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Skeptical judge won’t dismiss Durham’s case against dossier source Igor Danchenko

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/29/2022 Jerry Dunleavy

The judge presiding over the case against Igor Danchenko, a source for British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier on former President Donald Trump, ruled he won’t dismiss the indictment but expressed skepticism about some of the false statements charges brought by special counsel John Durham.

The Russian-born lawyer has pleaded not guilty and had an attempt to dismiss Durham’s case against him shot down in court on Thursday by Judge Anthony Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia.

“The motion is denied,” the judge ruled during the Alexandria court hearing. However, the judge said he would revisit his ruling after Durham’s team had presented its full case during the October trial. Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee who has sat on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, added that “I think it’s an extremely close call, particularly with count one” related to longtime Hillary Clinton ally Chuck Dolan.

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John Durham and Igor Danchenko. AP © Provided by Washington Examiner John Durham and Igor Danchenko. AP

The November 2021 indictment said Danchenko anonymously sourced a fabricated claim about Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to Dolan, who spent years, including 2016, doing work in Russia. Danchenko also allegedly lied to the FBI about a phone call he claimed he received from Sergei Millian, who Danchenko claimed told him about a conspiracy of cooperation between Trump and the Russians.

The judge said he "has to conclude at this point" that he couldn’t say definitively that Danchenko’s statement related to Dolan was literally true, concluding that “there are sufficient arguments of context” to allow the trial to move forward.

Trenga also said that, regarding the Millian-related charges, he “can’t conclude that there is an undisputed fact that is not actionable” through criminal charges.

The indictment argued that Danchenko “stated falsely that he had never communicated with” Dolan “about any allegations contained” in the dossier, while “in truth and in fact, and as Danchenko well knew, Danchenko sourced one or more specific allegations” in the dossier anonymously to Dolan.

Danchenko lawyer Stuart Sears began by telling the judge that “this isn’t even a close call, in my opinion” because “a literally true statement cannot be charged as a false statement.” Sears repeatedly pointed out that the FBI had asked Danchenko if he had ever “talked” with Dolan about the dossier, with the defense arguing “talked” doesn’t necessarily include written communications.

An FBI agent had asked Danchenko: “But you had never talked to [Dolan] about anything that showed up in the dossier right?” The defendant had replied, “No.” The agent followed up, “You don't think so?” Danchenko replied, “No. We talked about, you know, related issues perhaps but no, no, no, nothing specific.”

“It was a bad question, but that’s the special counsel’s problem, not Mr. Danchenko’s,” Sears told the judge, adding, “His answer to that question was 100% accurate.” The defense lawyer contended that “talked” was the key to the FBI’s question because the indictment “only alleges they exchanged an email.”

Durham later argued that Danchenko’s claims about his Dolan statements being “literally true” have to “revolve around” wrongly taking the statement in “isolation.”

The special counsel said that “one has to look at these matters in context” and that in context, it was clear the FBI was asking Danchenko about any and all communications he may have had about the dossier with Dolan, arguing that Danchenko was “keenly” and “fully aware” of “the fact of what the FBI was looking for” as the bureau attempted to ascertain the truthfulness or falsity of the dossier.

Durham pointed out that Danchenko brought a copy of the Democratic-funded dossier to an FBI meeting and said he had reviewed it, showing he knew what the FBI was interested in. The special counsel said the jury, not the judge, should decide whether the evidence shows that “he did know it was untrue.”

The special counsel pointed out that Danchenko did not proactively provide the FBI with the email exchange with Dolan that is now at the center of the indictment.

Durham also said “the evidence in this case will show” that in other instances, Danchenko had personally referred in written discussions on social media to having spoken to someone.

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Sears retorted again that “there is no context in which that statement is false” because it was “literally true.”

Danchenko was also hit with four false statement charges for when he “stated falsely” in multiple FBI interviews that he received an anonymous phone call from Millian in July 2016. The indictment also said Danchenko falsely claimed Millian later agreed to meet him in New York, whereas “in truth and fact, and as Danchenko well knew, Danchenko never received such a phone call or such information” from Millian and never made any arrangements to meet him.

 

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Tags: Justice, Justice Department, John Durham, Christopher Steele, FBI, Russia, Steele dossier

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: Skeptical judge won’t dismiss Durham’s case against dossier source Igor Danchenko

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