ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) – The FBI agent who questioned a think tank analyst accused of lying to the agency about his role in building a flawed case against former President Donald Trump has testified twice that he believes the analyst was truthful to him. , jurors heard Wednesday.
FBI analyst Brian Auten testified for the second day in a row in US District Court in Alexandria in the trial of Igor Danchenko. The Russian-born analyst, who now lives in Virginia, faces a five-count indictment alleging he made false statements to the FBI about his sources for information he gave about Trump to British spy Christopher Steele.
Prosecutors allege that Danchenko fabricated one of his sources and obscured another when he was interviewed by the FBI about his role in the “Steele dossier.” That case, commissioned by Democrats in 2016, raised allegations of ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
During Wednesday’s cross-examination, however, Auten acknowledged that he has had positive things to say about Danchenko in previous testimony to a Senate committee and to the inspector general’s office, both of which were conducting their own investigations into the FBI probe into ties between Trump and Russia.
The jury heard a partial transcript of testimony Auten gave to a Senate committee in October 2020, in which Auten said Danchenko “was truthful about who his sub-sources were. I don’t think he made up sub-sources.”
Auten told the jury he stands by the testimony he gave to the Senate.
The testimony was important to the defense, which says special counsel John Durham charged Danchenko with a crime when other government agencies found Danchenko to be credible. Special counsel Robert Mueller, who launched his own investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, never saw fit to charge Danchenko.
And the FBI decided after three days of voluntary interviews Danchenko gave in January 2017 that he was credible enough to make him a paid “confidential human source” who would provide information to the agency.
Durham was appointed a special counsel by then-Attorney General William Barr to investigate any wrongdoing in the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and its alleged ties to Russia. Danchenko is the third person to be prosecuted by Durham. It is the first of Durham’s cases to delve deep into the origins of the case, which Trump derided as fake news and a political witch hunt.
Durham’s other two cases resulted in an acquittal and a guilty plea with a suspended sentence.
In the Danchenko case, prosecutors say he lied when he told the FBI he got some of his information in an anonymous phone call from a man he believed to be Sergei Millian, a former head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.
Prosecutors say Danchenko never spoke to Millian and that phone records show he never received an anonymous phone call at the time Danchenko claimed it happened.
Prosecutors also say Danchenko lied when he told the FBI he never “spoke” to a man named Charles Dolan about the allegations in the case.
Defense attorneys say Danchenko received a call, perhaps via an Internet app, from someone he really believed to be Millian, and that he was being truthful when he said he never “talked” to Dolan about the information in the dossier because their relevant exchanges was over email.