A Virginia federal judge authorized special counsel John Durham to keep his list of witnesses against Igor Danchenko temporarily secret.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga for the Eastern District of Virginia approved a motion from Durham to seal the witness list.
“Given that this case has garnered significant media attention, the government is concerned about the potential harassment of its witnesses should they be identified this far in advance of trial,” said Michael Keilty, a prosecutor with Durham’s legal team.
Igor Danchenko, a Russian citizen residing in Virginia, was indicted November 4 and charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. The charges stem from statements Danchenko made concerning sources he used in providing information to a U.K. investigative firm that prepared the infamous “Steele Dossier.”
The Russian defendant has pleaded not guilty, asserting he told the truth when interviewed by the FBI.
The trial of Danchenko is scheduled to begin in Alexandria, Virginia, October 11, because courts are closed Monday in observance of Columbus Day.
Prosecutors expect to make public the list of witnesses it plans to call during the Russian’s trial Monday, according to Keilty.
One name that is definitely not on the witness list is Bernd Kuhlen, the German-born manager of the Moscow Ritz Carlton hotel in 2016. Prosecutors have asked Trenga to allow them to call Kuhlen to clarify Danchenko’s shifting statements regarding his claim that Trump asked prostitutes to urinate on him in a room of the hotel. Trenga, noting none of the charges special counsel Durham lodged against Danchenko relate to that false fact, denied Durham’s request.
The allegation about the alleged incident generated a whirl storm after the Steele Dossier reported it as fact, adding Russian intelligence had a tape of the act. U.S. government agencies expressed worry that the Russians would leverage the tape to blackmail Trump.
Two years later, former FBI James Comey said he thought it was possible the incident Danchenko related actually happened.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
Former President Donald Trump called the story “fake news” that was part of a political witch hunt against him.
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