Tucker Carlson got an offer from the public relations executive.
Did the Fox News anchor want first dibs on an interview with an attorney for the Russian Internet entrepreneur accused of hacking into Democratic systems in 2016 — one of a slew of allegations in an explosive dossier detailing Russia’s alleged links to Donald Trump’s campaign?
That query was addressed in a February 2017 email from Charles Dolan Jr., a dedicated spin doctor with Irish Boston flair who touted links to Democratic politics and numerous contacts within the Kremlin, according to former colleagues. “Yes, definitely,” Carlson said that evening, four days later doing the interview. “This is great.”
Dolan’s media blitz was part of an attempt to debunk charges in the Steele dossier, which was compiled by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele. According to emails displayed in that case, Dolan wrote to his client, the entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev, the day after the news published the unsubstantiated material. Gubarev would subsequently unsuccessfully sue BuzzFeed for defamation.
According to a 39-page indictment received by John Durham, the special counsel investigating the Justice Department’s Russia probe, a grand jury is now saying that Dolan, 71, was behind at least some of the charges in the dossier. The indictment also implies that Dolan, who worked on both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns and served on a State Department advisory board during the Clinton administration, was so biased that any information he offered would be questionable.
Dolan is unnamed in the accusations against Igor Danchenko, a Russia expert who, according to the indictment, supplied the fundamental allegations in the Steele dossier. However, Dolan’s lawyer verified that he was the nameless executive mentioned in the paper.
The fresh charges make Dolan one of the most enigmatic players in the Steele dossier controversy.
The dossier was unrelated to the official investigation headed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, but it caught public attention and sparked discussion about geopolitics, intelligence collecting, and media ethics. According to the accusation, Dolan, who worked for the Russian Federation’s worldwide public relations team for eight years, finishing in 2014, provided the dossier before fighting it. And in both cases, his ties and reputation were based on his considerable work for Russia, most of which he did while linked with Ketchum, a public relations company based in New York.
While the indictment claims that Dolan’s political allegiances rendered his information untrustworthy, it does not address the subject of Dolan’s reasons for his alleged acts.
Former colleagues and other acquaintances claimed Dolan provided no indication that he was sufficiently dedicated to any candidate to use his professional skills for political purposes. Gubarev’s attorney in the BuzzFeed lawsuit, Val Gurvits, described him as “very professional.” “I would work with him again,” stated the Boston-based attorney.
Dolan had a number of positions in Democratic circles, although none were very high-profile. He was a state chairman for President Bill Clinton’s campaigns in 1992 and 1996, and he stayed involved in the Democratic Party in addition to his public relations job. According to the indictment, he counseled Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and volunteered for her 2016 campaign. According to the indictment, a month after Dolan notified a Russian acquaintance that he would be attending a Clinton event in July 2016, the associate told a contact in Russia that Dolan would “take me off to the State Department [to handle] issues of the former USSR.”
Simultaneously, Dolan informed investigators that campaign executives “did not direct, and were not aware of” his interactions with Danchenko and other Russian nationals. A veteran adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton claimed she had no memory of Dolan. A call for response from Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson went unanswered.
The claims against Dolan, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, went to the D.C.-based public relations firm kglobal in 2014, were revealed as part of charges filed Thursday against Danchenko, whose counsel tried to enter a not guilty plea on his behalf. According to a person familiar with the interactions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to recount private matters, the two men were introduced by Fiona Hill, the former White House adviser and Trump impeachment witness, who connected Danchenko to Dolan after the analyst asked if she knew anyone at Ketchum. Hill refused to comment, and Danchenko’s lawyer did not react to inquiries.
According to the indictment and the memories of former colleagues, Dolan was well-known among Russia scholars and well-connected in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. According to the indictment, he “frequently interacted with senior Russian Federation leadership,.”
“He did bring a level of interest and expertise beyond the normal influencer-for-hire,” said one former colleague. “He was very trusted by Putin’s people.”
The fees charged for that work, which included a nearly $80,000 disbursement to Dolan for the six-month period ending May 2012, were detailed in Ketchum filings. Ketchum’s work with Russia began in 2006, when St. Petersburg hosted the Group of Eight summit of leading economic powers, according to current and former employees of the agency. Dolan left the firm in 2005 but continued to work as a “external freelancer” until 2012, according to Susannah Sheppard, a spokesperson for the agency.
Danchenko, who was detained on Thursday, is suspected of lying to the FBI about his conversations with a public relations expert specializing in Russia who had long-standing links to the Democratic Party. He is accused of falsely claiming that he did not discuss information in the dossier with the person known only as “PR Executive-1,” but the indictment states that part of the information was “gathered directly” from the executive.
Ralph D. Martin, Dolan’s attorney, verified that his client was the CEO named in the indictment but declined to speak since he was a “witness in an ongoing case.” Martin did not answer to follow-up inquiries in detail.
According to the indictment, among the material reportedly given by Dolan and subsequently included in the dossier were rumors concerning Paul Manafort’s resignation as Trump’s campaign chairman. Dolan informed Danchenko that in the summer of 2016, he had information from a “GOP friend” that Manafort had been harmed by reports about his work in Ukraine. According to the indictment, the material emerged in one of Steele’s reports two days later.
According to the indictment, the two men also collaborated on preparations for a 2016 conference in Moscow, which included a June planning trip by Dolan, who stayed at the Moscow hotel and toured the presidential suite, where the dossier later claimed Russian intelligence had a salacious and incriminating tape of Trump. The indictment claims that Danchenko, who was already in Moscow at the time, met with Dolan in June 2016 before flying to London to provide information that would later appear in the dossier, setting forth the timeline of these encounters without stating that Dolan was the source for specific claims about the alleged tape.
According to the indictment, Dolan informed an acquaintance in the United States about his meetings with Danchenko at the time that he suspected the analyst “worked for FSB,” referring to the Russian security service. According to the indictment, Dolan subsequently testified to the FBI that he “fabricated” several data he supplied to Danchenko.
He also allegedly said that he had no knowledge of the nature of Danchenko’s job or that the information they were exchanging would be passed on to the FBI. The indictment claims that Dolan’s “historical and ongoing involvement in Democratic politics” burdened his “reliability, motivations, and potential bias as a source of information” for Steele’s reports.
Dolan reverted Trump’s term for Hillary Clinton, asking, “Who deserves the moniker ‘Crooked?’”