Durham brings in alleged Danchenko source as witness on day three of trial
At one point during questioning, Dolan admitted to lying to Danchenko in an email in the summer of 2016 about a « GOP friend » he claimed to have met who he said he had provided information about the resignation of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Dolan told the jury that he « embellished » this claim to Danchenko and that he actually got the information about Manafort’s resignation from watching the cable news, not from a Republican friend.
« I was just thinking about sprucing it up a bit to make his contacts look good, » Dolan said.
Prosecutor Michael Kielty pointed to similarities in the information Dolan provided to Danchenko in that 2016 email with information that ended up in a later case report, dated just two days after the email was sent. email by Dolan. Dolan said he never provided any additional information to Danchenko and did not know at the time why Danchenko was asking him for information.
« I just thought he wanted to know what the atmosphere was around the resignation, » Dolan said.
Dolan also said he called Danchenko the day Buzzfeed published the filing, Jan. 10, 2017, to « see if he knew where it came from. » The witness said Danchenko said he was unsure of the origin of the file and that he would review it and get back to him, but never did.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Stuart Sears suggested that Dolan was being pressured by the special counsel to admit that the information in the file came from him – to which Dolan replied: « I suppose. »
« I agree they were very similar, » Dolan said of the information he gave Danchenko in 2016 and the subsequent dossier report.
Sears also established that the information Dolan gave Danchenko via email — that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “hated” Manafort — was “common knowledge” at the time. Dolan confirmed to the jury that he had no inside information and had no additional email or phone exchanges with Danchenko in which he provided scoops on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
« You never spoke with Mr. Danchenko about anything that appeared in the file, did you? » asked Sear.
« Correct, » Dolan replied.
The government also called a third witness on Thursday, FBI agent Kevin Helson, the second bureau employee to testify after analyst Brian Auten spoke in the first two days of the trial. Helson served as Danchenko’s handling agent from 2017 to 2020, when the accused served as a « confidential human source » for the FBI. He revealed that Danchenko was a paid FBI informant.
Durham led the prosecution’s interrogation of Helson, attempting to establish that Danchenko hid information and records from the FBI during their investigation of Hurricane Crossfire. Helson confirmed that Danchenko never provided corroborating information for the dossier to the FBI. After playing an audio recording of one of Helson’s interviews with Danchenko, Durham asked for a pause in the conversation when Danchenko was asked about his relationship with Dolan.
« To the best of my recollection, there was a bit of hesitation, like he was trying to remember, » Helson said.
Sears, in cross-examination, pointed to Danchenko’s cooperation with Helson and the FBI, particularly the fact that he was being interrogated voluntarily and could have refused to answer questions, but never did. Helson agreed with Sears that there was only one instance in their three-to-four-year relationship in which Danchenko acted « strangely or erratically, » and that was one instance where he asked for more. money for the information he provided. Danchenko later explained the behavior, attributing it to his wife and his lawyer at the time telling him he should receive more money, and he apologized.
Helson also confirmed that Danchenko was unaware at the time that a dossier was being created with the information he provided to Christopher Steele, the British spy who wrote the reports. Helson confirmed that Danchenko was unhappy that Steele had « embellished » the information he provided, particularly when he told Steele some of it was rumor or speculation.
“Mr. Steele was ready to burn everyone around him to make the case true,” Sears said.
« That’s right, » Helson replied.
Sears also specifically referred to the lie Danchenko is charged with on count 1, which tells the FBI that he did not « tell » Dolan about any information in the file when in fact the two had exchanged emails. Sears asked Helson if he had clarified to Danchenko during an interview what exactly he meant by « spoken », to which Helson replied that he had not. When asked if Danchenko’s answer was literally true, Helson replied, « Yes. »
Helson said he never believed Danchenko was lying to him and confirmed that he had indicated in reports that the defendant was a reliable source. Danchenko provided information on at least 25 active FBI investigations when he was a confidential human source, Helson said.
« It was a big problem for the FBI to have access to someone like Mr. Danchenko, wasn’t it? » Sears asked.
« Yeah, it was, » Helson replied.
Durham, straying from his Wednesday playbook, became confrontational with Helson during a redirect over what he implied were FBI missteps during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation . Durham grilled Helson for not following FBI Validation Unit recommendations when opening up Danchenko as a confidential human source, such as not performing a polygraph test on him or going back on his whereabouts since. the expiry of his visa.
Durham will continue with his redirection on Friday, when he is expected to conclude by presenting evidence in the case.