Judge Rejects Steele Dossier Source’s Request to Dismiss Charges of Lying to FBI

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An attempt by Igor Danchenko to get charges of lying to the FBI dismissed failed Sept. 29, meaning he will likely go on trial in October.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee, declined to throw out any of the five charges filed against Danchenko after hearing arguments from special counsel John Durham’s team and lawyers representing Danchenko, a key source for the anti-Donald Trump dossier compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of Democrats.

Danchenko’s position was based on arguments that the supposed false statements he told FBI agents during interviews were “literally true.”

Danchenko told agents that he did not talk with Charles Dolan, a longtime Clinton family associate, about any allegations contained in the dossier, both parties agree. Durham’s team says that was false because Danchenko sources at least one of the allegations he conveyed to Steele from Danchenko. But Danchenko says that the Russian national accurately spoke, because talking does not include emails.

“It was a bad question,” Danchenko’s lawyer, Stuart Sears, told Trenga, referring to how the FBI never followed up to specifically ask about other forms of communication. “That’s the special counsel’s problem. Not Mr. Danchenko’s. … He is not required to guess what the question actually means.”

Durham, appointed in 2019 by then-Attorney General William Barr to look for government misconduct in the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into Trump, said that Danchenko’s statements, if examined in context rather than in isolation, will show that he knowingly lied. He said Danchenko himself used the word “speaking” to refer written words posted on social media accounts.

Trenga said that the defense’s theory “can be a very persuasive, strong argument to a jury,” but that ultimately 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 will revisit the issue during trial after the government presents its case.

The trial is due to start on Oct. 11 in the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Danchenko faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Trenga declined to rule for now on Durham’s request to have the ability to bring up uncharged statements and acts that the government thinks establish a pattern, including how Danchenko allegedly emailed an associate in the past advising how to fabricate sources. Danchenko’s lawyers oppose the request.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Zachary Stieber


Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.

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