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Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Igor Danchenko, an analyst hired to compile key parts of the infamous Steele dossier of alleged ties between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, was charged with five counts of lying to the FBI on Thursday, according to an unsealed indictment.

Why it matters: It's the third indictment in special counsel John Durham's investigation into the origins of the Russia probe and possible misconduct by U.S. law enforcement.

Details: During FBI interviews seeking to corroborate allegations in the Steele dossier, Danchenko recounted purported conversations he had with sources who described contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to the indictment.

  • The indictment alleges that Danchenko knowingly lied about conversations with "sub-sources" that in fact never happened, or came from somewhere else.
  • Some of the false information in the Steele dossier that came from Danchenko was later used to obtain a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
  • Danchenko was arrested and taken into custody on Thursday, according to the Justice Department.

Background: Many of the allegations in the Steele dossier, which was indirectly funded by the Clinton campaign, have since been refuted. The overarching claim of a criminal election conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia was not corroborated by the Mueller investigation.

  • The Justice Department's inspector general was highly critical of the FBI's handling of the dossier in a 2019 report, and said Danchenko told agents at the time that some of his information came from "hearsay" and "word of mouth."
  • One of the leads Danchenko passed along was about an alleged sex tape involving Trump and prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, which became a source of massive attention and controversy when BuzzFeed published the full dossier in January 2017.

The big picture: Trump allies have long claimed that the Durham investigation, which has been ongoing since April 2019, would result in charges against top Obama-era intelligence officials and validate allegations that the Russia investigation was a political "witch hunt."

  • In August 2020, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to altering email evidence used to obtain the surveillance warrant against Page.
  • Trump aggressively pushed for former Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report on the rest of Durham's findings before the 2020 election, but Barr declined.
  • In September, Clinton-linked lawyer Michael Sussmann was indicted for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Read the indictment.

Go deeper

Trump to elevate election deniers at Arizona rally

Donald Trump. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump announced guest speakers today for his Saturday rally in Arizona, and most of them share a common trait: they led efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Why this matters: Trump, who remains the most powerful figure in the Republican Party, is making his false claims about the 2020 election the centerpiece of the GOP platform.

Trump calls McConnell a "loser" before hanging up on NPR host

Photos: Saul Loeb, Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump abruptly cut short an interview with NPR on Tuesday after being pressed about his false, baseless claims of election fraud in 2020 and lambasting Republicans who have spoken out against them.

Why it matters: The interview once again highlights the extent to which Trump is willing to turn against members of his own party if they do not back his unsupported claims.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

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