” Steele said in the FBI interview.
“HILL has a very high opinion of the primary subsource, and she told STEELE that he and ORBIS should take a look at him. HILL is one of STEELE’s close friends.”
Steele also said that Hill knew that Danchenko was involved in the dossier.
“When the primary subsource went to ground in January and February 2017, STEELE contacted HILL and told HILL that he was worried about the primary subsource. STEELE said that she probably guesses that the primary subsource was involved,” the retired spy said.
Steele said as of that meeting that he did not recall the last time he saw Hill, but that he recalled one meeting in early 2016, when Hill was still with the Brookings Institution.
Hill and Danchenko worked together at the Brookings Institution, a liberal foreign policy think tank in Washington, D.C.
Hill was a director at Brookings, while Danchenko worked as a senior analyst. They co-authored a policy paper on Russia and China in August 2010.
Danchenko left the think tank in 2010.
The interview notes with Steele suggest that he was not aware that Hill was highly dismissive of the dossier or that she thought that Steele might have been fed disinformation by Russian intelligence.
Hill told lawmakers in a closed-door deposition on Nov. 14, 2019, that she was “shocked” when she learned that Steele wrote the dossier. She said she had met Steele in the 2000s, when he was an officer at MI6 and she was a national intelligence officer for the U.S. intelligence community.
“I almost fell over when I discovered that he was doing this report,” Hill said of Steele.
She said she remained in contact with Steele after they both left government work, and that he was “constantly trying to drum up business.”
Hill also said that when she learned about Steele’s work on the dossier she became concerned that he had fallen victim to disinformation planed by Russian intelligence operatives.
“It’s very likely that the Russians planted disinformation in and among other information that may have been truthful, because that’s exactly, again, the way that they operate,” Hill said.
“Because if you also think about it, the Russians would have an ax to grind against him given the job that he had previously. And if he started going back through his old contacts and asking about, that would be a perfect opportunity for people to feed some kind of misinformation,” she said.
Hill testified in an open hearing in the impeachment inquiry that she had “misgivings and concern that [Steele] could have been played” by the Russian government.
Hill testified at the impeachment hearings on Nov. 21, 2019, that Strobe Talbott, a former State Department official, showed her a copy of the dossier a day before BuzzFeed News published it on Jan. 10, 2017. Talbott at the time was Hill’s boss at the Brookings Institution.
Hill did not say in the hearings whether her knowledge about Steele’s sourcing caused her any concern about the veracity of the dossier.
The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation against Danchenko while he was an analyst at Brookings Institution, according to FBI documents declassified over the summer.
The investigation was opened after colleagues of Danchenko’s reported that he had inquired in 2009 about whether they expected to have security clearances. Danchenko met in 2005 and 2006 with known Russian intelligence officers, according to the FBI memo.
Danchenko denied in several interviews last year that he was a Russian intelligence operative.
Hill has not returned multiple requests for comment. Danchenko has not responded to requests for comment.
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