At the heart of the second trial to come out of Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion probe is a story of disinformation.
Marc Elias, general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, testified both during a House Intelligence Committee investigation in 2017 and recently during Durham’s ongoing probe that he was the one who hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on then-candidate Donald Trump.
Fusion GPS went on to commission former MI6 agent Christopher Steele to create the infamous “Steele dossier,” which purported to show collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. It contained several salacious and since-debunked claims about Trump and his alleged ties to Russia.
The federal government infamously used the now-discredited dossier to obtain a warrant to surveil former Trump 2016 campaign aide Carter Page. The Justice Department later admitted the warrant application was full of misinformation and the surveillance warrant should’ve never been approved.
The primary source of the Steele dossier was Igor Danchenko, a Russian analyst who’s now on trial as part of Durham’s investigation for allegedly lying to the FBI about his own sources for the information that he provided to Steele.
Federal prosecutors allege that Danchenko, who has pleaded not guilty, fabricated and concealed his sources in conversations with the feds. The trial began in Alexandria, Va. on Tuesday.
The case highlights how potent a weapon disinformation can be in today’s political climate, where falsehoods can slip through the cracks and transform into received truth without the public noticing.
However, it works the other way as well.
Indeed, in the past few years the opposite has more often been the case: Something deemed disinformation ultimately turns out to be true.