Durham moves to admit evidence in Danchenko trial that may discredit Trump Ritz-Carlton Moscow allegations

By | September 13, 2022

Special Counsel John Durham is seeking to admit evidence in the trial of Russian national Igor Danchenko that would discredit the “lurid” Ritz-Carlton Moscow allegations against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump contained in the salacious and unverified Steele dossier.

In a filing unsealed Tuesday, Durham moved to admit evidence regarding the FBI’s prior counterintelligence investigation of Danchenko and to exclude evidence concerning allegations of “political bias underpinning the indictment.”

Danchenko, who has been identified as the primary sub-source for the Steele dossier, is charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. The charges stem from statements Danchenko made relating to the sources he used in providing information to an investigative firm in the U.K.

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Durham alleges that Danchenko in June 2016 reported to ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele allegations regarding “Donald Trump’s purported sexual activity at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow.”

“The Steele report states that ‘Source D,’ who is described as a ‘close associate’ of Trump, who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow, had confirmed that Trump had engaged in lurid sexual activity at the hotel,” the filing states, adding that the Steele report also said the allegations “had been confirmed by ‘Source E,’ a senior (western) member of staff at the hotel.”

But, in a January 2017 interview with the FBI, Danchenko claimed he had sourced the information while staying at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow in mid-June 2016 during a planning trip for a future business conference.

Durham says Danchenko acknowledged that he had “visited, but not stayed at, the hotel during the 2016 trip.” 

“In his January 2017 interview with the FBI, the defendant also claimed that he inquired about the Ritz-Carlton allegations with hotel staff who did not deny their veracity,” Durham states. “The defendant [Danchenko] also informed the FBI that he reported the names of these hotel staff to Christopher Steele.”

Durham says that, during a May 2017 FBI interview, Danchenko “again confirmed that he had spoken with hotel management about the Ritz-Carlton allegations.”

“In that interview, the defendant also stated that ‘Source D,’ the purported source of the aforementioned sexual allegations, ‘could be referring to Sergei Millian,’” the filing states.

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Durham said his team has interviewed and expects to call at trial the “then-general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Moscow, Bemd Kuhlen, a German citizen who does not speak Russian (and whom the Steele Report describe as ‘Source E,’ a senior — western — member of staff at the hotel.)”

“Mr. Kuhlen does not recall ever meeting or speaking with [Danchenko] in June 2016 or at any time,” Durham states. “Mr. Kuhlen also has denied (1) having knowledge of the Ritz-Carlton Allegations at any time prior to their being reported in the media, (2) discussing such allegations with, or hearing them from, the defendant.

“Mr. Kuhlen also has confirmed to the Government and will testify at trial that he was the only ‘western’ member of management at the hotel in June 2016,” Durham added. “In short, the Government intends to prove at trial that the defendant falsely sought to attribute the Ritz-Carlton Allegations to Mr. Kuhlen, and, as referenced above, to Sergei Millian as part of his work on the Steele Reports that are described in the Indictment.”

Durham, in the filing, argued that the government “should be permitted to present evidence of the defendant’s false statement regarding his sourcing of the Ritz-Carlton Allegations as direct evidence of the charged crime.”

“The defendant’s statements regarding these allegations constitute direct evidence of the charged offenses because they reflect the defendant’s efforts to fabricate and misattribute information reflected in the Steele Reports and provide important factual context regarding the two individuals — Charles Dolan and Sergei Millian — who are the subjects of the defendant’s false statements to the FBI,” Durham said.

Danchenko’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 11.

Durham has indicted three people as part of his investigation: Michael Sussmann in September 2021, who was found not guilty in June, Danchenko in November 2021 and Kevin Clinesmith in August 2020. Clinesmith was also charged with making a false statement and pleaded guilty.

Sources have told Fox News that Durham’s investigation is ongoing.