Danchencko trial enters third day, after FBI intel analyst admits being censured in collusion probe
The third day for Special Council John Durham's trial for Igor Danchenko begins Thursday, following two days of blistering testimony from FBI intelligence analyst Brian Auten, who on Wednesday acknowledged having been censured for failing to disclose informations about the agency's so-called Russia collusion probe.
"You are under investigation by the inspection division of the FBI. Isn’t it true you got recommended for suspension?” Durham asked Auten at the close of Wednesday's proceeding in a federal court in Virginia.
Durham, appointed in 2021 to looking into the FBI's conduct in the probe – named "Crossfire Hurricane" by the agency – was referring to an agency "write-up" for Auten not disclosing all he knew about surveillance applications the FBI filed with various courts including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.
"The suspension is under appeal," Auten responded.
Danchencko, a Russia intelligence expert, faces five counts for allegedly lying to the FBI about his role in gathering information about then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump during his 2016 White House bid, as part of a federal investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
He was a primary sub-source for the a dossier compiled for the FBI by former British spy Christopher Steele that has since been discredited.
Auten on Tuesday disclosed the FBI offered Steele as much as $1 million to corroborate information in the research dossier he compiled for the agency – and to which Danchenko was a primary contributor.
Auten also under oath later suggest that such deals with a source, particularly if the FBI wins the case, are not unusual.
The charges against Danchenko essentially state he lied or concealed sources from the bureau. Danchenko has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Central to the case is conversation did or do not have with Democrat operative Charles Dolan, Belarusian-born businessman Sergei Millian and Millian associate Dmitri Zloderev.
The first count focuses on whether he talked to Dolan about the dossier.
The other four are connected to a call Danchenko suggested he had with Millian, who at the time was serving as president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, and whether information in the dossier was indeed from Millian.
The trial is being held in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. It began Tuesday with jury selection and opening arguments.
Durham was appointed special counsel in 2020 by then-Attorney General William Barr to look into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, particularly the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the probe, known as Crossfire Hurricane.
The trial is expected to last about a week, with Auten having been the first of four scheduled witnesses.
Presiding over the trial is Senior District Court Judge Anthony Trenga, appointed to the court by President George W. Bush.
This is the second trial in Durham's probe.
The first jury trial in Washington, D.C., in May, found former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann not guilty of lying to the FBI about information he had about alleged collusion.
In Durham's investigation prior to Sussmann's trial, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to falsifying a surveillance document during the Trump-Russia collusion investigation and received a sentence of 12 months of probation and 400 hours of community service.