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Igor Danchenko pleads not guilty to lying to FBI about Steele dossier

Igor Danchenko leaves the U.S. courthouse in Alexandria, Va., on Nov. 4. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

An analyst who contributed to a 2016 dossier of allegations regarding former president Donald Trump’s ties to Russia has pleaded not guilty to charges that he repeatedly lied to the FBI about his sources of information.

Igor Danchenko appeared briefly Wednesday in Alexandria federal court. Attorney Mark Schamel said in a statement this week that his client’s work as a researcher is “above reproach.”

“For the past five years, those with an agenda have sought to expose Mr. Danchenko’s identity and tarnish his reputation while undermining U.S. National Security,” Schamel added. “This latest injustice will not stand.”

A trial date was set for April during the hearing, where all Danchenko said was that he was pleading “Not guilty, your honor.”

He and his attorney declined to comment outside of court.

The case was brought by special counsel John Durham, who was appointed by the Trump administration to look into the origins of the FBI investigation into the former president’s ties to Russia.

Born in the Soviet Union and based in Washington, Danchenko, 43, was hired by Christopher Steele to investigate possible links between Trump and the Kremlin.

Steele, a British ex-spy, was working for a firm called Fusion GPS. Fusion started its Trump research on behalf of a conservative website funded by a major GOP donor but then continued it for a different client — a law firm for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Steele brought his findings to the FBI, which used them to help justify secret surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

But Durham says Danchenko lied and prevaricated when backing up the information that went to the FBI. The indictment says he lied about getting information from a Democratic public relations executive who did business in Russia, Charles Dolan Jr. (Dolan said through an attorney he is a witness in the case.) He is also accused of lying about revealing to sources that he was working for Steele.

Durham says Danchenko made up a conversation he claimed was the source of one of the dossier’s most salacious claims, that Trump paid prostitutes at a Moscow hotel room to urinate on a bed in which President Barack Obama had once slept. The dossier also suggested Russian intelligence agencies had secretly recorded that event as potential blackmail material. Trump has denied any such encounter.

The indictment suggests that story came from Dolan, who in June 2016 toured a suite at a hotel in Moscow that was once occupied by Trump. According to the indictment, Danchenko falsely told Steele and the FBI that the information came from the president of the U.S. Russian-American Chamber of Commerce at the time. The indictment doesn’t identify that person, but people familiar with the case have previously said it is Sergei Millian.

Dolan and another witness told investigators there was no mention of anything inappropriate on the suite tour, the indictment says.

Dolan was Danchenko’s source for a part of the dossier on tensions within the Trump campaign, according to the indictment, which says Dolan told investigators he claimed to get the intelligence from a Republican friend but actually based it on public news reports. Someone working with Danchneko also spoke with Dolan about changes in the Russian government that were reflected in the dossier, according to the court records. A 2019 report by the Justice Department inspector general also found major problems with the accuracy of Danchenko’s information. The allegations cast new uncertainty on some past reporting on the dossier by news organizations, including The Washington Post.

Durham has also brought a case against a Democratic attorney, accusing him of falsely claiming when he spoke to the FBI that he was not doing so on behalf of Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Prosecutor Michael T. Keilty said Wednesday during the hearing there would be “a vast amount of classified discovery” in this case.

Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

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