Durham wants to use FBI instant messages from analyst embroiled in Hunter Biden saga

John Durham wants to use internal instant messages from an FBI analyst embroiled in the Hunter Biden saga in his trial against Christopher Steele’s main dossier source, Igor Danchenko.

Danchenko, a Russian-born, U.S.-based lawyer, was charged by Durham last year with five counts tied to alleged lies he told the bureau about the Trump dossier, and he has pleaded not guilty.

His lawyers revealed Thursday some of what Durham plans to use in the October trial, including Microsoft Lync chats from a bureau analyst who interviewed the Russian national in 2017 and went on to get mixed up in the investigation into President Joe Biden’s son.

FBI supervisory intelligence analyst Brian Auten, whom whistleblowers say opened an August 2020 assessment used by the FBI to wrongly label accurate information about Hunter Biden as false, was among those who interviewed Danchenko in January 2017, and the Department of Justice's watchdog criticized him for a February 2017 intelligence memo to senior FBI officials that "failed to advise them of the inconsistencies between Steele and his Primary Sub-source."

After Danchenko first lied to the FBI in January 2017 when talking with Auten, the FBI made him a paid confidential informant just two months later, lasting through October 2020. Auten was deeply involved in the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into unfounded claims of Trump-Russia collusion, and he also played a role in the bureau’s efforts to obtain flawed surveillance against Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

Auten circulated a February 2017 intelligence memo to FBI officials about the Danchenko interview, but DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said it “did not describe the inconsistencies” from the FBI discussion. The memo was sent to then-Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in March 2017.

The FBI analyst told Horowitz he did not have any "pains or heartburn" about the accuracy of Steele’s claims based on what Danchenko had said. Auten told Horowitz “he believed that there were instances” in which Danchenko was "minimizing" certain facts but did not believe he was "completely fabricating" events.

Auten had been referred by FBI Director Christopher Wray to the Office of Professional Responsibility for possible disciplinary action following the release of Horowitz's 2019 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse report, though Wray said those proceedings were slowed down to cooperate with Durham’s investigation. The referral came shortly before Auten’s assessment tied to Hunter Biden the next year.

The bureau analyst "opened an assessment which was used by an FBI headquarters team to improperly discredit negative Hunter Biden information as disinformation and caused investigative activity to cease," according to disclosures made public by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).