Durham zeroes in on Clinton campaign, could call some aides to testify, court memo reveals
New court filing in Steele dossier source Igor Danchenko's criminal case shows prosecutors want to know if Clinton campaign knew false intel was going to FBI. Expert calls it an "incredible twist."
Hillary Clinton's team long fought to keep its ties to Christopher Steele's dossier from public view, but Special Counsel John Durham is now making clear he has a strong interest in her campaign's behavior during the Russia collusion probe. He is even suggesting some of her aides could be summoned as trial witnesses.
Durham's earth-shaking revelation came inside a routine court filing this month in the case of Igor Y. Danchenko, a Russian analyst who was a primary source in 2016 for Steele's now-infamous dossier. Danchenko has been charged with repeatedly lying to the FBI during the Russia collusion probe and has pleaded innocent.
Durham's motion asked the presiding judge to determine whether Danchenko's lawyers —Danny Onorato and Stuart Sears of the Schertler Onorato Mead & Sears law firm — pose a conflict of interest because the firm also represents the Hillary for America campaign as well as several former campaign officials in "matters before the special counsel."
"The Clinton Campaign financed the opposition research reports, colloquially known as the 'Dossier,' that are central to the Indictment against the defendant," the Durham team stated in the motion. "Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below, the government respectfully requests that the Court inquire into the potential conflict issues set forth herein."
Prosecutors said they want to know what the Clinton campaign knew about the accuracy of the Steele dossier's now-discredited allegations of Trump-Russia collusion and whether any campaign "representatives directed, solicited, or controlled" Danchenko's activities assisting Steele.
"The interests of the Clinton Campaign and the defendant could potentially diverge in connection with any plea discussions, pre-trial proceedings, hearings, trial, and sentencing proceedings," the prosecutors told the court, often referring to the Steele dossier as "Company Reports."
"For example, the Clinton Campaign and the defendant each might have an incentive to shift blame and/or responsibility to the other party for any allegedly false information that was contained within the Company Reports and/or provided to the FBI," the Durham filing stated. "Moreover, it is possible that one of these parties might also seek to advance claims that they were harmed or defrauded by the other's actions, statements, or representations."
For the first time, Durham also raised the possibility aides to Hillary Clinton could testify at Danchenko's trial.
"In the event that one or more former representatives of the Clinton Campaign (who are represented by defense counsel's firm) are called to testify at any trial or other court proceeding, the defendant and any such witness would be represented by the same law firm, resulting in a potential conflict," Durham's team argued.
And for one of the first times, Durham's team declares to a court what it believes was the political motive for the Clinton campaign to pay its law firm, Perkins Coie, to hire the Fusion GPS investigative firm to hire the retired MI6 agent Steele to write the anti-Trump Russia reports known as the dossier.
"The Clinton Campaign, through Law Firm-1 and U.S. Investigative Firm-1, commissioned and financed the Company Reports in an attempt to gather and disseminate derogatory information about Donald Trump," the filing stated.
In all, the latest Durham court filing identifies five areas where the prosecutor's case may pose a conflict, including:
- the Clinton campaign's "knowledge or lack of knowledge concerning the veracity of information" in the dossier created by Steele with help from Danchenko;
- the Clinton campaign's "awareness or lack of awareness of the defendant's collection methods and sub-sources";
- "meetings or communications" between the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS and Steele "regarding or involving" Danchenko;
- "the defendant's knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding the Clinton Campaign's role in and activities surrounding the" Steele dossier;
- And "the extent to which the Clinton Campaign and/or its representatives directed, solicited, or controlled" Danchenko's activities.
"On each of these issues, the interests of the Clinton Campaign and the defendant may diverge," the court filing explained.
The memo gives the most detailed explanation to date of Durham's interest in the Clinton campaign and its potential exposure in his criminal investigation, surprising even some veteran Russiagate investigators.
"He is moving forward methodically against the largest organized criminal enterprise to ever take down a presidential election," said Kash Patel, the former chief investigative counsel for the House Intelligence Committee. Patel worked with Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee's chairman, to expose the bogus Russia collusion narrative as a political dirty trick that fed opposition research to the FBI to cause Trump to be investigated on false pretenses.
Patel, a former federal prosecutor and adviser to Trump, told the John Solomon Reports podcast that the memo is "an unbelievable twist" in the Russia case. He said the fact that the law firm representing the Clinton campaign is the same one representing Danchenko was certain to raise questions.
"You have to ask yourself why," he said. "Why would the Clinton campaign lawyers go and represent the Steele dossier's No. 1 source, who has been charged federally with five counts of lying to the FBI in a 39-page indictment that cites Clinton campaign former staffers?
"There is no such thing as coincidences in these types of investigations."