A jury on Tuesday acquitted a think tank analyst accused of lying to the FBI about his role in compiling a discredited dossier on Donald Trump.
The case against Igor Danchenko was the third and possibly last case brought forward by Special Counsel John Durham as part of his probe into how the FBI conducted its own investigation into allegations of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
The first two trials ended in an acquittal and a guilty plea with a suspended sentence.
Danchenko showed no emotion when the verdict was read. His wife wiped away tears after the clerk read out the final “not guilty” on the four counts he was facing.
The jury made its decision after around nine hours of deliberation over two days.
The acquittal marked a significant setback for Durham. Despite hopes among Trump supporters that the prosecutor would uncover a broad conspiracy within the FBI and other agencies to derail his candidacy, the three-year investigation turned up no evidence to live up to those expectations.
The Danchenko case was the first of three to delve deeply into the origins of the “Steele dossier,” a compendium of allegations that Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with the Kremlin.
The most well-known is the claim that the Russians may have blackmail material on Trump for his alleged interactions with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel. Trump derided the dossier as fake news and a political witch hunt when it became public in 2017.
Danchenko, by his own admission, was responsible for 80% of the raw information in the dossier and half of the accompanying analysis, although testimonies to the trial indicated that Danchenko was shocked and dismayed at the way Steele presented the material and portrayed it as factual when Danchenko thought about it It’s more of a rumor and speculation.
Prosecutors said that if Danchenko had been more honest about his sources, the FBI might not have treated the dossier so gullibly. As it turned out, the FBI used material from the dossier to support requests for groundless surveillance of a Trump campaign official, Carter Page, although the FBI was never able to confirm a single allegation in the dossier.
Prosecutors said Danchenko lied about the identity of his own sources for the material he gave Steele.
The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon after hearing closing arguments on four charges. On Friday, US District Judge Anthony Trenga dismissed a fifth count of charges, saying prosecutors could not prove it due to legal issues.
Trenga dropped almost all charges before the trial began, citing the legal strength of Danchenko’s defense but allowing the case to proceed in what he called an “extremely close decision”.