By MATTHEW BARAKAT – The Associated Press
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (AP) – A judge allowed prosecutors to proceed with a criminal case against an analyst who provided key details on a flawed dossier of former President Donald Trump, even as the judge said he The decision was “very close”.
Lawyers for Igor Danchenko asked a judge Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to dismiss all five charges against him. He is accused of lying to the FBI about how he obtained the information that ended up in the “Steel Dossier,” a report designed to detail Trump’s ties to Russian intelligence and to help facilitate an investigation called The full FBI investigation of the “Crossfire Hurricane” in the months leading up to the 2016 election.
The dossier famously suggested that the Russians had compromising information about Trump’s alleged sexual activity in a Moscow hotel.
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The indictment alleges that Danchenko lied about the credibility of his sources, when in fact his primary source was actually a Democratic agent named Charles Dolan, who was with Trump in the 2016 election. Rival Hillary Clinton is linked.
The FBI could have better judged the authenticity of the Steele dossier if it had known that a Democratic agent who volunteered for Clinton was the source of much of the dossier information, the indictment said.
Danchenko’s lawyers argued Thursday that all charges should be dismissed because Danchenko’s answers to the FBI are technically true, if not necessarily instructive.
Specifically, Danchenko denies that he “talked” to Dolan about the allegations in the dossier. In fact, Danchenko discussed the allegations with Dolan in emails, but never spoke with him verbally.
“It’s a bad question,” said Stuart Sears, Danchenko’s attorney. “It’s the special counsel’s question. Not Mr. Danchenko’s. … He doesn’t need to guess what the question really means.”
Other charges relate to a statement to the FBI that Danchenko received additional details in an anonymous phone call about someone he “believes” to be Sergei Milian, the former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.
Sears said Danchenko never asserted that Milian was the source, and if Danchenko really believed it, it wasn’t a misrepresentation.
Then-Attorney General William Barr, who appointed special counsel John Durham in 2019 to look for government misconduct in the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, said Danchenko’s statement, if viewed in context rather than in isolation, would show he intentionally lied .
Danchenko himself used the word “speak” to refer to written words posted on social media accounts, he said. He said the evidence would show Milian did not know Danchenko and that Danchenko had no reason to believe Milian was the anonymous caller cited by Danchenko.
“He knew exactly what the FBI was looking for, the context of those questions,” Durham said.
Justice Anthony Trenga acknowledged that the defense’s theory “could be a very convincing, strong argument for the jury,” but said the government ultimately bore the burden of overcoming the motion to dismiss.
It will be up to a jury to decide whether the government can meet its burden of proving a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher standard. Trenga said he will revisit the issue during the trial after the government presents the case.
The most incendiary allegation in the Steele dossier — that Trump hired prostitutes to perform sex in the presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow — may not have been part of the trial at all. Danchenko was not actually accused of lying to the FBI about his source for that particular allegation. But prosecutors still hope to present evidence to the jury and cite evidence that Dolan is also the source of Danchenko’s allegations.
Defense lawyers said any testimony about it was inconsequential and biased and, if allowed, could “swallow the trial”.
Prosecutor Michael Kierty 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 pondered the issue — he said he was concerned about the relevance of the information compared with the bias it could create, and he would rule on what evidence to allow at the trial before the start of October 10. 11.
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