John Durham will be facing Igor Danchenko this week after he lost his only and only special counsel trial.
Last year, the Russian-born lawyer was accused of being the main source of the discredited dossier. He was also British ex-spy Christopher Steele. Durham claimed he made false statements to the FBI about the information he gave to the former MI6 agent. The jury selection process begins Tuesday.
Indictment 2021 stated that Danchenko anonymously obtained a false claim about Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort from longtime ally Hillary Clinton Chuck Dolan. Dolan spent many years in Russia, including in 2016 and 2017. Danchenko allegedly also lied to the FBI about a call he claimed he got from Sergei Millian (a Belarusian citizen and businessman) about a conspiracy of cooperation between former President Donald Trump and the Russians. The special counsel said it was false.
Danchenko has pleaded not guilty.
Durham seems to be close to the end of his criminal investigation. His grand jury in Washington is reportedly about to expire. The Danchenko trial could be his last chance at redemption after losing another case involving false statements earlier in the year. However, the judge in the case indicated that the trial could prove difficult for the special counsel.
Judge Anthony Trenga is the judge in the Danchenko case. He ruled in September that Durham would not be indicted, but expressed doubt about the allegations. After Durham’s defense team presented its case, the judge indicated that he would reconsider his decision. Trenga, an appointee of George W. Bush who has served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court added that “it’s an extremely close call,”, particularly with count 1, which is related to Dolan.
The special counsel has previously highlighted how Danchenko was the subject of what he said was a botched FBI counterintelligence investigation as a national security threat from 2009 to 2011, and Durham wanted findings from that investigation, which unearthed links between the defendant and Russian intelligence officers, to be used at trial. But Trenga denied Durham’s request last week.
The judge also refused the request of the special counsel to present evidence that Danchenko allegedly misled the court about the source for the unfounded “pee tap” claims Steele made in his anti-Trump, Democratic-funded dossier. Durham has also limited the evidence Durham sought to show the jury regarding Danchenko’s alleged tendency to fabricate sources and be dishonest.
Danchenko worked as a confidential source of human resources for the FBI from March 2017 through October 2020. He was then charged with fraud in November 2021. The Russian lawyer’s team stated that Danchenko was a paid confidential human source for the FBI from March 2017 to October 2020. They also said that they would hear evidence that the FBI was pleased with Danchenko and that the bureau used his information to create cases and open investigations.
The Fusion GPS opposition research firm hired Steele to compile his dossier. Marc Elias, Clinton’s campaign general counsel, hired Fusion GPS. Michael Horowitz, DOJ Watchdog, concluded that Steele’s unfounded claims about “well-developed conspiracies” between Trump and Russia were undermined by Danchenko.
Although the special counsel was present in courtrooms during the unsuccessful trial of Michael Sussmann, a Democratic cybersecurity lawyer, Durham did not speak. It is likely that Durham will be speaking during Tuesday’s trial. After his May court defeat, he assumed the helm.
Durham had charged Sussmann in September 2021 after he allegedly concealed his clients, Neustar Chief Tech Officer Rodney Joffe, and Clinton’s 2016 campaign from FBI general counsel James Baker. Baker was pushing for debunked claims of a secret line between the Trump Organization’s Alfa-Bank and Russia’s Trump Organization during a September 2016 meeting.
After a trial in Washington, a jury found Sussmann innocent of the false statement charge.
Durham only received one guilty plea from Kevin Clinesmith (an ex-FBI lawyer) who admitted that he falsified an FBI document in the bureau’s attempts to renew surveillance authority under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This was against Carter Page, a Trump campaign associate. Horowitz’s December 2019 report about FISA abuse revealed Clinesmith’s wrongdoing.
Durham could also be charged with other offenses.
According to a Durham prosecutor, the special counsel’s team was looking closely at Joffe earlier in the year. They pointed out a law that dealt with major fraud against the U.S government and specifically mentioned a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency contract. Joffe’s defense lawyer said that he was recently informed by Durham that he does not intend to press charges against him.
Durham stated that Joffe had also begun to assign employees and associates the task of mining and assembling internet information that would support an “inference or narrative” linking Trump to Russia. The tech executive stated in emails that the goal is to please “VIPs”, apparently referring to Sussmann and Elias as well as the Clinton campaign.
Similar limitations on evidence were applied to the Sussmann case. The judge had ordered Durham’s team to not mention that Joffe was no longer an FBI source in 2021.
If Danchenko is Durham’s last case, then his next report will be issued. According to reports, the special counsel is currently working on a long set of findings that will outline his investigation’s conclusion. This report will be given to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Garland stated to the Senate in October that “with regard to the report,” he wanted as much as possible made public. He was concerned about the Privacy Act classification and classification. However, other than that, the promise is to provide a report.
Garland stated that there will be no interference from political or other undue in the Durham investigation.