Special Counsel John Durham’s probe into the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation suffered a high-profile blow Tuesday, although his disciples see a silver lining in the veteran prosecutor’s checkered courtroom record. After nine hours of deliberations, a federal jury acquitted Russian policy researcher Igor Danchenko on Tuesday on four felony false-statement charges in Durham’s probe into misinformation that triggered the FBI investigation of former President Trump’s 2016 campaign, reports Politico. Durham used the forum of two recent trials, both of which resulted in acquittals, to air evidence of a failure by FBI personnel to pursue leads as they probed the Steele dossier, a compendium of allegations former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele about links between Trump and Russia. Danchenko was Steele’s key source.
Durham’s open criticism of the FBI produced an unusual spectacle at the trial, as he attacked the competence of FBI agents and analysts who were the prosecution’s key witnesses. The back-and-forth led to disclosures about senior investigators’ refusal to pursue inquiries that junior FBI personnel thought were warranted, as well as ongoing efforts to discipline FBI personnel over issues related to the Trump-Russia investigation. Durham's back-to-back courtroom defeats suggest he and his aides committed some of the same investigative gaffes they’ve decried in the original probe. Danchenko managed to defeat the charges against him even though he declined to take the stand in his own defense and called no witnesses during the trial. His attorneys suggested to the jury that he was the victim of a politically inspired prosecution by Durham, who was tapped by then-Attorney General William Barr. Durham had charged Danchenko with lying to the FBI when he said he never “talked” to public relations executive Charles Dolan about the dossier. Many stories in it appear to be apocryphal and FBI personnel who testified said they were unable to corroborate any of it.