Indictment of FBI Informant Undermines Centerpiece of GOP’s Impeachment Case

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In directing the House to open a formal impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy cited, among other things, an unverified report from a “trusted FBI informant” who alleged that a Ukrainian company gave “a bribe to the Biden family.”

But that informant has now been indicted for lying to the FBI about the bribe.

Alexander Smirnov, who was arrested Feb. 14 at the Las Vegas airport, was indicted for providing “false derogatory information to the FBI” about Biden and his son Hunter in 2020 after Biden became a presidential candidate, according to a Department of Justice press release. His bribery story unraveled after the FBI last year interviewed Smirnov and reviewed his travel records, messages and emails, which “were in direct conflict with what he reported [to the FBI] in 2020,” the indictment said.

Smirnov, who has been an FBI “confidential human source” since 2010, made his false claims about the president and his son, “despite repeated admonishments that he must provide truthful information to the FBI and that he must not fabricate evidence,” the indictment said.

Republicans and the ‘Alleged Criminal Scheme’

We have written several articles about the unverified FBI report, which was first revealed when Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. James Comer sent a letter on May 3 to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

In their letter, Grassley and Comer said they learned from a whistleblower that “the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) possess an unclassified FD-1023 form that describes an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.” Comer issued a subpoena seeking the FD-1023.

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky speaks with reporters outside the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 18. Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images.

An FD-1023 form is used by FBI agents “to record raw, unverified reporting from confidential human sources (CHSs),” the FBI explained in a message to colleagues in response to the subpoena. “FD-1023s merely document that information; they do not reflect the conclusions of investigators based on a fuller context or understanding. Recording this information does not validate it, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information known or developed by the FBI in our investigations.”

In July, Grassley and Comer, chairman of the House oversight committee, obtained and released the unverified FBI report, which alleged that Joe and Hunter Biden each received a $5 million bribe from Burisma, a Ukrainian oil and gas company, when Joe Biden was vice president. Hunter Biden served on the company’s board of directors from 2014 to 2019.

Smirnov, who was not identified in the FBI document, told the FBI in 2020 about a meeting in Vienna that he claimed to have with Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky in December 2015 and subsequent phone calls with the Burisma owner in 2016 and 2017. Zlochevsky allegedly told Smirnov that he was forced to pay the bribes to make sure that the Ukrainian prosecutor general at the time, Viktor Shokin, would be fired.

As we have written, then-President Donald Trump and other Republicans made the unsubstantiated claim during the 2020 election that Biden, as vice president, sought to fire Shokin to protect Burisma from prosecution. In fact, the evidence shows that the United States and its allies sought Shokin’s removal because they believed Ukraine wasn’t doing enough to clean up government corruption.

Regardless of the FBI’s warnings about the “raw, unverified reporting” in the FD-1023, Republicans claimed to have a smoking gun.

“Joe Biden is a criminal and is compromised!” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said, tweeting images of the unvetted FBI report on the day it was released. “IMPEACH BIDEN!!!”

On Fox News, Larry Kudlow, a former Trump aide, interviewed Sen. Ted Cruz about the release of the FBI report. “Every day, the evidence keeps mounting and the evidence that is coming in is number one, of a widespread bribery scheme of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and the entire Biden family, to extract bribes from foreign nationals,” Cruz said.

Later in July, after Hunter Biden’s business partner, Devon Archer, testified before the House oversight committee, Comer told Fox News: “Every day, this bribery scandal becomes more credible.” As we wrote when the transcript of the Archer testimony was released, Comer made the “bribery scandal” comment even though Archer testified that he was unaware of a bribe and skeptical that it happened.

When McCarthy directed the House to launch a formal impeachment inquiry, the conservative Newsmax website called the bribery allegation “the heart” of the impeachment attempt because “bribery is one of the few crimes spelled out as an impeachable offense in the Constitution.” Newsmax quoted Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, as saying: “The impeachable offense is — I think, the key thing is in Burisma.”

Contrary to the claims of Comer and other Republicans, the FBI now has evidence that Smirnov’s tale about the bribes was fabricated.

What’s in the Indictment

In the indictment, the FBI said that Smirnov first mentioned Burisma in an FD-1023 form in 2017. At that time, Smirnov recounted a March 2017 phone call with Zlochevsky “concerning Burisma’s interest in acquiring a U.S. company.” At the time, Joe Biden was no longer in office.

Smirnov mentioned that Hunter Biden was on the Burisma board, but there was no mention of bribes. The FBI report at the time described the mention of Hunter Biden as a “brief, non-relevant discussion.”

