ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Russian-born analyst who provided most of the information for a flawed dossier on former President Donald Trump told an FBI agent he was shocked and stunned that the speculative information he provided was being portrayed as fact , an officer testified on Thursday.
FBI Agent Kevin Helson is the second agency employee to testify at the trial of Igor Danchenko, who is accused of lying to the FBI about his own sources for the information he passed on to British spy Christopher Steele.
The “Steele dossier” contained numerous allegations of links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin, and also included allegations of lecherous sexual activity Trump allegedly committed in a Moscow hotel.
Prosecutors say Danchenko should have been more candid about his own sources and that if he had, the FBI would not have treated the file so gullibly. It turned out that the FBI was using the charges on file to obtain a guard order against a Trump campaign aide, Carter Page.
However, Helson gave mostly positive reviews of his interviews with Danchenko when he was questioned by Danchenko’s lawyers. In that regard, Helson’s testimony mirrored that of the first FBI witness, analyst Brian Auten, which contradicted the persecution theory? that Auten has fabricated interactions with one of his alleged sub-sources, Sergei Millian.
Helson served as Danchenko’s handler from 2017 to 2020, a period when Danchenko was a paid “confidential human resource” for the FBI.
Helson said Danchenko was candid from the start that the information he gave Steele was just rumors and speculation, and he was unable to confirm it.
He also said Steele appeared to tell the FBI in the months after the file was leaked and sparked a media frenzy that Danchenko’s sourcing was more solid than Danchenko ever claimed to be.
“Steele really tried to prove it (the file), even at that time, because he wanted it to be true. And that put Danchenko under pressure,” Helson said.
Danchenko is being prosecuted by special counsel John Durham, who was appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr to investigate any wrongdoing in the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and its alleged links to Russia. Danchenko is the third person to be prosecuted by Durham. It is Durham’s first case to delve deeply into the origins of the dossier, which Trump derided as fake news and a political witch hunt.
Durham’s other two cases resulted in an acquittal and a guilty plea with probation.
In the Danchenko trial, prosecutors say he lied when he told the FBI he got some of his information during an anonymous phone call from a man he believed to be Millian, a former head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.
Prosecutors say Danchenko never spoke to Millian and phone records show he never received an anonymous call at the time Danchenko claimed it happened.
They also say that Danchenko lied when he told the FBI that he had never “talked” to a man named Charles Dolan about the allegations on file.
Defense attorneys say Danchenko did receive a call, perhaps through an internet app, from someone he honestly believed to be Millian, and that he was honest when he said he had never “talked” to Dolan about the information on file because their relevant exchanges were via email.
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