Judge narrows trial of analyst who reported salacious claims about Trump

By | October 9, 2022

The New York Times reports:

John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel, set off political reverberations last year when he unveiled a lengthy indictment of an analyst he accused of lying to the F.B.I. about sources for the so-called Steele dossier, a discredited compendium of political opposition research about purported ties between Donald J. Trump and Russia.

But the trial of the analyst, Igor Danchenko, which opens on Tuesday with jury selection in federal court in Alexandria, Va., now appears likely to be shorter and less politically salient than the sprawling narrative in Mr. Durham’s indictment had suggested the proceeding would be.

In an 18-page order last week, the judge overseeing the case, Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia, excluded from the trial large amounts of information that Mr. Durham had wanted to showcase — including material that undercuts the credibility of the dossier’s notorious rumor that Russia had a blackmail tape of Mr. Trump with prostitutes.

Certain facts Mr. Durham dug up related to that rumor “do not qualify as direct evidence as they are not ‘inextricably intertwined’ or ‘necessary to provide context’ to the relevant charge,” Judge Trenga wrote, adding that they “were substantially outweighed by the danger of confusion and unfair prejudice.”

In that and other disputes over evidence, Judge Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee, almost always sided with Mr. Danchenko’s defense lawyers. Mr. Durham, they said, had tried to inject irrelevant issues into the trial in “an unnecessary and impermissible attempt to make this case about more than it is.”

Judge Trenga’s ruling has pared down the larger significance of the trial, which is likely to be Mr. Durham’s final courtroom act before he retires as a longtime prosecutor. The grand jury that Mr. Durham has used to hear evidence has expired, suggesting he will bring no further indictments. [Continue reading…]

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