“Notably, the Defendant did not report in 2017 that in the preceding two years, Burisma Official 1 [Zlochevsky] admitted to the Defendant that he had paid Public Official 1 [Joe Biden] $5 million when Public Official 1 was still in office, as the Defendant later claimed,” the indictment said.

U.S. v. Smirnov: Three years later, in June 2020, the Defendant reported, for the first time, two meetings in 2015 and/or 2016, during the Obama-Biden Administration, in which he claimed executives associated with Burisma, including Burisma Official 1 [Zlochevsky], admitted to him that they hired Businessperson 1 [Hunter Biden] to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,” and later that they had specifically paid $5 million each to Public Official 1 [Joe Biden] and Businessperson 1, when Public Official 1 was still in office, so that “[Businessperson 1] will take care of all those issues through his dad,” referring to a criminal investigation being conducted by the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General into Burisma and to “deal with [the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General].”

In the June 2020 FD-1023 form, which is the one that Grassley and Comer released, Smirnov also recounts two phone calls with Zlochevsky in which the Burisma owner mentions the bribes.

The indictment called these meetings and phone calls “fabrications.” In fact, the indictment said, Smirnov did not meet or talk with any Burisma officials prior to 2017, contrary to what he told FBI agents in 2020, and he did not travel to Vienna in December 2015, when he supposedly met Zlochevzky.

“In short,” the indictment said, Smirnov “transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against … the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties for President, after expressing bias against Public Official 1 and his candidacy.”

The indictment included screen grabs of messages between Smirnov and his FBI handler that indicate Smirnov’s alleged bias against Biden.

For example, Smirnov messaged the FBI agent on May 19, 2020, and said, “It’s all over the news in Russia and Ukraine as well as live calls between [Biden] and [then-Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko]. Smells bad for Biden.” Minutes later, he followed up with messages that said: “[Biden] going to jail ))))” and “Dems tried to impeach [Trump] for same. Even Less.”

Smirnov was referring to a recording of a phone call between Biden and Poroshenko that was edited and released by Andrii Derkach, who was later described as an “active Russian agent” when the Treasury Department under Trump sanctioned Derkach for interfering in the 2020 presidential election.

“From at least late 2019 through mid-2020, Derkach waged a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, spurring corruption investigations in both Ukraine and the United States designed to culminate prior to election day,” the Sept. 10, 2020, Treasury press release said.

Origins of Smirnov’s Bribery Allegation

Smirnov’s bribery allegation surfaced as part of a larger review into Biden and Ukraine that was ordered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in early 2020, when Trump was still in office, the indictment said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., directed its Pittsburgh office to assess unsubstantiated allegations made by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, about Biden and Ukraine.

“As part of that process, FBI Pittsburgh opened an assessment, 58A-PG-3250958, and in the course of that assessment identified the 2017 1023 in FBI holdings and shared it with USAO WDPA,” the indictment said, referring to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh.

As part of the review, the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office in June 2020 asked Smirnov’s handler to get more information regarding Smirnov’s mention in 2017 of a “brief, non-relevant discussion” about Hunter Biden, as it was described in the 2017 FBI form.

That same day, Smirnov told his FBI handler about the bribery allegations — which were memorialized in an FD-1023 on June 30, 2020, that Grassley and Comer would later release three years later.

But the FBI could not corroborate Smirnov’s allegations at that time.

U.S. v. Smirnov: After the Defendant made these reports, the FBI asked him for travel records, which he provided, in an attempt to determine whether the information he provided was accurate.

By August 2020, FBI Pittsburgh concluded that all reasonable steps had been completed regarding the Defendant’s allegations and that their assessment, 58A-PG-3250958, should be closed. On August 12, 2020, FBI Pittsburgh was informed that the then-FBI Deputy Director and then-Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States concurred that it should be closed.

That might have been the end of the matter if not for congressional Republicans who released the 2020 FD-1023 and accused the Biden Justice Department of bias and failing to investigate the allegations of bribery.

“I’ve repeatedly asked since going public with the existence of the 1023, what, if anything, has the Justice Department and FBI done to investigate?” Grassley, the Iowa Republican, asked in a June statement.

That month, the Justice Department convened a grand jury. A month later, it asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, which was already investigating Hunter Biden on gun and tax charges, to assist the FBI in its investigation.

On Aug. 11, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, as special counsel of the Hunter Biden investigation.

In September, FBI agents interviewed Smirnov about the bribery allegations contained in the FD-1023 from 2020, and soon after, Smirnov’s tale of bribery unraveled and charges were brought.


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