Igor Danchenko, the primary source for Christopher Steele’s debunked dossier, was acquitted on Tuesday of lying to the FBI, dealing a blow to Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of Russiagate.
Danchenko faced four counts of lying to the FBI about his interactions with Sergei Millian, former head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce. Politico reported:
Danchenko told the FBI that he received a call in July 2016 from an unidentified man who shared derogatory information about Trump. The Russian researcher said he believed the man was Millian and that the pair agreed to meet up in New York, but the man never showed.
Durham’s team argued Danchenko never contacted Millian at all and used the story for cover after he told Steele Million was the source of his information that ultimately made its way into Steele’s Democrat-funded dossier.
“There was no call with Millian and there was no call with any individual,” prosecutor Michael Keilty said during closing statements. “It’s a not-to-be believed story.”
However, Danchenko’s attorneys argued that “he was trying to help the FBI, and now they are prosecuting him for it.”
Danchenko initially faced five counts of lying to the FBI, but U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga dismissed one count on Friday at the end of the prosecution’s case-in-chief.
The four-day trial ended Tuesday after the jury deliberated for nine hours and found Danchenko not guilty on all four charges.
“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service,” Durham said in a statement. “I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case.”
Danchenko’s case is the third criminal case Durham has brought as part of his investigation. Durham successfully received a guilty plea from FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith for falsifying an email related to a FISA application. However, Clinesmith served no jail time and was sentenced to probation.
Durham’s second case resulted in the acquittal of Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who was also accused of lying to the FBI.
Although Durham’s trial against Danchenko was unsuccessful, the proceedings revealed pertinent facts about the origins of Russiagate, including the fact that the FBI offered Steele up to $ 1 million if he could corroborate his now-discredited anti-Trump dossier.
Durham has been investigating Russiagate since 2019, when former Attorney General William Barr appointed him as special counsel.