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By John Helmer, Moscow

There are two kinds of lies about Russia.

Not white or black; neither the Big Lie nor the small one. Those are differences between what’s true and what’s false.

In our war-fighting world the real difference between lies is whom you tell your Russia lie to. This is according to the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the indictments they have composed against Michael Sussmann (lead image, left) and Igor Danchenko (centre).  

Their lies were told in aid of, and in hope of reward from Hillary Clinton. Among the rewards which one Russian, their Russian sub-source number 1,  told them in exchange for his lies were Clinton’s autograph and a promise “to take me off to the State Department [to handle] issues of the former USSR and then we’ll see who is looking good and who is not.”

Five years after their lies started, it is now the official position of the US Government that these conmen invented the story of Donald Trump’s Golden Showers on the bed in the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow.  In the interval, the gullibility of the government and lawlessness of the liars they engaged have demonstrated for all to see who is looking good now and who is not.

Alternatively, the five-year interval and the indictments of Sussmann and Danchenko demonstrate nothing of the sort. This is because much bigger lies about Russia remain the official policy of the US Government. They are on trial in the High Court of London where the liars are Catherine Belton (right) and Rupert Murdoch’s publishing outlet, HarperCollins.  

The Justice Department’s indictment of Danchenko was released at his court hearing on November 3. In simple English, the indictment makes clearer reading than the reporters who make their trade feigning indignation at the reporting of their rivals in the media business. More about them in a moment; start by reading the indictment signed by Justice’s special counsel John Durham here.   

Right: The  Justice Department special counsel John Durham; for background on his career, click to read.

The indictment identifies Danchenko as the author of a great many lies which have been labelled as such. Danchenko was the author, for example, of the Golden Showers story. According to the FBI, the first lie was the one he told agents that he had stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in June of 2016; the truth now revealed is that he stayed there four months later. The story of the Golden Showers had come, Danchenko told the agents, from the general manager of the hotel and other hotel staff. The FBI now confirms that “according to Organizer-1 and PR Executive-1, the staff member did not mention any sexual or salacious activity”.

The indictment goes further than unsourcing the Golden Showers allegation. “Over time,” Justice now says, “the FBI attempted to investigate, vet, and analyse the Company Reports but ultimately was not able to confirm or corroborate most of their substantive allegations.” By “Company reports”, the indictment explains: “Beginning in or about July 2016 and continuing through December 2016, the FBI began receiving a series of reports from a former British government employee (‘U.K. Person-1’) that contained derogatory information on then-candidate Donald J. Trump (‘Trump’) concerning Trump’s purported ties to Russia (the ‘Company Reports’).”

Organizer-1 has not been identified yet. PR Executive-1 is Charles Dolan, vice president of the Ketchum public relations firm (right).  Dolan was one of several intermediaries between Clinton, her campaign staff and the Democratic National Committee; inventors of the Russia lies like Danchenko; the British composer of reports retelling the lies with an MI6 imprimatur, Christopher Steele, U.K.Person-1 who paid Danchenko for his material;  other US Government officials; and the American and British reporters who published the stories they were given.  

Dolan is named 138 times in the indictment; Steele 57 times, his company 93 times. By real name, Trump appears 57 times; Hillary Clinton 17 times; President Vladimir Putin just 5 times. After Danchenko on 256, Russia leads all other allegation terms with a score of 194.   

The new indictment reports several of Danchenko’s fabrications about Russian Embassy officials in Washington; the chief of the Kremlin staff in Moscow; and Russian plotting of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton operations.  But take note – those lies aren’t crimes according to the Justice Department. Nor is the Big Lie which the little ones were assembled to substantiate for publication – that Trump had secret and corrupt links to the Russian leadership, and that from Putin’s office in the Kremlin the Russians actively planned to exploit those links and intervene to help Trump win the presidential election of 2016.

That conspiracy of lies was itemized as an Anglo-American invention and documented as war-fighting propaganda in this report dated January 17, 2017.

