Special counsel John Durham told a federal court that, as part of his criminal probe into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, he is examining members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Washington Examiner has reported.
Durham’s team requested that a judge “inquire into a potential conflict of interest” connected to the lawyers for British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s main anti-Trump dossier source, Igor Danchenko, pointing out that a separate lawyer at their firm “is currently representing the 2016 ‘Hillary for America’ presidential campaign, as well as multiple former employees of that campaign, in matters before the special counsel."
Danchenko was charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI.
Durham’s indictment said Danchenko, a U.S.-based and Russian-born researcher, made these statements about the information he provided to Steele for his dossier, which the FBI relied upon when seeking authority for the secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide but which now has been discredited.
The attorneys who took over as Danchenko's lawyers this month told Judge Anthony Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia that Durham’s team was raising questions about Robert Trout, who is of counsel at their firm and previously represented Clinton campaign members, but insisted there is no conflict of interest.
The special counsel’s team argued the interests of the Clinton campaign and Danchenko “could potentially diverge in connection with any plea discussions, pretrial proceedings, hearings, trial, and sentencing proceedings.”
Durham’s team noted five topics that could become relevant to Danchenko' defense: “The Clinton campaign’s knowledge or lack of knowledge concerning the veracity of information” in the Steele dossier; “the Clinton campaign’s awareness or lack of awareness” of Danchenko’s “collection methods” for the dossier; “meetings or communications” between the Clinton campaign and Steele about Danchenko; “the defendant’s knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding the Clinton campaign’s role in” the dossier; and “the extent to which the Clinton campaign and/or its representatives directed, solicited, or controlled” Danchenko’s actions, according to the Washington Examiner.
“On each of these issues, the interests of the Clinton campaign and the defendant might diverge,” Durham said.
Durham’s team also hinted that former Clinton campaign members will be called to testify, which could be "a potential conflict.” The special counsel said it is likely the defense law firm “already has obtained privileged information” from the Clinton campaign about Danchenko and the dossier.
But the prosecution said it “believes that this potential conflict is waivable” if Danchenko chooses to do so. The judge ordered the defense team to file a potential waiver by this Friday.
In December 2019, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that Steele's dossier played a "central and essential" role in the FBI's attempt to obtain wiretap orders against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
He also determined that the FBI’s probe had serious missteps and errors and concealed potentially exculpatory information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, adding that Danchenko undermined Steele’s claims of a “well-developed conspiracy” between former Trump and Russia.
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