Case against source for Trump case advances, barely

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A judge allows prosecutors to continue their criminal case against an analyst who provided key details for a flawed case on former President Donald Trump, though the judge called his decision “very close.” ”

Lawyers for Igor Danchenko on Thursday asked a judge at the US District Court in Alexandria to dismiss all five charges against him. He is accused of lying to the FBI about how he got the information that eventually made its way into the “Steele dossier,” a report that purported to detail Trump’s ties to Russian intelligence and helped to fueling a full-fledged FBI investigation titled “Crossfire Hurricane” in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

The filing suggested the Russians had compromising information about Trump regarding salacious sexual activity he allegedly engaged in at a Moscow hotel.

The indictment alleges Danchenko lied about the credibility of his sources when in fact his main source was actually a Democratic operative named Charles Dolan with ties to Trump’s 2016 election opponent Hillary. Clinton.

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The indictment says the FBI could have better judged the veracity of the Steele dossier had it known that a Democratic operative who volunteered for Clinton was the source of much of the information in the dossier. .

Danchenko’s lawyers argued Thursday that all charges should be dismissed because Danchenko’s answers to the FBI were technically true, if not necessarily illuminating.

Specifically, Danchenko denied “talking” to Dolan about the allegations in the filing. In reality, Danchenko had discussed the charges in an email with Dolan, but never spoken to him in oral conversation.

“That was a bad question,” Danchenko’s attorney, Stuart Sears, said. “That’s the special advocate’s problem. Not that of Mr. Danchenko. …He doesn’t have to guess what the question actually means.

The other charges relate to a statement to the FBI that Danchenko received further details in an anonymous phone call from someone he “believed” to be Sergei Millian, a former president of the Russian Chamber of Commerce. -American.

Sears said Danchenko never said with certainty that Millian was the source and that it couldn’t be a misrepresentation if that was what Danchenko really believed.

Special counsel John Durham, who was appointed in 2019 by then-Attorney General William Barr to seek government misconduct in the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, said Danchenko’s statements, if they are considered in context rather than in isolation, will show that he knowingly lied. .

He said Danchenko himself used the word “speak” to refer to written words posted on social media accounts. And he said the evidence will show that Millian did not know Danchenko and that Danchenko had no reason to believe Millian was the anonymous caller cited by Danchenko.

“He knows exactly what the FBI is looking for, the context of these questions,” Durham said.

The judge, Anthony Trenga, acknowledged that the defense theory “can be a very persuasive and strong argument for a jury”, but he said that in the end the government met its burden to overcome a motion to dismiss.

It will be up to a jury to determine whether the government can meet its burden of proving a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, a much higher standard. Trenga said he would revisit the issue at trial after the government presents its case.

The most inflammatory allegations in the Steele dossier — that Trump hired prostitutes to engage in sex in the Ritz-Carlton presidential suite in Moscow — may not be part of the trial. Danchenko is not actually charged with lying to the FBI about his supply for this specific allegation. But prosecutors still want to present evidence to the jury about it and obtain testimony suggesting that Dolan was also Danchenko’s source for the allegation.

Defense lawyers say any testimony about it is irrelevant and prejudicial and threatens to ‘swallow the lawsuit’ if allowed.

Prosecutor Michael Keilty countered that it was important to show Dolan’s connection to the allegations.

“It’s not going to be a sideshow,” he said. “We’re not going to talk about what Mr. Trump did or didn’t do at the Ritz.”

Trenga took the matter under advisement – ​​he said he had concerns about the information’s relevance to its potential for harm, and would rule on that and other evidence issues who will be allowed to go to trial before it begins on October 11.

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