Last week’s indictment allows those lies of five years ago to remain unchallenged, especially the Big Lie. Danchenko’s alleged crimes are these five little lies:

Legally speaking, each of these counts is identified as a violation of Title 18 of the US Code, Sections 1001 (a)(2). The wording of this law begins: “whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and wilfully — (1 ) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact.” The full provision can be read here.  

Although this is a felony with five years in jail on conviction, the  practice of the US courts makes the sentence likely to be no more than six months in prison.  The case law is voluminous on the defences available to the accused and on the burden of proof which the prosecution must meet. “In general, ‘knowingly’ requires the government to prove that a criminal defendant had knowledge of the facts that constitute the offense.  Wilfully usually requires the government to prove that the defendant acted not merely voluntarily, but with a bad purpose, that is, with knowledge that his conduct was, in some general sense, unlawful” — read this primer.   

Only one of the five counts refers to the operation Dolan was running between the Clinton campaign,  Steele’s lie machine, Danchenko, the Brookings Institution (“Think tank-1”), Fiona Hill (“Think tank employee-1”) and the media identified in the indictment – Washington Post and The Times of London.  Hill, who set the ball rolling between Danchenko, Steele, the Brookings president Strobe Talbott, and the campaign against Trump, has been identified two days after the indictment appeared.    

Hill “kept secret her role introducing Steele and Danchenko all throughout her tenure in the Trump administration, as well as during congressional testimony she gave as part of the Trump impeachment hearings in November 2019”.  This report published last January by Chuck Ross noted that Hill and Steele are “close friends”. Hill and Danchenko were close collaborators for several years before they worked together on the presidential campaign, reporter Toni Williams revealed last week.   

Nothing in the Danchenko indictment exposes Hill, Talbott,  and their Brookings colleagues to the risk of being judged criminal liars on Russia.

Four of the new criminal counts refer to Sergei Millian (right), whom the indictment calls as “Chamber President-1” because he was at one time the head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce. Millian appears in the indictment 75 times. According to the indictment, Danchenko’s crime is saying he had talked to Millian by telephone in July 2016 when there had been no call at all. Danchenko committed four crimes by repeating the same lie to the FBI agents on March 16, 2017, May 18, 2017, October 24, 2017, and November 16, 2017.

The indictment does not exonerate or vindicate Millian on the allegations reported by others. Follow Belton’s repetition of these lies, sourced originally to Steele and appearing in the Financial Times and then in Belton’s book, Putin’s People. Belton reported in print that Millian had refused to speak with her. Had Danchenko said that, he wouldn’t facing trial for what he did say.

Where then does the little lie end and the Big Lie begin?  For the time being, the FBI refuses to say whether it has interviewed Belton on these and related allegations; what she told the agents if they met; and whether Belton’s reporting about Millian, Trump, and Russian engagement in the US election was knowingly and wilfully part of the same invention. For the time being, Belton has neither corrected nor retracted any of her published allegations involving Millian. She refuses to say what contact she has had with the FBI since 2016.

Aaron Maté is a US-based investigative reporter who claims to be the first, and on some points  the only investigative reporter to have uncovered the identities and fabrications published in the November 3 indictment. “As I have argued for years,” he wrote last week, “this should have been obvious to anyone reading the dossier chronologically.”  It was obvious indeed, but not to Maté first of all.  

Aaron Maté and Jimmy Dore present the Danchenko indictment as show business.    

In trading for himself on the Danchenko indictment, Maté fails to detect that it stops so far short of an indictment of the Big Lie, or of its supporters still unindicted inside the Steele circle, it is likely to fail when Danchenko presents his defence in court. This is the case that negligent and forgetful though he may have been, there was no criminal intent – no knowing and wilful falsification set down in the statute — to deceive the FBI on Target Russia; and that the circumstantial evidence presented in the indictment is insufficient to convict.

Telling the FBI he had spoken to Millian by telephone when he hadn’t is the criminal lie the US government is now prosecuting. That Danchenko didn’t intend to deceive will be his defence. That Danchenko and all the others, including the prosecutors, intend to trick, scheme, devise, falsify, conceal and cover up lies about Russia is not a crime. It’s state policy. It’s Danchenko’s patriotic duty, he will declare in court and to the press. The press will believe him.

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