Alexandria, Virginia — The alleged main source for Christopher Steele has obtained new lawyers and is seeking to delay his criminal trial as special counsel John Durham’s team raises possible conflict of interest concerns about the new defense firm.

Igor Danchenko, a United States-based and Russian-born researcher, was charged “with five counts of making false statements to the FBI.” Durham claimed he made these statements about the information he provided to British ex-spy Steele for the discredited dossier, which the FBI relied upon when seeking secret surveillance and conducting its flawed Trump-Russia investigation.

Danchenko, sitting between his two new lawyers, appeared for a status conference hearing at a federal courtroom in Alexandria on Wednesday morning.

Durham prosecutors Michael Keilty, Andrew DeFilippis, and Jonathan Algor were present in court, with U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia presiding.

The prosecution said it believed there was a “possible attorney conflict issue” but that it also thought it was likely “waivable.” The defense team said the issue raised by the prosecution was Robert Trout, who had helped represent Hillary for America, but that it didn’t believe it was a conflict of interest. The judge asked the prosecution to provide its position by the end of the week and asked the defense to have Danchenko sign a waiver about it.


Defense lawyers Stuart Sears and Danny Onorato took over as Danchenko’s attorneys earlier this month. Trout is of counsel at their firm.

When he was at another firm, Trout represented former Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta during his December 2017 appearance before the House Intelligence Committee. 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 then hired Steele, and who had met with the Briton during the 2016 election.

DOJ 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 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and it said Danchenko undermined Steele’s claims of a “well-developed conspiracy” between former President Donald Trump and Russia.

Danchenko’s previous defense attorney, Mark Schamel, was replaced this month. Schamel had previously claimed that Durham’s indictment “presents a false narrative designed to humiliate and slander a renowned expert in business intelligence for political gain.”

Schamel is also the lawyer for Georgia Institute of Technology computer scientist Manos Antonakakis, identifiable in Durham's indictment of Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann as "Researcher-1."

Sussmann is a defendant in a separate Durham case who has been accused of lying to the FBI’s top lawyer in September 2016 about who his client was as he pushed debunked claims about a secret back channel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.

Danchenko’s defense team also asked for the April trial date to be pushed back to at least September of 2022 due to the amount of discovery and the desire on the part of the defense to conduct its own investigation. The lawyers pointed out that the trial for Sussmann was set for May 16. The defense team wanted Danchenko's trial to happen months after that, and the judge said he would consider it.

The prosecution noted that the protective order for unclassified discovery had already been approved by the judge, and the proposed protective order for classified discovery, which was filed last night, was approved by the judge during court.


Both defense lawyers already have security clearances, and the prosecution said it is working on getting the defense paralegal a security clearance, too. The judge said the prosecution should provide a report by Dec. 24 detailing its plans for providing classified information and its estimated calendar for producing discovery to the defense team, and he set the next status conference for Jan. 12.

The defense also asked for permission for Danchenko, his wife, and their three children to go on a trip to an undisclosed place at an undisclosed time, as well as to travel freely around Virginia, which the prosecution did not object to and the judge approved contingent on pretrial services having no problem with it.