WASHINGTON – The likeliest source of the notorious Steele Dossier report that Donald Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on a bed in a Moscow hotel room was a PR executive with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, special counsel John Durham revealed in his bombshell report.
The 316-page document made public Monday revealed new information about how the notorious – and discredited – “pee tape” claim made its way into former UK spy Christopher Steele’s file, which was published in full by Buzzfeed News in January 2017.
Charles Dolan, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential campaign and Virginia state chairman for Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 and 1996 runs, appears to have been “the actual source of much of the Ritz Carlton … information contained in the Steele reports,” Durham wrote.
In June 2016, Steele reported that Trump had hired the presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow “where he knew President and Mrs [Barack] OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and [defiled] the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform ‘golden showers’ ( urination) shows in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSB control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.”
The report by Steele cited a Source D, who “had been present” for the supposed display, a Source E, “a senior (western) member of staff at the hotel, who said that … several of the staff were aware of it at the time and subsequently,” and a Source F, “a female staffer at the hotel … who also confirmed the story.”
However, Justice Department investigators later discovered that while Trump had stayed at the hotel in the past, he never rented the presidential suite, Durham wrote.
The “pee tape” rumor appears to have stemmed from Dolan’s June 2016 stay at the hotel while on a business trip to Moscow, during which he received a tour that reportedly included a stop at the presidential suite, according to Durham.
On June 14, 2016, Dolan and Steele Dossier source Igor Danchenko met for lunch. A day later, Dolan sent an email disparaging Trump, telling an acquaintance: “I’m in Russia making plans to be adopted in the event this mad man [Trump] gets elected.”
Three days later, Danchenko met with Steele in London and the “pee tape” claim appeared in the dossier two days after that.
Durham’s investigators interviewed “Source E,” identified as the Ritz’s general manager, who “denied having knowledge of the Ritz-Carlton allegations concerning Trump at any time prior to their being reported in the media” and “adamantly denied discussing such allegations with, or hearing them from, Danchenko, or anyone else.”
An unidentified American who joined Dolan on the tour of the suite told investigators that a hotel staffer incorrectly informed them Trump had stayed there, but “did not mention any sexual or salacious activity.”
Steele later told investigators that “Source D” was Sergei Millian, a Trump supporter and former head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce who the ex-MI6 spy said was in “direct contact” with Danchenko.
However, Durham’s team reasoned, since Danchenko believed he only communicated with Millian once, a month after the “pee tape” allegations made the dossier, “it would have been impossible for Millian to have been a source of the Ritz Carlton allegations.”
“Thus,” the report concluded, “Danchenko’s statements to the FBI about having no previous contact with Millian were false, or Danchenko’s statements to Steele about Source D were false, or Steele gave knowingly false information to the FBI.”
Dolan, for his part, denied being the source of the rumor in an interview with Durham’s investigators, though he acknowledged he may have told Danchenko that Trump had stayed at the hotel.
“Dolan stated, in sum, that it was possible that he told Danchenko about the presidential suite and Trump, but he had no specific recollection of doing so,” the report said. “Dolan was adamant that he never told Danchenko about any salacious sexual activity that occurred in the suite.”
However, the investigators found that “Dolan’s recollection … was inconsistent and his recollection vacillated over the course of several interviews.” Durham also noted in his report that Dolan was “the only person who met with both Danchenko and the Ritz Carlton general manager (and the other managers).”
While the report indicates Dolan was the likely source of the salacious claims, Durham also criticized the FBI for relying on Danchenko for the information in the dossier due to his “troubling history.”
At the time of his meeting with Dolan, Danchenko was the subject of an open investigation in a counterespionage case and had “fairly extensive contacts with known and suspected Russian intelligence officers,” according to the report.
“It is extremely concerning that the FBI failed to deal with the prior unresolved counterespionage case on Danchenko,” Durham wrote. “The [FBI] team’s failure to properly consider and address the espionage case prior to opening Danchenko as a [confidential human source] is difficult to explain, particularly given their awareness that Danchenko was the linchpin to the uncorroborated allegations contained in the Steele reports.”
Despite those concerns, the FBI continued to employ Danchenko as a confidential informant for more than three years, paying him a total of $220,000, according to the report, and later opposed efforts to end Danchenko’s employment, which was ultimately ordered in October 2020.
“Moreover, the [DOJ] learned that the FBI proposed making continued future payments to Danchenko, totaling more than $300,000, while the Office was actively investigating this matter, which would have been in addition to the $220,000 he had already received,” Durham wrote.
FBI counterintelligence officials reportedly wanted to keep Danchenko on payroll, “insist[ing] that Danchenko was very valuable to the FBI’s counterintelligence program” despite “not even [being] able to accurately describe the value or contributions of Danchenko that would justify keeping him” in DOJ interviews, according to the report.
“Indeed, the assistant director for counterintelligence at FBI headquarters thought Danchenko was being paid for information he was providing that corroborated the Steele Dossier reporting,” Durham wrote, “which, of course, was not the case because Danchenko never produced any such evidence.”