Revelation of Steele’s primary source triggers focus on think tank tied to Clinton, Biden

The Obama team's ties to the Brookings Institution are deep, and so are those of impeachment witness Fiona Hill.

Updated: July 27, 2020 - 11:55am

The revelation that Christopher Steele’s primary sub-source for his dossier was an American resident tied to a liberal think tank close to the Obama administration has triggered new investigative interest.

The identification of Igor Danchenko as Steele’s subsource — reported by Real Clear Investigations and then confirmed by Danchenko's lawyer to the New York Times — means Steele’s dossier relied on someone who wasn't based in Russia despite claims to the contrary by the FBI.

In at least two of the applications for its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant targeting Trump adviser Carter Page, the FBI referred to the primary sub-source of the document as "truthful and cooperative" and "Russian-based," according to Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz's report last December.

Danchenko also worked for several years until 2010 at the Brookings Institution, a think tank familiar to many in the Obama administration and to one key witness in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the National Security Council and an impeachment witness against Trump, worked at the Brookings Institution in 2016 and co-authored a paper with Danchenko prior to the dossier being assembled, according to Real Clear Politics.

In addition, the president of the Brookings Institution — former Clinton administration figure Strobe Talbott — contacted Steele early in the Russia collusion probe and requested a copy of his dossier to share with Obama administration officials, according to Steele's recent testimony in a British lawsuit.

"I remember taking a phone call from him, your Lordship, earlier in the summer, in which he said that he was aware that I had — he spoke in fairly cryptic terms, but he was aware that we had material of relevance to the U.S. election," Steele testified in March in  the British lawsuit.

Steele claimed Talbott learned about his dossier work from either former National Security Adviser Susan Rice or former Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. Rice's spokesman has denied having such contact about the dossier. Nuland acknowledged knowing about Steele's dossier in July 2016 and claimed she directed her staff to send the former MI-6 agent to the FBI.

"Although he didn't state it explicitly, one or either or both of them had briefed him on the work we had been doing," Steele testified.

Talbott’s brother-in-law, Cody Shearer, distributed his own anti-Trump Russia dossier in September 2016, according to evidence released by Congress and the DOJ inspector general. It included some of the same allegations as those in Steele’s.

And then in early 2017 Talbott provided a copy of the Steele dossier to Hill after she started working inside the Trump National Security Council, according to Hill’s impeachment testimony. Hill admitted she met multiple times with Steele in 2016.

The sudden web of connections between Danchenko, Hill, Talbott and others inside Brookings has spurred Republicans to start investigating the think tank, a 501c 3 tax-exempt organization.

"It looks like there were a lot of connections to the Brookings Institute," said former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, one of the first members of Congress to help unravel the failings and abuses in the now-discredited Russia collusion investigation.

Nunes told Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo that he is opening a "full-blown" probe into the role Brookings and its figures played with Steele and the entire Russia episode.

"People may remember the president of Brookings back in 2016, we know that he had given the dossier to a few people, we had that through testimony," Nunes explained. "You also may remember that the State Department was involved and there were additional dossiers that weren't the Steele dossiers, except that they mirrored the Steele dossiers."

"And we think there is a connection between the president of Brookings and those dossiers that were given to the State Department that mirrored the Steele dossiers," he continued.

The links between Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton and Brookings run deep.

Talbot worked as a deputy secretary of state for Bill Clinton and in 2011 was named by then-Secretary of State Clinton to be chairman of the new Foreign Affairs Policy Board. He was reported to be on a short list of candidates for a senior government job if Mrs. Clinton won the 2016 election. He left Brookings in 2017 after 15 years as its president.

Arne Duncan, Obama's former Education Secretary, serves at Brookings along with several other alumni, such as former Obama Treasury official Stephanie Aaronson, former DOJ official Bill Baer and former State and NSC official Emily Horne.

Joe Biden gave one of his first speeches as he was considering a run for the 2020 election at Brookings back in 2018, where he was introduced glowingly by former Gen. John Allen as "a true champion of the American people and certainly the middle class."

While he was vice president he gave a whopping four speeches at Brookings. And he has plucked some of his key advisers from among past and present members of the think tank, including former Deputy CIA Director Avril Haines and, back in 2014, economic adviser Ben Harris.

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