After losing his first special counsel trial, John Durham‘s next big test is his case against Igor Danchenko, British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s alleged main source for his discredited dossier.

Danchenko was charged “with five counts of making false statements to the FBI,” which Durham says he made about the information he provided to Steele for the dossier. The DOJ’s watchdog said FBI interviews with Danchenko “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting” and concluded Danchenko “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier.

Danchenko has pleaded not guilty.


Democratic cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann had been charged in September by Durham after reportedly concealing his two clients, Neustar chief technology officer Joffe and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, from FBI General Counsel James Baker when he pushed debunked allegations of a secret line of communication between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank during a September 2016 meeting. But a jury found him not guilty this week.

Danchenko, a Russian-born lawyer and researcher who has lived and worked in the Washington, D.C., area for many years, was indicted in November for lying to the bureau.

He allegedly relied upon a network of Russian contacts but undermined key collusion claims when interviewed by the FBI. According to Durham’s false statements charges, he anonymously sourced a fabricated claim about Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to longtime Hillary Clinton ally Chuck Dolan, who spent many years, including 2016, doing work for Russian businesses and the Russian government.

Danchenko visited Dolan and others at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow in June 2016 and also flew from Moscow to London to meet with Steele “to provide him with information that would later appear” in the dossier.

The Durham indictment also says that the Steele source lied about Sergei Millian, an American citizen born in Belarus who moved to the United States in the early 2000s and founded a trade group called the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the USA.

The prosecutor said Danchenko falsely told the FBI that in late July 2016, he had received a phone call from Millian wherein he claimed Millian told him about a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between Trump and Russians and further claimed that Millian had agreed to meet with him in New York. Durham said that, in reality, “Danchenko never received such a phone call or such information” from Millian and that Millian never agreed to meet up with him, saying Danchenko had “fabricated” these claims.

Robert Mueller said his special counsel investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Steele is best known for his discredited anti-Trump dossier, which Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in December 2019 played a “central and essential” role in the FBI’s effort to obtain wiretap orders against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The inspector general said Danchenko undermined Steele’s unfounded claims of a “well-developed conspiracy” between Trump and Russia.

Steele created his dossier after being hired by Fusion GPS, which was itself hired by Perkins Coie and Marc Elias, the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign. Sussmann worked for Perkins at the time too, and both he and Elias met with Steele in 2016.

Emails released by Durham’s investigation showed Fusion was pushing claims about Millian to members of the media in 2016. Elias testified that top members of the Clinton campaign were aware that someone he was working with was looking into Trump-Russia issues. He said those in the know included campaign manager Robby Mook, campaign manager John Podesta, adviser Jake Sullivan, and others. The Justice Department and the FBI have repeatedly misled about Steele and Danchenko.

The FBI put together “Talking Points re Crossfire Hurricane Cases” dated March 8, 2017, in which the bureau misled about Steele and Danchenko. At a meeting for top Justice Department and FBI leaders on March 6, 2017, fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe appeared to have led much of the presentation.

Fiona Hill, who worked at the Brookings Institution with Danchenko for years, introduced Danchenko and Steele a decade ago, and Durham says she introduced Danchenko and Dolan in early 2016.

Steele was working for Vladimir Putin-linked oligarch Oleg Deripaska before, during, and after his time targeting Trump. Deripaska paid Steele to investigate Manafort after accusing the Republican operative of stealing millions from him, and Steele sought help from Fusion in early 2016. The firm soon hired Steele to conduct anti-Trump research.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2020 report found that “the Russian government coordinates with and directs Deripaska on many of his influence operations.” The Senate report revealed that Steele started working on behalf of Deripaska as early as 2012 through part of 2017. The investigation found “indications that Deripaska had early knowledge of Steele’s work,” and the report said Steele’s relationship with Deripaska “provided a potential direct channel for Russian influence on the dossier.”


Durham has obtained one guilty plea from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew surveillance authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act against Page.

Any other charges Durham may file remain unknown.

A Durham prosecutor said the special counsel’s team is “looking closely” at Joffe, including pointing to a law on major fraud against the U.S. government, specifically mentioning a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency contract.

Durham said Joffe also began tasking employees and associates with mining and assembling internet data that would support an “inference” or “narrative” tying Trump to Russia, with the tech executive stating in emails that the goal was to please “VIPs” — apparently referring to Sussmann, Elias, and the Clinton campaign.

The judge presiding over the Sussmann case had instructed Durham’s team not to bring up the fact that Joffe had been cut off as an FBI source in 2021.

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