Proceedings underway in three U.S. courtrooms are providing a coordinated view into the abuse of the FBI’s confidential human source (CHS) program, a cash-flush operation now primarily used to bolster Democratic Party narratives instead of detecting and preventing crime.
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As I’ve reported, the FBI spends an average of $42 million per year to pay informants and does so with absolutely no financial or legal accountability. Confidential human sources are paid in cash; they can offer their services for a variety of reasons including financial need or to obtain a change in immigration status. FBI agents are required to keep at least one informant on the books, an FBI whistleblower told me; successfully using a CHS to bust up a crime is one way to get promoted.
But ongoing trials related to the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, January 6, and the Whitmer fednapping case are once again shining a light on the way the bureau hires snitches to advance political goals.
After numerous investigations over the course of more than six years—not to mention an obsessive fixation by the national media—the scandal known as Russiagate produced another bombshell revelation during the perjury trial of Igor Danchenko, the key source for the Steele dossier (read below). The FBI offered to pay Christopher Steele, its author, up to $1 million in cash if he could verify the dossier’s declarations about Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. He could not.
Described for years as a “former British intelligence officer,” Steele, in fact, was a private consultant with several paymasters in 2016. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee retained Steele to write his dossier that alleged shadowy connections between the Kremlin and Trump associates. At the same time, Steele was lobbying the U.S. government on behalf of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who ran afoul of the Obama Administration.
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When the cash offer was made in October 2016, Steele also was working as an informant for the FBI. (It’s unknown how much he was paid.) He moved seamlessly between the bureau, other government agencies including the State Department, and the national news media almost until Election Day. Steele met with journalists and editors in the fall of 2016 to spin the dossier’s content as legitimate—and some outlets took the bait.
The bureau severed the arrangement in late October 2016 after learning Steele had met with reporters, but the damage was done. Steele’s fabricated dirt seeded the Trump-Russia election collusion hoax.
Turns out, Steele wasn’t the only paid FBI informant tied to the dossier. Testimony revealed the FBI hired Danchenko as an informant in March 2017 and paid him at least $200,000 until the FBI cut him loose in October 2020—the same month Attorney General William Barr named U.S. Attorney John Durham as special counsel. (Stefan Halper, another FBI informant, also aided the FBI’s effort to smear Trump via Russiagate.)
It’s unclear exactly what Danchenko did as an informant. Was he used as a behind-the-scenes leaker to give oxygen to the Russiagate hoax in the media? Did the bureau hire him as an informant to protect him, and the FBI, from the prying eyes of investigators?
Either way, it’s clear the FBI didn’t hire these informants because the government had cause to suspect Trump was in cahoots with Russia to rig the 2016 election. To the contrary, the informants manufactured the falsehood, giving FBI partisans and the news media fabricated evidence to sabotage Trump with the FBI’s imprimatur.
Seditious Conspiracy—Or Entrapment?
The bureau’s crusade against Trump continued, climaxing with the events of January 6, 2021. Down the interstate from Dancheko’s trial in Virginia is the seditious conspiracy trial of five members of the Oath Keepers. Prosecutors working under U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves, a Biden campaign advisor, are trying to convince a D.C. jury that the Oath Keepers tried to overthrow the government that day.
The case rests largely on inflammatory posts in group chats and social media; none is accused of committing violence that day, in fact, those who legally brought firearms from various states kept their weapons behind in a Virginia hotel on January 6. Evidence suggests they tried to help police calm the crowd inside—two never even entered the building.
That isn’t stopping Graves’ office from insisting the Oath Keepers, a group of former military and law enforcement officers, plotted a traitorous coup. But at the last minute, the government admitted five informants had been embedded in the group, likely before the Capitol protest.
Prosecutors, however, do not want jurors to hear much about those informants, particularly their work in past “investigations”—code for past “entrapment schemes.” (The New York Times reported last year that FBI informants had infiltrated the Proud Boys, another alleged “militia” charged in the Capitol breach, months before January 6. The group’s leader himself is a former confidential human source for the FBI.)
Other unknowns in the Oath Keepers’ case raise serious questions about the FBI’s deeper involvement. A man who created an encrypted group chat and can be heard urging at least one Oath Keeper to commit violence remains unidentified and uncharged—following a pattern of other unindicted instigators such as Ray Epps. Dozens of alleged Oath Keepers who participated in similar conduct also are not charged. And defense counsel discovered that at least 20 FBI and ATF agents were near the group on January 6.
Doing what, exactly? If federal agents were in the city that day, why didn’t they protect the Capitol and lawmakers inside?
None of it adds up.
A History of Entrapment
About 800 miles away, three Michigan men are on trial for a very similar conspiracy case. In 2020, state prosecutors charged Joe Morrison, Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar for “providing material support for a terrorist act” related to the plot to kidnap and kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. But two separate federal trials exposed how the scheme was engineered by multiple FBI agents and informants. (Two men were acquitted by a federal jury in April amid an FBI entrapment defense. That jury hung on two other defendants but they were convicted at a second trial in August.)
At least a dozen informants worked the fednapping hoax; the total cost to taxpayers has not yet been disclosed. The lead FBI informant, Dan Chappel, took the stand last week in the state trial to explain his role. As I’ve reported, the FBI compensated Chappel at least $60,000 in cash and personal items to stitch the random targets together. An FBI agent handed Chappel an envelope with $23,500 in cash in December 2020, two months after the arrests were made in the case.
But Chappel’s testimony—and defense filings—show how he lured the men into the FBI’s trap. Chappel created encrypted chat groups to foster talk of violence while giving the FBI direct access to the secret communications. He organized meetings where he recorded every word, even when the targets were drunk or stoned. On two occasions, Chappel drove his main target to Whitmer’s vacation cottage, the scene of the potential crime, on a “surveillance” trip that in reality was a stunt to produce photographs later used as evidence against the man.
Chappel, however, broke FBI protocol in several instances including suggesting criminal acts and becoming a commander in the fake militia the FBI invented exclusively for the fednapping caper. Defense attorneys grilled Chappel last week about the veracity of the government’s explanation as to how Chappel became an informant; turns out, his previous claim that he went to the FBI after being alarmed at seeing violent, anti-law enforcement chatter on a website wasn’t true.
Chappel also couldn’t explain why he didn’t receive a Purple Heart if he indeed suffered injuries during the Iraq War, a representation made by both Chappel and the government. “This witness can’t get away with misrepresenting his conduct, his service, his valor—which I would argue is stolen valor in this matter—to these 15 people,” one defense attorney said in court.
The nexus of all three trials is, of course, Donald Trump. In Russiagate, the goal was to portray Trump as a tool of the Kremlin, a president illegitimately elected with the help of Russia. In the other two cases, innocent men entrapped then prosecuted by the government are pawns to prove that “domestic violent extremists” loyal to Donald Trump are prone to violence on his behalf.
Over the weekend, Representative James Comer (R-Ky.) said if Republicans take control of the House, he would support establishing a committee to investigate the FBI. “We have a huge problem with the FBI and the fact is, the American people have lost faith in the FBI,” Comer told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. “It’s going in the wrong direction.”
It sure is. Republican voters want a full-scale investigation into the investigators; House GOP leaders would be wise to include the investigators’ long list of highly-paid political hit men known as FBI informants.
Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right and Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. She is the co-host of the “Happy Hour Podcast with Julie and Liz.” She is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two daughters.
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