EDVA Jury: Igor Danchenko not guilty on all counts
And - what we learned from the trial
Igor Danchenko has been found not guilty of providing false statements to federal officials in the course of their “investigation” into the Steele Dossier. After count 1 was dismissed (the Charles Dolan count), these charges remained:
Count 2. March 16, 2017: Danchenko told FBI agents he received a call in late July 2016 from a person he thought was Sergei Millian, when Danchenko knew he had never received a call from Millian.
Count 3. May 18, 2017: Danchenko gave a false statement to FBI agents that he “was under the impression” that the late July 2016 call was from Millian.
Count 4. October 24, 2017: Danchenko falsely stated to FBI agents that he believed he spoke to Millian on the phone on more than one occasion.
Count 5. November 16, 2017: Danchenko lied that he “believed he has spoken to [Millian] on the telephone,” when Danchenko well knew he had never spoken to Millian.
That’s the difficulty of proving a false statements case when the FBI and the Mueller Special Counsel were uninterested in pursuing the truth.
As we’ve seen from the course of this trial, the most important takeaways from this trial have never been the alleged lies. Danchenko himself has long been known as a fabricator, with his deceptions revealed as soon as information on his involvement in the Steele Dossier, his background, and his FBI interviews was released. Cue observations from 2020 from ourselves and many others:
What is more important is that which informs our understanding of the Trump/Russia investigation and the FBI/DOJ/Mueller misconduct that sparked Crossfire Hurricane and continued through the Mueller investigation. That information was revelatory. The institutions were on trial alongside Danchenko, with Durham recognizing in closing arguments that “the FBI mishandled the investigation at issue.” And the institutions rightly suffered. Danchenko might have been spared, but is there any reasonable doubt as to the FBI’s incompetence - and guilt?
This past week, we provided some of the most comprehensive coverage of the Danchenko trial that you’ll find. Our goal is to always provide the most relevant information, preferably through transcript excerpts where you, the reader, can see the testimony for yourself and reach your own conclusions. At the same time, we also aim for concision. We hope that we achieved those goals.
For us, here are some of the most important highlights from the trial:
Steele was offered “up to a million dollars” to corroborate the Dossier.
Danchenko was a confidential human source for the FBI from March 2017 through October 2020. He was accused of giving a number of false statements during that time period. He was paid over $200,000 as an informant, and his status as a CHS buried him as a witness. “Sources and methods.”
The Mueller Special Counsel had FBI Agents and Analysts investigating the Steele Dossier - but purposefully limited the scope of that inquiry, making sure any information damning to their investigation would not be uncovered. Former FBI Intelligence Analyst Brittany Hertzog testified she learned of Charles Dolan’s connections to Danchenko during her time with the Mueller Special Counsel. She requested to interview Dolan; others opposed that request. The opposition won out.
FBI Special Agent Amy Anderson, also part of the Mueller Special Counsel, requested to interview Dolan. Her request was shut down by superiors.
Director Comey was informed on all parts of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, from its beginnings up until (theoretically) his termination.
FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson, who handed Danchenko as a confidential human source, omitted key derogatory information – that Danchenko was the target of a previous espionage case – in his opening paperwork.
FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson was recommended to assess Danchenko’s employer and look at the financial nature of Danchenko’s employment. Helson failed to do so.
FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson was recommended to investigate whether Danchenko lied in his visa and immigration documents. Helson failed to do so.
FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson (there’s a purpose in the repetition) was recommended to conduct a polygraph of Danchenko to determine if he “has ever been tasked by a foreign individual, entity or government to collect information or to perform actions adverse to the U.S. interest.” Helson failed to polygraph Danchenko.
Crossfire Hurricane started based on “a suggestion of some kind of suggestion” from a “friendly foreign government.” It was opened as a “full investigation,” which allowed for the use of “investigative tools” not allowed at the “preliminary investigation stage.
The FBI wanted a FISA on Carter Page “fairly early on” – around the end of July 2016 or soon thereafter. However, the FBI didn’t have enough to “secure” the warrant. The evidence wasn’t there.
FBI Analyst Brian Auten was unable to “confirm or corroborate” any of the Steele Dossier claims from the receipt of the document until the first FISA application in October 2016.
FBI Analyst Brian Auten and FBI colleague Stephen Somma knew Democrat Charles Dolan could be a source of information of the Steele Dossier. Neither asked Danchenko about Dolan.
Dolan would ultimately testify that he believed some Dossier information came from him.
The FBI checked with other agencies and was unable to corroborate the Dossier info.
FBI Analyst Brian Auten is a “subject” of the Durham investigation and will likely be “suspended” by the FBI.
Sergei Millian was a confidential human source (CHS) for the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office. The Crossfire Hurricane team found no evidence Millian had “assisted in the interference” of the 2016 presidential election.
While Danchenko told the FBI he spoke with Millian. E-mails from Millian demonstrate he had no idea who Millian was. The FBI/Mueller Special Counsel never obtained those e-mails.
The unanswered questions
When presented with the FBI failures documented during the Danchenko trial (and the Michael Sussmann trial), one can’t help but be reminded of their investigation of the DNC “hack.” Both investigations have similar types of “errors”: the failure to pursue investigative leads and collect evidence, and uncorroborated claims of Russian interference (or collusion) based on information provided by DNC/Clinton “contractors”.
Here, the FBI and Mueller Special Counsel refused to interview witnesses with knowledge of the Dossier allegations. In the case of the DNC “hack”, the FBI never obtained the DNC server. The FBI didn’t even obtain the unredacted Crowdstrike reports relating to the hack. Instead, the RBI relied upon Crowdstrike, hired on behalf of the DNC by disgraced attorney Michael Sussmann, to inform the FBI’s assessment of the hack. As Aaron Mate explained in this essential essay:
The fact that the Democratic Party employed the two private firms that generated the core allegations at the heart of Russiagate -- Russian email hacking and Trump-Russia collusion – suggests that the federal investigation was compromised from the start.
At some point, “mistakes” consistently made in one direction cease to be harmless errors and become circumstantial evidence of something nefarious. (In another context we might call that the “cumulative weight of circumstantial evidence.”) While we can draw inferences from that behavior, Durham faces a more difficult task: using such circumstantial evidence to build a criminal case. Maybe he has more. Maybe not. Maybe these FBI agents and officials were adept at hiding their criminal conduct under the guise of incompetence or cluelessness or a poor memory.1
We also ask whether that’s it for Durham. The Wall Street Journal reported this would likely be the final prosecution of the Special Counsel, to be followed by a report detailing Durham’s findings. If that’s true, expect the report to be submitted after the midterms, absent further developments or other prosecutions by the Durham Special Counsel. If the reporting is true. We’ll see.
This reminds us of Horowitz’s report on the Carter Page FISAs, which made such findings such as: “While we found no documentary or testimonial evidence that this pattern of errors by Case Agent 1 was intentional, we also did not find his explanations for so many significant and repeated failures to be satisfactory.”