Speed Reads

Durham Defeat

Steele source Igor Danchenko acquitted in 2nd big loss for Special Counsel John Durham

A federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, acquitted Igor Danchenko of all charges Tuesday, handing Special Counsel John Durham his second — and likely final — courtroom loss in his three-and-a-half year investigation. Durham had charged Danchenko, a Russian-born private researcher, with five counts of lying to the FBI about the sources of the information he passed on to ex-British spy Christopher Steele for a dossier of raw intelligence on former President Donald Trump's ties to Russia.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga threw out one of the charges last Friday, and the jury, after nine hours of deliberation over two days, acquitted Danchenko of the other four counts on Tuesday evening. The jurors were "pretty unanimous" in how they viewed the case, juror Joel Greene told The Washington Post. "We looked at everything really closely," and "the conclusion we reached was the conclusion we all were able to reach."

Durham was appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to investigate the origins of the Justice Department's investigation of the Trump campaign's dealings with Russia in the 2016 election. He secured a plea deal with FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who was given a year of probation after admitting to altering a government email used to justify secret surveillance of Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Durham's only other case, charging cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann with one count of lying to the FBI, ended in acquittal in May.

This is expected to be Durham's last case as special counsel, though as Fox News notes, he will lay out his broader findings in a final report that may or may not be released to the public. 

This case was unusual because Durham spent much of the trial attacking his own FBI witnesses, who ended up corroborating much of Danchenko's defense arguments and lamenting that his prosecution deprived the FBI of a valuable informant. Danchenko did not take the stand or call any witnesses. 

Durham said in a statement after the verdict was handed down that he is "disappointed in the outcome" but "we respect the jury's decision and thank them for their service." Danchenko's lawyer Stuart Sears said the prosecution was "a nightmare" for Danchenko and his family, adding, "We have known all along that Igor Danchenko was innocent and we are glad the American public knows that now too."