'Lies The FBI Should Have Uncovered': Day 1 Of The Igor Danchenko Trial

‘Lies The FBI Should Have Uncovered’: Day 1 Of The Igor Danchenko Trial

Authored by Techno Fog via The Reactionary,

We have the transcripts from day 1 of the Igor Danchenko trial. Pretrial matters and jury selection took up all of yesterday morning; openings and the prosecution’s case-in-chief, led by Special Counsel Durham, started in the afternoon.

Let’s dig in and start with the opening statements.

Special Counsel Prosecutor Michael Keilty opened with explanations of Danchenko’s lies to the FBI and discussed some FBI misconduct:

In fact, he went so far as to accuse the FBI of engaging in “troubling conduct” based on the Steele dossier and, as an extension, Danchenko’s misrepresentations:

Special Counsel Keilty also provided context as to why Danchenko was opened as a confidential human source:

How will the government prove part of its case against Danchenko? Keilty lays it out:

  1. Danchenko’s e-mails “The defendant’s very own words will show that there was never a call to say nothing of a meeting in New York which Millian supposedly skipped out on.”

  2. “The defendant’s own phone records will make it abundantly clear to you that he never received a call from somebody he claimed to believe was Sergei Millian.”

Being a false statement case, the Special Counsel must prove that the lies were material. The Special Counsel provides insight into how it will meet that burden:

  • “You will learn that lies can cause the FBI to wield their powers too aggressively, and you will also learn that lies can cause the FBI to not act aggressively enough. And you will see examples of both — both of those situations here in this trial.”

  • If Danchenko had been truthful, the FBI would have been under an obligation to correct its own misrepresentations to the FISA court.

Danchenko’s Opening

Opening statements also provided insight into Danchenko’s defenses. To summarize, they will argue Danchenko was being truthful and that his purported lies – if they were lies – were immaterial.

In doing so, they provided some new information on FBI malfeasance:

Steven Somma (who was “primarily responsible for some of the most significant errors and omissions in the FISA applications”) told Agent Auten “not to probe or ask a lot of follow-up questions with Mr. Danchenko” in order to get him to cooperate.

They also stated that Danchenko provided “critical intelligence to the Russian government’s efforts to conduct influence operations in the U.S. . . He provided the FBI [] insight into individuals, into areas it was otherwise lacking.” (We suspect this might have to do with Maria Butina.)

Direct Examination of FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten

Auten was the first witness to testify, and his direct examination was conducted by Special Counsel Durham. Here are the highlights.

Auten became aware of Crossfire Hurricane in early August 2016, after a conversation with section chief Jonathan Moffa. 144. Within days he was assigned to the Crossfire Hurricane, where he helped lead the analysts involved in that investigation. Here’s his description of how it worked:

“So the Crossfire Hurricane team was structured — it was an integrated combination of analysts and agents. It was structured whereby the — the authority structure was done both on the agent side and the analyst side, or one might say the operational side and the analytical side.

The analysts — the line analysts reported to me. I reported to, again, Jonathan Moffa was his name, who was a section chief at the time, and then Jonathan Moffa reported up to, at that point, it was Deputy Assistant Director Bill Priestap.

And on the agent side, it was my operational counterpart by the name of Joe Pientka. Joe reported up through Peter Strzok, who was DAD, and then up to Assistant Director Priestap.”

He explained that the investigation was run from FBI headquarters. Here’s is Auten’s description of the chain of reporting:

  1. Section Chief Moffa and Peter Strzok both reported to Deputy Assistant Director Bill Priestap.

  2. Priestap reported directly to Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

  3. McCabe reported to FBI Director James Comey.

Durham asks a pointed question about Comey:

Durham also asks about Crossfire Hurricane, his questions critical of the FBI’s opening of a “full investigation” based on “suggestions of some kind of suggestion” (the George Papadopoulos allegations):

Durham asked about the significance of opening full investigations, to which Auten responded: “There are investigative tools that are allowed at the full investigation that aren’t allowed at the preliminary investigation.”

Auten also discussed his involvement in the Carter Page investigation – and the Carter Page FISA applications.

  • He was “involved with providing information that went into the [FISA] application.”

  • He supervised the analysts in the Carter Page investigation and reviewed the application’s footnotes and did “a bit of ad hoc review of the application itself.”

  • His analysts helped to gather material and assisted “with providing language for the application.”

The Crossfire Hurricane team decided “fairly early on” – at the end of July 2016, if not soon after – that they would try to put together a FISA warrant on Carter Page. According to Auten, “There was talk about a FISA on Mr. Papadopoulos as well.”

Auten described September 19, 2016 as being a significant date for the Carter Page investigation because that is when the Crossfire Hurricane team received what was “collectively known as the Steele dossier.” Before that, the FBI had put together material on Carter Page but didn’t have enough to “secure” a FISA warrant. (Auten acknowledged that FBI Agent Mike Gaeta, located in Rome, was the first to get the Steele dossier.)

