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28 May, 2024
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Steele dossier acquittal highlights missing link in Cyprus

US prosecutors fail to convict FBI informant but still manage to air damning evidence in court


A Russian analyst was acquitted this week of accusations he provided false information that triggered an FBI probe against Trump, but a major takeaway from the trial pointed to Cyprus being a missing link in the investigation after insufficient evidence about an alleged source of the infamous Steele Dossier was not properly vetted.

Igor Danchenko, a Russian policy researcher and alleged paid FBI informant, was acquitted Tuesday by a federal jury in the United States on four felony false-statement charges as part of a probe of misinformation that triggered the FBI probe of US former president Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

But despite a high-profile loss for the special counsel, prosecutors still managed to air evidence that the FBI failed to pursue leads as they sought out sources of the Steele Dossier, including information obtained from a Russian national in Cyprus.

The acquittal came after another charge in the case against Danchenko was thrown out last week, when a current FBI special agent and a former bureau analyst testified that higher ups had declined to investigate Democratic operative Charles Dolan partly due to his business connections with Danchenko.

According to US media, supervisory special agent Amy Anderson and former FBI intelligence analyst Brittany Hertzog both testified that while serving on Robert Mueller’s team they were specifically tasked with scrutinizing allegations within the Trump dossier and believed the FBI should interview and further investigate Dolan, a longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

'She was slightly hesitant… she asked me to remove my sunglasses and to look me directly in the eye' the FBI agent said of the Russian woman during a car ride in Cyprus

The two witnesses said they were concerned about Dolan’s links to Danchenko’s friend Olga Galkina, a Russian woman living in Cyprus, after cross-reference information in a database showed a connection.

“I wanted to look into him,” said Anderson, who traveled to Cyprus in August 2017 to meet Galkina after learning that Danchenko had introduced the Russian woman to Dolan a year earlier.

The FBI agent told the jury that Galkina “seemed mostly forthcoming” but “she was hesitant in telling us about Mr. Dolan” and that “she did not want to speak about him.”

“She was slightly hesitant… she asked me to remove my sunglasses and to look me directly in the eye,” Anderson recounted during a car ride in Cypurs towards the end of her trip on the island.

But Judge Anthony Trenga put a stop to it after the defense team objected to the line of questioning.

Anderson said she believed the FBI should have interviewed and further investigated Dolan but admitted deleting a memo after being told this would not happen, according to details heard in court.

Herzog, who also testified in the trial, said Dolan visited Galkina in Cyprus more than once, with the intelligence analyst saying the Democratic operative also traveled to Moscow in October and December of 2016 while adding Danchenko was there both times.

This week a jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about nine hours over two days after having considered charges involving Danchenko’s statements about his dealings with Sergei Millian, who served in 2016 as head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce.

Special Counsel John Durham’s team argued that Danchenko never really had contact with Millian and simply invented the entire story to cover for having told Steele that Millian was the source of a lurid story about Trump’s alleged actions at a Moscow hotel.

Danchenko, who never took the stand in his own trial and never called any witnesses, defeated the charges against him after defense attorneys suggested their client had been the victim of a politically-motivated prosecution by Durham, who was tasked in 2019 by then-attorney general William Barr to look into the Trump-Russia probe.

Galkina denies being a source

Galkina, who denies being a source in the Steele Dossier, said last year that she never gave permission to Danchenko to disclose “any part” of their “private discussions” to anyone else.

Last week Dolan confessed that he fabricated the sourcing behind another claim about Trump’s 2016 campaign that ended up in the British ex-spy’s discredited dossier.

According to the Washington Examiner, Dolan said he actually got a tidbit not from an insider acquaintance but from watching television.

In an email exchange in August 2016, Danchenko reportedly told Dolan that he had been “working on a related project against Trump” and asked for “any rumor, thought, or allegation” on Paul Manafort’s departure from the Trump campaign.

Manafort, whose bank accounts in Cyprus drew international attention, was convicted of financial fraud in 2018, with his case shaking politics in both Washington and Nicosia. He was also acquitted on several other charges.

Reports said Manafort had secret income from lobbying activities in Ukraine and hid the money from US authorities by stashing it away in foreign accounts including in Cyprus.

“Let me dig around on Manafort,” Dolan had told Danchenko in his 2016 email, while the following day the Democratic operative emailed the Russian researcher saying “I had a drink with a GOP friend of mine.”

It was broadly understood that alleged insight into Manafort leaving the campaign had been provided, while two days later allegations echoing the email about the American lobbyist turned up in one of the Steele reports, according to the Washington examiner.

“I actually got it off of cable news,” Dolan said, later adding that “I was trying to throw him a bone because he was helping me.”

Danchenko maintaned he had told the FBI that he received a call in July 2016 from an unidentified man who shared derogatory information about Trump concerning secret video recordings with high-end prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room, with the Russian analyst maintaining that he thought that person was Millian.

Danchenko was found not guilty this month in a total of five counts of making false statements to the FBI.


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