Members From Clinton’s 2016 Campaign May Be Called to Testify in Special Counsel Probe: Durham

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 22, 2021

People who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign could be called to testify in court cases stemming from a probe of the Russia–Trump counterintelligence investigation, according to a recent court filing.

The disclosure from special counsel John Durham’s team came as they attempted to convince a judge to explore potential conflicts of interest involving attorneys Danny Onorato and Stuart Sears, who are representing Igor Danchenko.

Danchenko, a Russian analyst, was indicted by a grand jury in November on five false statement charges.

Danchenko allegedly lied to FBI agents when questioned about information he provided to ex-British spy Christopher Steele, best known for compiling the error-riddled dossier that U.S. officials used to investigate former President Donald Trump and his associates.

The problem, according to Durham’s team, is that Onorato and Sears work at a law firm that also employs an attorney who represents the 2016 Clinton campaign and former employees of that campaign in matters before the special counsel.

That could pose a conflict of interest.

Earlier investigations uncovered how the Clinton campaign retained the Fusion GPS firm to perform opposition research on Trump and his affiliates. Fusion GPS then hired Steele and his firm to probe Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

“Thus, the interests of the Clinton campaign and the defendant could potentially diverge in connection with any plea discussions, pre-trial proceedings, hearings, trial, and sentencing proceedings,” the filing reads.

Areas of inquiry that may become issues at Danchenko’s trial or sentencing include the Clinton campaign’s knowledge or lack of knowledge concerning the veracity of the information contained in the dossier and meetings or communications between and among the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, and Steele involving Danchenko.

“In addition, in the event that one or more former representatives of the Clinton campaign (who are represented by defense counsel’s firm) are called to testify at any trial or other court proceeding, the defendant and any such witness would be represented by the same law firm, resulting in a potential conflict,” Durham’s team stated.

Onorato and Sears have told the team that their colleague representing the campaign has had no involvement in the case involving Danchenko and will “wall himself off” from future involvement, while separate support staff inside the firm, Schertler Onorato Mead & Sears, will be assigned to each case.

“Notwithstanding the potential conflicts involved, the government believes that this potential conflict is waivable, should the defendant so choose, assuming a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver is executed,” Durham’s team stated.

Schertler Onorato Mead & Sears didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Onorato and Sears replaced attorneys Christopher Schafbuch and Mark Schamel earlier this month, as requested by Danchenko.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee who is overseeing the case, hasn’t yet responded to the filing.

Danchenko’s next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2022. He’s currently out on bail. The jury trial he has requested is slated to start in April 2022.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.