(Reuters) – D.C., October 18 – The “Steele dossier,” which said that former U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign had ties to Russia, had bombshell information from a Russian researcher who was found not guilty on Tuesday of lying to the FBI about where he got his information.
Igor Danchenko’s acquittal in federal court in Washington, D.C., was another setback for Special Counsel John Durham. Attorney General William Barr chose him in 2019 to look into the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Danchenko was found not guilty on four of the charges. The judge in the case had already thrown out the fifth accusation. In a statement, Durham said, “We are disappointed with the outcome, but we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service.”
In May, a jury in Washington cleared Michael Sussmann of lying to the FBI when he passed along a tip that turned out to be false about possible communication between Trump’s business and a Russian bank. Sussmann had been charged by Durham. Sussmann was a lawyer for the 2016 presidential campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Danchenko is a researcher with Russian roots who now lives in Northern Virginia. In 2021, Durham’s office charged him with five counts of lying to FBI investigators about the sources of information he gave to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer.
His lawyers said that the FBI’s often “ambiguous” questions were “literally” true and that the charges against him were not true.
Danchenko was accused of lying to the FBI because he said he had never “talked” to Democratic operative and public relations executive Charles Dolan about anything in the Steele dossier. Though, they had been writing to each other.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga threw out one of the five charges against Danchenko that had to do with his interactions with Dolan. He did this because he agreed with the defense.
The court said that the jury could decide on the other four charges. In these accusations, Danchenko was said to have lied to the FBI about talking to Sergei Millian, the former head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, to get information that ended up in the dossier.
Danchenko’s lawyers said that their client got an anonymous call from someone he thought was Millian, but Danchenko told agents that he wasn’t sure.
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Steele worked for the American research company Fusion GPS, which was paid by Sussmann’s legal team on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC to find out information about Trump. Many of the shady things in the Trump dossier have never been proven.
Trenga put a lot of limits on what Durham’s team could use as evidence in front of the jury. For example, he said that scandalous claims about “Donald Trump’s alleged sexual activity” in a Moscow hotel were not allowed because they were neither direct evidence nor very relevant.
An investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that the FBI kept relying on the unverified claims in the Steele dossier when it asked the court for permission to spy on former Trump campaign worker Carter Page’s communications.
Kevin Clinesmith, who used to work as a lawyer for the FBI, was later charged by Durham and pleaded guilty to making up a document that was used in the organization’s warrant requests.
Robert Mueller, a different special counsel, did an investigation that showed contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russians. However, his final report said that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the campaign had illegally worked with Moscow.
Sarah N. Lynch wrote the story, which was edited by Will Dunham, Scott Malone, and Tim Ahmann.