A former Brookings Institution Russian analyst accused of providing false information in the controversial and widely discredited Steele dossier entered a plea of not guilty days after he was indicted by special prosecutor John Durham.
Igor Danchenko pleaded not guilty to five counts of making false statements to the FBI, entering his plea before Judge Anthony John Trenga in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Nov. 10, according to reporters on the scene.
After his arrest last week, Danchenko was released on a $100,000 bond. During the Nov. 10 court hearing, Trenga ordered Danchenko to remain free on bond and scheduled a preliminary trial date of April 18, 2022.
Danchenko, 43, was charged as part of Durham’s wide-ranging probe into the origins of the Trump–Russia investigation. Danchenko stands accused of lying to the FBI about claims that he provided to former UK spy Christopher Steele, who constructed the Steele dossier.
In turn, the dossier—a collection of opposition research notes that included numerous unproven claims, much of which later turned out to be false—became the basis for an FBI surveillance campaign into then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign and former Trump aide Carter Page, starting in October 2016. The agency, which utilized Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to spy on Page, subsequently renewed the applications multiple times.
Steele had been hired by investigative company FusionGPS, which had in turn been hired by high-powered law firm Perkins Coie, which had retained the Democratic National Committee and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as clients during the 2016 election.
Federal prosecutors said Steele had relied heavily on Danchenko in order to obtain information about some of the allegations contained in the dossier. They are accusing him of lying to federal law enforcement about the sources of information he provided to Steele, which was included in the dossier, and making five false statements to the FBI between March and November 2017.
The indictment alleges that Danchenko lied about obtaining information from Charles Dolan Jr., a Democratic public relations executive who had business ties in Russia. An attorney for Dolan told The Epoch Times last week that he’s a witness in the case, and he wouldn’t comment further.
Durham’s team said Danchenko falsified a conversation that he claimed was the source of a salacious accusation contained in the dossier about Trump and a hotel room. According to the indictment, that allegation may have come from Dolan, who toured a hotel suite in 2016 that was once occupied by Trump. Prosecutors said that Danchenko lied when he told the FBI and Steele that the allegation came from the head of the U.S. Russian–American Chamber of Commerce.
Dolan also told Danchenko that he had obtained intelligence on Trump’s campaign about alleged tensions regarding former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s role from a Republican friend, according to the indictment. However, he actually based that information on public news reports.
During the Nov. 10 court hearing, prosecutors told Trenga that the next step will be the discovery phase, noting that they hope to share materials with the defense soon. A “vast amount of classified information” needs to be reviewed as well, they said.
Last week, an attorney representing Danchenko accused Durham and his team of presenting a “false narrative” about his client.
“For the past five years, those with an agenda have sought to expose Mr. Danchenko’s identity and tarnish his reputation while undermining U.S. National Security,” Mark Schamel, Danchenko’s attorney, said in a statement. “From the moment he was inappropriately revealed, he has been the focus of unrelenting politically motivated attacks. This latest injustice will not stand. We will expose how Mr. Danchenko has been unfairly maligned by these false allegations.”
In September, Durham’s team charged Michael Sussmann, a Perkins Coie attorney, of lying to the FBI when he spoke with former general counsel James Baker in order to provide him with information about Trump’s campaign and claiming that wasn’t doing so on behalf of Clinton’s campaign. Sussmann, through his attorneys, has denied the charge.