Auten was asked about the FBI’s efforts to corroborate the Steele allegations just before the first FISA application was submitted. He stated they looked through “FBI systems to determine whether or not we could verify, corroborate, confirm, or disconfirm the information in those reports.”

Durham then asked about corroboration:

Q:       And between September 19th of 2016 and October 21st, when the FBI submitted the FISA application, were you able to confirm or corroborate in any of the FBI system the very serious allegations that were contained in the dossier reports?

A:        No.

The FBI also made inquiries with other members of the intelligence community to find corroborative information. They came up empty.

Q:        And what can you tell the jurors about whether or not any of the intelligence agencies that the FBI contacted for corroborative information produced any corroborative information?

A:        We did receive information back from a number of different agencies.

Q:        Then, as to the information that you received back from the agencies, did they corroborate the specificity of specific allegations that were contained in the dossier reports?

A:        Not corroborating the specific allegations, no.

Auten was also present for the FBI’s interview of Steele in October 2016, just weeks before the first FISA application was submitted.’

Q:        When you and Mr. Varacalli, and Mr. Gaeta, and Mr. Guessford met with Christopher Steele in early October of 2016, did Christopher Steele provide any corroborative information for the information that was contained in his reports, in the dossier reports?

A:        Not for the allegations, no.

Then Durham asked about the FBI offer to pay Steele to corroborate his information – what we might call the “million dollar” question. Here is Auten’s testimony on that matter:

As to Steele’s sources, Auten admitted Steele didn’t provide the FBI with the names of any sources back in October 2016.

Q:        So you talked to Mr. Steele about sourcing. Do you recall whether or not Mr. Steele, in early October of 2016 provided you or your colleagues with the names of any of the sources?

A:        Sources, no.

Months later, in “late December of 2016”, the FBI finally learned that there was one primary source of Steele’s allegations. That person was Igor Danchenko. (Auten would go on to interview him in January 2017.)

Before getting to that January 2017 interview of Danchenko, Durham walked Auten through the first FISA application against Carter Page. He specifically asked about whether the information was corroborated. Auten conceded that it was not.

Durham also asked Auten about Sergei Millian, whose name had been discussed in the October 2016 Steele interview. Auten stated that Millian had previously been a confidential human source (CHS) for the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.

Q:        And what was that relationship?

A:        Mr. Millian, at one time, had been a source.

Q:        When you say “source,” that’s the same thing as confidential human source, correct?

A:        That is correct.

Q:        In common parlance, might be known as an informant?

A:        In common parlance, yes.

Q:        And do you remember for how long Mr. Millian had been a confidential human source for the FBI?

A:        I don’t recall that.

Q:        Do you recall or do you know in German what the nature of the assistance was that Millian provided?

A:        I know where he had provided the assistance. I don’t know exactly what type of assistance it had been.

Q:        Okay. So you know that he has helped as a CHS?

A:        Correct.

Q:        For a period of time?

A:        Correct.

Q:        And you said you knew where he was providing that information?

A:        Correct.

Q:        And where was that?

A:        I believe it was the Atlanta — the Atlanta field office.

Q:        Okay. Do you know, again, personal knowledge, do you know whether or not at some point in time Millian’s status as a CHS ended, he was closed?

A:        Yes.

Q:        And why was it closed, if you know?

A:        I believe it was closed because he moved out of the area of responsibility for the Atlanta field office.

Q:        Now, with respect to Mr. Millian, you heard about Millian from Steele, you knew he had a relationship with the bureau, correct?

A:        Correct.

As an aside, let’s briefly discuss the importance of Millian’s prior relationship with the FBI. Most significantly, it put the FBI on notice that Millian would be willing to corroborate any Steele/Danchenko allegations. The FBI never took advantage of that prior relationship. Again, here we have the FBI failing to follow-up on leads because it knew such steps would blow-up its investigation.

As an aside, let’s briefly discuss the importance of Millian’s prior relationship with the FBI. Most significantly, it put the FBI on notice that Millian would be willing to corroborate any Steele/Danchenko allegations. The FBI never took advantage of that prior relationship. Again, here we have the FBI failing to follow-up on leads because it knew such steps would blow-up its investigation.

Back to the transcript. Auten said the FBI opened an investigation on Millian after the October 2016 interview of Christopher Steele. He admitted the FBI found no evidence Millian had “assisted in the interference” of the 2016 presidential election.

Q:        Would you tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury whether or not — again, to your personal knowledge – whether or not the bureau opened some file on Mr. Millian?

A:        Yes.

Q:        And was that a matter investigated by the Bureau?

A:        Yes.

Q:        And to your personal knowledge, was it at some point closed?

A:        Yes.

Q:        Were any charges brought against Millian?

A:        No.

