The same law firm that represented members of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign will defend the man who was the main source for Christopher Steele’s bogus dossier on former President Donald Trump, despite warnings that it is a conflict of interest.
In a legal filing Monday, Igor Danchenko said he was aware of the potential conflict of interest but decided not to switch lawyers.
“I believe I have a full understanding of any actual or potential conflicts of interest that might arise during the course of my representation,” Mr. Danchenko wrote in a filing with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he is on trial for lying to the FBI. “With that knowledge and understanding, I voluntarily waive any actual or potential conflicts of interest and choose to continue with my current counsel of choice.”
Special counsel John Durham, who is investigating the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia collusion probe, late last month flagged the conflict of interest from having a Clinton-linked law firm involved in the case. Federal prosecutors had until Jan. 7 to file any objections to the continued representation of Mr. Danchenko’s team but did not raise any further concerns.
Mr. Danchenko, a Russian-born analyst, was charged last year with five counts of lying to the FBI. The Justice Department alleges that he made false statements to officials about how he compiled information for Mr. Steele’s dossier, which was used by the FBI as part of its application to surveil a former Trump campaign aide.
Mr. Danchenko is represented by defense lawyers Danny Onorato and Stuart Sears from the firm Schertler & Onorato.
SEE ALSO: Igor Danchenko, charged in Durham probe, pleads not guilty
Another attorney at the firm has deep ties with Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to Mr. Durham’s court filing. That could create a potential conflict of interest, Mr. Durham said, asking a federal judge to look into the matter.
“The interests of the Clinton campaign and the defendant might diverge,” Mr. Durham wrote in a filing. “For example, the Clinton campaign and the defendant each might have an incentive to shift blame and/or responsibility to the other party for any alleged false information that was contained with the [Steele dossier] and/or provided to the FBI.”
While Mr. Durham did not identify the attorney involved in the Clinton campaign, Justice Department lawyers named him at a December court hearing.
The attorney, Robert Trout, who is not involved in the Danchenko case, helped represent the Clinton campaign. He also represented former Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta during his December 2017 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
In a second appearance before the same committee in 2017, Mr. Podesta was represented by Marc Elias, who served as the Clinton campaign’s top attorney. Mr. Elias, while working for the Clinton campaign, hired Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that tapped Mr. Steele to compile the dossier.
A spokesperson for Schertler & Onorato did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Durham said it’s possible the conflict could be waived by the court but he wanted the matter addressed by the court.
Mr. Danchenko earlier this month replaced his former defense attorney, Mark Schamel. Mr. Schamel is also the lawyer for a computer scientist who was identified as “Researcher-1” in Mr. Durham’s indictment of Michael Sussmann, a lawyer with ties to the Democratic Party.
Mr. Sussmann was indicted in a separate case and stands accused of lying to the FBI’s general counsel in 2016. He allegedly told the FBI that he was not representing a specific client when he met to push now-debunked claims about ties between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
Mr. Sussmann pleaded not guilty.