The jury in the trial of Trump-Russia dossier source Igor Danchenko began deliberations Monday and will decide whether he lied to the FBI about where he got his information.
The case was brought by special counsel John Durham, who has a lot to do with the outcome. After more than three years looking for wrongdoing in the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation, Durham has secured only one conviction. The Danchenko case is the last expected trial before Durham wraps up his investigation.
Jurors are now deliberating at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Danchenko was originally charged with five counts of lying to the FBI, but a judge threw out one of the charges Friday, in a major blow to Durham.
Danchenko pleaded not guilty to all charges and says he told the truth to the FBI.
Danchenko, a Russian expat and think tank analyst, was the primary source of material for the infamous Trump-Russia case. The collection of unverified and malicious claims was compiled by retired British spy Christopher Steele, whose work was indirectly funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. The largely discredited memos accused Donald Trump of colluding with the Kremlin to win the election.
A guilty verdict would give Durham a big boost. But an acquittal would be an embarrassing defeat for the special counsel, whose only other trial, against a Clinton campaign lawyer, ended in a swift acquittal in May by a federal jury in Washington, DC.
An attorney for Danchenko blasted Durham during closing arguments Monday, accusing prosecutors of misleading the jury and ignoring key evidence while on a “mission to prove he was a liar.”
The case against Danchenko centers on whether he lied to the FBI in 2017 about his sourcing for the so-called Steele case. During closing arguments, Danchenko attorney Stuart Sears said prosecutors brazenly disregarded information that “doesn’t support their narrative that he’s a liar.” Sears pointed out how Durham turned on his own witnesses after they presented evidence that helped the defense.
“The special counsel attacked them relentlessly,” Sears said. “They attacked the credibility of the witnesses they called in here because they didn’t say what they wanted them to say.”
Sears added, “The government’s own evidence in this case proves that the defendant is not guilty.”
Durham’s team urged jurors to convict Danchenko on Monday, telling them to “look at his own words” in 2016 emails they believe prove he later misled the FBI about his connections to a possible dossier source.
“You didn’t check your sanity at the courthouse door,” said prosecutor Michael Keilty. “You need it.”
Keilty said Danchenko gave a “changing story” to the FBI agents who interviewed him in 2017 as they tried to corroborate the explosive allegations in the dossier that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the presidency.
“The FBI surveilled an American citizen for almost a year based on these lies,” Keilty said, referring to the wiretapping of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The FBI statements used to secure those surveillance orders included material that came from the Trump-Russia dossier.
Danchenko’s lawyer also blasted the Trump-era Justice Department for “exposing” him as an FBI informant and for launching the investigation that led to his prosecution.
“He was trying to help the FBI and now they’re charging him with it,” Sears said.
As a paid informant, Danchenko assisted significantly more FBI probes between 2017 and 2020. However, the FBI was forced to cut ties with Danchenko in late 2020 after the Justice Department indirectly ruled him out as a dossier source.
“He deserved more than to be exposed because a bunch of politicians put politics over national security,” Sears said.
Danchenko’s handler, FBI agent Kevin Helson, testified last week that Danchenko’s excursion harmed US national security. Internet speculators identified Danchenko shortly after then-Attorney General Bill Barr publicly released Helson’s notes of his Danchenko interviews. Barr took that action after facing pressure from Trump and Republican lawmakers to release several internal FBI files on the Russia investigation.
Durham personally defended the legitimacy of his investigation Monday during closing arguments, saying the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe was so flawed that it warranted a new look from his team.
Durham also told jurors not to “feel bad for the FBI agents” because “the FBI failed here on a number of occasions.”
This story has been updated with additional details.