US jury acquits Russian for lying to FBI over ‘Steele case’

WASHINGTON, Oct 18 (Reuters) – A Russian researcher who provided explosive details to a document dubbed the “Steele dossier” alleging links between former U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia was acquitted on Tuesday by a jury for lying. to the FBI about the sources of his information.

The acquittal of Igor Danchenko in federal court in Washington dealt a further blow to special counsel John Durham, who was appointed in 2019 by Trump-era Attorney General William Barr to investigate the FBI “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

The jurors acquitted Danchenko on four counts. The judge in the previous case dismissed a fifth charge.

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“While we are disappointed with the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service,” Durham said in a statement.

In another trial of a defendant indicted by Durham, a jury in Washington in May acquitted Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, of charges of lying to the FBI when he transmitted a later discredited advice on possible communications. between Trump’s company and a Russian bank.

Danchenko, a Russian-born researcher who resides in northern Virginia, was indicted by the Durham office in 2021 on five counts of making false statements to FBI agents in 2017 about sources of information he provided to former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.

His lawyers argued that the indictment was baseless, saying their client’s answers to the FBI’s often “ambiguous” questions were “literally” true and not material.

For example, Danchenko was accused of misleading the FBI by claiming that he never “spoke” to Charles Dolan, a Democratic agent and public relations officer, about anything in the Steele case, when in fact they had communicated in writing.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga said last week he agreed with the defense and dismissed one of five charges against Danchenko relating to his communications with Dolan.

The judge allowed the other four charges to be decided by the jury. Those charges accused Danchenko of lying to the FBI by claiming he spoke to Sergei Millian, the former president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, to gather information later used in the case.

Danchenko’s lawyers argued their client received an anonymous call from someone Danchenko suspected was Millian, but he told officers he wasn’t sure it was him.

Steele was hired by a US-based research firm called Fusion GPS, which in turn was retained by Sussmann’s law firm on behalf of Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee to dig up dirt on Trump. The dossier contained salacious details about Trump, many of which have never been substantiated.

Trenga imposed strict limits on what Durham’s team could present as evidence to the jury, including ruling that outrageous allegations about “Donald Trump’s alleged sexual activity” at a Moscow hotel were prohibited, believing that they were not direct evidence and that their relevance was questionable.

An investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general later revealed that the FBI continued to rely on unsubstantiated allegations in the Steele dossier when it sought court-approved warrant applications to surveil communications from Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

A former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, was later sued by Durham and pleaded guilty to falsifying a document used in law enforcement warrant applications.

Another special counsel, Robert Mueller, led an investigation that documented contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians, but his final report concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish that the campaign was engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow.

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone and Tim Ahmann

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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