The judge presiding over the case of Igor Danchenko, a source for the discredited Christopher Steele dossier, said he will not dismiss the indicted, but he did express some skepticism over the false statement charges brought by special counsel John Durham.
Danchenko has pleaded not guilty, but he also wanted the case against him dismissed, which Judge Anthony Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia smacked down on Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported.
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“The motion is denied,” the judge ruled during the Alexandria court hearing. However, the judge said he would revisit his ruling after Durham’s team had presented its full case during the October trial. Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee who has sat on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, added that “I think it’s an extremely close call, particularly with count one” related to longtime Hillary Clinton ally Chuck Dolan.
The November 2021 indictment said Danchenko anonymously sourced a fabricated claim about Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to Dolan, who spent years, including 2016, doing work in Russia. Danchenko also allegedly lied to the FBI about a phone call he claimed he received from Sergei Millian, who Danchenko claimed told him about a conspiracy of cooperation between Trump and the Russians.
The judge said he “has to conclude at this point” that he couldn’t say definitively that Danchenko’s statement related to Dolan was literally true, concluding that “there are sufficient arguments of context” to allow the trial to move forward.
Trenga also said that, regarding the Millian-related charges, he “can’t conclude that there is an undisputed fact that is not actionable” through criminal charges.
In the indictment, Danchenko allegedly “stated falsely that he had never communicated with” Dolan “about any allegations contained” in the Steele dossier, as it argues that “in truth and in fact, and as Danchenko well knew, Danchenko sourced one or more specific allegations”
The defendant’s attorney argued that “this isn’t even a close call, in my opinion” because “a literally true statement cannot be charged as a false statement.” He said that the FBI asked Danchenko if he ever “talked” with Dolan about the dossier, which he argued did not include written communications with him.
“But you had never talked to [Dolan] about anything that showed up in the dossier right?” the FBI asked, to which Danchenko said, “No.”
He was then asked “You don’t think so?” to which the defendant said “No. We talked about, you know, related issues perhaps but no, no, no, nothing specific.”
“It was a bad question, but that’s the special counsel’s problem, not Mr. Danchenko’s,” his attorney insisted. “His answer to that question was 100% accurate.”
“The special counsel said that ‘one has to look at these matters in context’ and that in context, it was clear the FBI was asking Danchenko about any and all communications he may have had about the dossier with Dolan, arguing that Danchenko was ‘keenly’ and ‘fully aware’ of ‘the fact of what the FBI was looking for’ as the bureau attempted to ascertain the truthfulness or falsity of the dossier,” The Washington Examiner report said.
“Durham pointed out that Danchenko brought a copy of the Democratic-funded dossier to an FBI meeting and said he had reviewed it, showing he knew what the FBI was interested in. The special counsel said the jury, not the judge, should decide whether the evidence shows that ‘he did know it was untrue,” the report said.
“The special counsel pointed out that Danchenko did not proactively provide the FBI with the email exchange with Dolan that is now at the center of the indictment,” it said.