A federal judge on Friday dismissed one of five charges against Igor Danchenko, the main source in the Trump-Russia case, in a major setback for Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation.
The judge dropped one of the five counts against Danchenkospecifically regarding the allegation that he lied to the FBI about speaking with a Democratic agent about the anti-Trump dossier.
District Judge Anthony Trenga said in court Friday that Danchenko response to FBI interviewer “was literally true” and that Durham’s case on that specific charge was too weak to send to the jury. It’s a big win for Danchenko, who claimed he told the truth to FBI agents trying to corroborate the case in 2017.
The decision was a blow to Durham, who personally handled many arguments and the questioning of witnesses throughout the trial. He personally pushed Trenga to press charges on Friday ahead of the judge’s decision.
Danchenko still faces four additional counts of lying to the FBI, which is a felony. These remaining counts relate to Danchenko’s alleged false statements about whether he received a phone call in July 2016 from a Belarusian-American businessman who had been in contact with people in the orbit of Donald Trump.
The trial will continue on Monday with closing statements and jury deliberations.
A holdover from the Trump era, Durham was asked in 2019 by then-Attorney General Bill Barr to “investigate the investigators” and look for government misconduct in the Trump-Russia investigation.
But in more than three years, Durham has only secured one criminal conviction – the guilty plea of a low-level FBI attorney, who was sentenced to probation. Durham’s only other lawsuit was against a campaign lawyer for Hillary Clinton, who was acquitted by a jury in May for lying to a senior FBI official during a meeting about Trump’s possible ties to Russia. .
Durham delivered nothing resembling the Watergate-level bombs that Trump has repeatedly said were coming. And CNN previously reported that the special counsel’s investigation is winding down and the Danchenko case is Durham’s last scheduled trial.
The charge that was dropped related to whether Danchenko lied about discussing specific case material with Charles Dolan, a public relations executive specializing in Russian affairs and decades of political ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Although he hasn’t been a top Democratic operative in recent years, Dolan previously held positions in Bill Clinton’s campaign and volunteered for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The widely discredited dossier contained explosive allegations about Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia. But it also featured a relatively mundane article about the infighting within Trump’s notoriously tumultuous campaign – and when Durham indicted Danchenko last year, the indictment revealed that gossip article came from Dolan.
Emails show Dolan tricked Danchenko into where he got the gossip, attributing it to a ‘GOP friend’ who was ‘a close associate of Trump’ when it actually came from cuts Press. Dolan testified Thursday that he lied to Danchenko about meeting a “GOP friend” and that he had in fact just sent Danchenko what he heard on cable news.
In 2017, as the FBI worked to corroborate the file, an FBI agent asked Danchenko if he had ever “spoken” with Dolan about “everything that appeared in the file.” Danchenko said no, which Durham said was a lie, forming the basis of the misrepresentation charge.
The judge ruled on Friday that Danchenko was technically telling the truth, as evidence established that they only emailed about the case but never “spoke about” it. In making his ruling, the judge said the Durham team was trying to expand the definition of “spoken” to include more than it actually does, and that it would be inappropriate for a jury to convict Danchenko using Durham’s interpretation of the law.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.