The main source for the discredited anti-Trump dossier signed a waiver agreeing to be defended by the same law firm representing members of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign despite concerns regarding conflicts of interest raised by special counsel John Durham.
Durham told a federal court earlier this month that he is scrutinizing members of Clinton’s 2016 campaign as part of his criminal inquiry into the Trump-Russia investigation. His team asked a judge to “inquire into a potential conflict of interest” related to the lawyers for Igor Danchenko, noting that a colleague at their firm is representing the campaign and several of its employees “in matters before the Special Counsel.”
Danchenko, a U.S.-based and Russian-born researcher, was charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. Durham’s indictment said Danchenko made these statements about the information he provided to British ex-spy Christopher Steele for his dossier, which the FBI relied upon when pursuing authority for the flawed secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide.
“Mr. Danchenko has consulted with his own counsel as well as with separate and independent counsel, Nina J. Ginsberg,” Danchenko attorney Stuart Sears told the court in a filing on Christmas Eve. “Following those consultations, and in light of the fact that his counsel’s law firm has agreed to wall off any attorneys or support staff who have previously worked on the representation of the Clinton campaign, Mr. Danchenko has knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived any potential conflicts of interest.”
Kash Patel, former chief of staff for acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and a former top investigator for Republican Rep. Devin Nunes who helped with the Nunes FISA memo, has been sounding the alarm about Danchenko's legal representation and its connection to the Clinton campaign.
“Now the Clinton camp is nested in the Danchenko case, and the firm has access to all Durham discovery, including all information related to investigation of Clinton campaign conduct,” Patel told the Washington Examiner.
Danchenko’s new lawyers took over in December and 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 has represented Clinton campaign members, but they argued there is no conflict of interest.
Durham’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.”
But the waiver from Danchenko stated: “I voluntarily waive any actual or potential conflicts of interest, and choose to continue with my current counsel of choice.”
The special counsel’s team previously contended that “the Clinton Campaign and the defendant each might have an incentive to shift blame and/or responsibility to the other party for any allegedly false information that was contained within the Company Reports and/or provided to the FBI.”
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.
Nevertheless, the Durham team agreed Danchenko had the right to waive such concerns. Andrew McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a former federal prosecutor, said that agreement indicates the Clinton operatives won't face prosecution.
“This concession that the conflict is waivable is the ballgame,” McCarthy said. “This makes me feel even more comfortable in my prediction that Durham is not going to indict any Clinton campaign people — his intention almost certainly is to write a narrative report that [only] rebukes the Clinton campaign.
“With that in mind, [Durham] probably did not want to be in a position of objecting to Danchenko’s choice of counsel based on a conflict involving people he is not going to charge with a crime,” he added.
The judge has given the prosecution until Jan. 7 to “file any objections to the continued representation” of Danchenko's defense team.
Trout represented former Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta during his December 2017 appearance before the House Intelligence Committee, when Trout was at another firm. When Podesta appeared before the same committee in June that year, he had been represented by Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias, who had hired the opposition firm Fusion GPS, which contracted Steele.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in December 2019 that Steele's dossier played a “central and essential” role in the FBI's effort to obtain wiretap orders against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The DOJ watchdog determined the FBI’s investigation was filled with serious missteps and errors and concealed potentially exculpatory information from the FISA Court. The inspector general also said Danchenko undermined Steele’s unfounded claims of a “well-developed conspiracy” between former President Donald Trump and Russia.
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