Q:        Was there any wrongdoing in terms of him assisting in the interference in some way with the 2016 presidential election?

A:        No.

However, the Millian allegations – which arose from Danchenko’s claims to Steele – were still included in original FISA application and all subsequent renewals:

From there, Durham spent a good deal of time asking about the specific allegations in the FISA applications. The purpose of this line of questioning is materiality of Danchenko’s lies: to lay the foundation the FISA applications relied on uncorroborated information from the Steele Dossier, and to later argue the FBI had the duty to correct this false information.

In fact, by the fourth FISA application (the Mueller application), the FBI was still trying to corroborate the allegations. And it still couldn’t.

Q:        Between October 21 of 2016 and when the FBI submitted its fourth FISA applications on a United States citizen, did the FBI continue to try to corroborate information?

A:        Yes, it did.

Q:        It was never able to — it didn’t corroborate. That information came from that dossier report, correct?

A:        Correct.

In fact, Auten and others from the FBI made additional trips overseas to try to talk to Steele and others to try to get corroborative information. Auten said he was not able to get such corroborative information through these efforts.

Auten also testified that he identified Igor Danchenko as Steele’s primary subsource in December 2016. He made the connection “Through a number of searches through databases, a number of making connections of existing material that we had.” Some of this relates to the prior counterintelligence investigation of Danchenko – something Durham can’t get into, yet.

What followed was Danchenko’s January 24-26 interviews in 2017. From the FBI side, Deputy Assistant Director Jennifer Boone was involved in helping set up the interview. So was Jonathan Moffa, Stephen Somma, and Auten. (Author note: also involved was the DOJ National Security Division’s David Laufman.)

Auten described the purpose of the Danchenko interviews, which were handled by himself and Stephen Somma:

“We were there to go through to determine, you know, who the sub-sources were in these reports and what he could tell us about the reports in general.”

After walking Auten through the immunity agreement provided to Danchenko, Durham admitted a LinkedIn message from Danchenko to an associate, where he took credit for much of the allegations in the Steele dossier:

“Yes, I collected some 80 percent of raw Intel and half the analysis for the Chris Steele dossier and went through debriefings with the FBI on the collusion matters, period.”

Then there was a discussion about the FBI’s plans to bring Danchenko into the fold as a confidential human source. According to Auten, this was the FBI’s plan prior to the January 2017 interviews.

Q:        Even prior to actually approaching Mr. Danchenko in January of 2017, that was the FBI’s plan, wasn’t it, to see if they could get him — bring him on as CHS?

A:        Yes, that was part of the thinking.

Q:        And you wanted to bring him on — the bureau wanted to bring him on for what purpose?

A:        To get as much information as we could to corroborate or understand the sourcing of this material.

Here’s how the process worked.

Q:        Okay. And tell the jurors what happened with respect to the handling of Mr. Danchenko as a confidential human source for the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

A:        Mr. Danchenko was subsequently a confidential human source out of the Washington Field Office. Mr. Somma had gone back to New York.

Q:        Tell the — he left — Somma left Washington, went back to New York, somebody else took over?

A:        Correct.

Q:        And that person who took over, do you recall who that person was?

A:        That was Special Agent Kevin Helson.

Q:        Okay. So Kevin Helson was assigned to the Washington field office, correct?

A:        Yes.

Q:        And did he have a particular expertise or area in which he worked?

A:        Yes.

Q:        And what was that?

A:        Russian counterintelligence.

Q:        Okay. So Helson comes on. He’s going to be the handler. When he did take over — he, Mr. Helson, did take over, was the Crossfire Hurricane personnel — were they cut out of this or what was the relationship between Crossfire Hurricane, you, Somma and company, and then Special Agent Helson?

A:        No, there was back-and-forth between Mr. Helson and Mr. Helson’s embedded analyst as well as the analyst on my team.

Q:        And, indeed, when this — this arrangement was initially set up, do you recall, sir, whether or not Helson was to pose questions for Mr. Danchenko on behalf of the Crossfire Hurricane people?

A: In some cases, yes.

The use of Danchenko as a CHS – with Agent Helson being the go-between by the Crossfire Hurricane team – overlapped into the Mueller investigation. (At that time, FBI Special Agent Amy Anderson was assisting with corroborating the Dossier information.) What a convenient arrangement. The Mueller Special Counsel could make use of Danchenko while he was protected on other matters.

Before the first day wrapped-up, Auten discussed the January 2017 interviews with Danchenko and Danchenko’s claim he spoke with Millian over the phone. Auten was curious about that phone call and about the information relayed in that phone call, calling it a “very strange part of the interview.” Specifically, Auten wondered how the information that came from the Steele dossier “had come out of the very short phone call like this.”

From there, the first day of trial saw a close. We’ll be providing daily updates with transcript excerpts. Thank you for the support – transcripts aren’t cheap.


Tyler Durden
Wed, 10/12/2022 – 18:45

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