An FBI agent who served on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has revealed that her request to interrogate a Democratic operative involved in the anti-Trump dossier was scuttled by top officials at the bureau.
FBI agent Amy Anderson took the stand Friday in the trial of Russian analyst Igor Danchenko. Mr. Danchenko was charged with lying to the FBI about how he obtained information for former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier.
Ms. Anderson, who was part of Mr. Mueller’s team investigating purported Trump-Russia collusion, said she asked in 2017 to interview Democratic operative Charles Dolan about the dossier but FBI officials ignored and then deep-sixed her requests.
“I wanted to look into him,” Ms. Anderson testified in the federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia. “The job at the time was to verify if statements in the dossier were valid or not, so if the witness had knowledge of those statements, that would have been an important part of the job.”
Ms. Anderson was the second witness Friday to testify that an FBI supervisor stymied efforts to look into Mr. Dolan, a longtime Democratic operative with ties to Hillary Clinton.
It was the latest evidence of FBI failures to scrutinize claims of collusion when investigating Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and then his presidency. The trial, however, is focused on claims of Mr. Danchenko’s dishonesty in what is likely the last act of special counsel John Durham’s three-year investigation into the origins of the FBI’s hunt for Trump-Russia collusion.
Mr. Durham’s case sustained a setback Friday when the judge tossed out one of the five counts of lying to the FBI. The dismissed count claimed Mr. Danchenko lied when he told FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson that he “talked” with Mr. Dolan in 2016 about information that ended up in the Steele dossier. Rather than talking directly, Mr. Danchenko and Mr. Helson exchanged emails. U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga said that nuance undermined the case.
Mr. Danchenko faces up to four years in prison on each of the remaining four counts.
Earlier Friday, Brittany Hertzog, a former FBI intelligence analyst who worked on Mr. Mueller’s inquiry, testified that she also pressed to interview Mr. Dolan and made that recommendation to the FBI’s headquarters and Washington field office.
“I believe it needed to be acted on,” Ms. Hertzog testified.
Despite pressure from Ms. Anderson and Ms. Hertzog to open an investigation into Mr. Dolan, nothing happened, they said. They blamed the FBI’s chain of command, but they did not provide further details.
Ms. Anderson said her request to take “investigative steps” against Mr. Dolan sat in the FBI system for three to four weeks before she deleted it. She said she erased the request because it couldn’t remain in the FBI’s computer system if no one was going to take action on it.
Investigative steps would include subpoenaing Mr. Dolan for testimony and executing a search warrant for his phone and email records.
Ms. Anderson and Ms. Hertzog said they don’t know why investigators ignored their requests.
On Thursday, Mr. Dolan testified that he lied to Mr. Danchenko in 2016 when he claimed to have information from a Republican insider about why Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort resigned from the campaign. That information, pulled from a cable news talking head, made its way into Mr. Steele’s compilation of unverified and salacious claims against Mr. Trump.
The accusations surrounding Mr. Manafort’s departure from the Trump campaign appear in the Steele dossier and are attributed to “an American political figure associated with Donald Trump.”
That information came from Mr. Dolan, who said he learned it by having drinks with “a GOP friend who knows the players.” Under oath, Mr. Dolan testified that he never spoke with a Republican source and acknowledged that the information came from an analyst on a cable news talk show.
Ms. Anderson said they started suspecting that Mr. Dolan contributed the Manafort information after traveling to Cyprus and interviewing Olga Galkina, a childhood friend of Mr. Danchenko’s.
“She was slightly hesitant. She asked me to remove my sunglasses so she could look me directly in the eye and confirmed it was Mr. Dolan,” Ms. Anderson said.
She said Mr. Dolan would have been of interest to Mr. Mueller’s team because of his connections to the Russian government. Mr. Dolan had done public relations work for the Kremlin and developed a strong connection with Dimitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Anyone who had access to the Kremlin would have been very valuable,” she said.