A Russian expat who was deeply involved in the Steele dossier pleaded not guilty Wednesday to lying to the FBI about who he worked with on the anti-Trump project in 2016.
Igor Danchenko was arraigned during a brief hearing in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. He was indicted last week by special counsel John Durham, who is investigating the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation.
According to the indictment and a 2019 Justice Department inspector general report, Danchenko was the primary collector of information for retired British spy Christopher Steele, who wrote the 35-page dossier that contained explosive and unverified claims about Trump.
Danchenko spoke in a Russian accent during the hearing, saying he was “not guilty, your honor.”
District Judge Anthony Trenga set a trial date for April 2022.
Prosecutors from Durham’s team told Trenga that there would be “a vast amount of classified information” involved in the trial, and that the Justice Department was working to get security clearances for Danchenko’s lawyers so they could examine the material.
After the hearing, Danchenko ignored questions from CNN about whether he stood by his work with Steele. His lawyer declined to comment.
Prosecutors say Danchenko falsely denied to the FBI that he worked on the project with a former Democratic operative. They say Danchenko also falsely told the FBI multiple times that he worked with a Russian businessman on the project.
The opposition research was paid for with funds from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Durham has used his indictments against Danchenko and a Clinton campaign lawyer to reveal how Democratic operatives were more involved than previously known in Steele’s work and in efforts to have the FBI investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.
The FBI was already investigating by the time Steele and others provided their research to the bureau. That probe was later taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller, who uncovered dozens of secret contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials.
But regarding the most explosive claim from the dossier – that Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians – Mueller said there wasn’t enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy.