Russian Policy Analyst’s Trial Starts on Charge of Lying About Trump Campaign
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A Russian public policy analyst is scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on charges of lying to the FBI during the 2016 investigation of whether the Russian government tried to help Donald Trump get elected president.
Igor Danchenko is the third person to be prosecuted as a result of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
He provided information to a private investigator hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russians. The private investigator’s report, called the Steele dossier, revealed that a Trump campaign advisor communicated occasionally with Russian agents.
Although some of the Steele dossier alleged unproven assertions, it contained enough evidence for the FBI to question Danchenko, who was the source of the information.
Prosecutors presented evidence at pre-trial hearings showing Danchenko lied when he said the former president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce made an anonymous phone call to him implicating Trump staff members in colluding with the Russians.
Prosecutors did not deny Danchenko received an anonymous phone call but they said Danchenko knew it was not the former Russian-American Chamber of Commerce president.
Prosecutors also said Danchenko lied when he denied that some of his information came from a volunteer for the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. The volunteer was Charles Dolan, a public relations executive.
His lies interfered with the FBI investigation, making it harder for the agency to get at the truth, prosecutors said.
Danchenko’s attorneys argued in previous hearings that their client might have made ambiguous statements during multiple FBI interviews but that his answers were technically true.
In one example, FBI agents asked Danchenko whether he ever talked to the Hillary Clinton campaign volunteer. The two exchanged emails about the Steele dossier but they never spoke orally, which prompted Danchenko to answer “no” to the FBI question.
The defense attorneys argued Danchenko’s pattern of ambiguous statements were inadequate evidence for a criminal conviction.
As an example, Stuart A. Sears, an attorney for Danchenko, said at a hearing last month, “If Rudy Giuliani says he believes the 2020 election was fraudulent, that doesn’t make it a false statement. He believes it.”
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and called the FBI investigation a witch hunt.
He drew support from a 2019 Justice Department inspector general’s report that accused the FBI of using unproven evidence to seek court approval for secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign advisor.