Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

The Biden ‘bombshells’ all lead back to Trump – and Russia

It has become increasingly apparent that the sources of whatever ‘dirt’ Republicans claim to have on President Joe Biden and his family can all be traced back to one man. Andrew Feinberg reports

Wednesday 21 February 2024 19:15 GMT
Hunter Biden Informant Charges
Hunter Biden Informant Charges (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

It’s been over than a year since Republicans took over the House of Representatives and launched a series of investigations into President Joe Biden and his family.

And, over the course of that year, it has become increasingly apparent that the sources of whatever “dirt” Republicans claim to have can all be traced back to one man: former president Donald Trump.

The Republican-led impeachment inquiry into Mr Biden has been beset by pratfalls and embarrassments for the two committee chairmen most responsible for the investigation, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan.

Even as Mr Comer and Mr Jordan and their compatriots met on Wednesday for a transcribed interview with Mr Biden’s brother James Biden, their justification for the sprawling investigation has been steadily falling apart as it has been exposed as little more than an errand carried out on behalf of Mr Trump – and even foreign intelligence officials – looking to damage the president.

In his opening statement to the Republican-led committees, James Biden made clear that his brother “has never had any involvement or any direct or indirect financial interest” in any of the businesses he has worked at during his 50-year career.

The president’s brother also hit out at critics who claim his business career has benefitted from the elder Mr Biden’s political career, telling the House panel that those who’ve accused him of being a hanger-on have been “either mistaken, ill informed, or flat-out lying”.

James Biden’s testimony largely squares with what was said under oath by a former associate of Mr Biden’s son Hunter, an ex-US Navy officer called Tony Bobulinski.

For anyone who paid attention to Mr Trump’s shambolic efforts to smear Mr Biden during his 2020 bid, Mr Bobulinski’s name should be a familar one.

Just hours before Mr Trump and Mr Biden met for their final general election debate, reporters covering the debate were summoned by the president’s campaign to a hotel conference room.

There, they were introduced to Mr Bobulinski, who proceeded to show them several non-functional mobile phones and claim that Mr Biden had been a co-stockholder in a failed business venture his son had explored with a Chinese energy conglomerate.

But when Mr Bobulinski appeared before Mr Comer and Mr Jordan’s panels last week, he was unable to produce any evidence backing up his claims. He even tried to deny he had any links to Mr Trump’s campaign during a session which Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin slammed as “chaotic to the point of burlesque”.

Though Mr Bobulinski eventually admitted that he had indeed attended that 2020 debate as a guest of the former president, his appearance before the House panels presented yet another link between him and Mr Trump’s campaign — his lawyer.

The former naval officer was represented during his House interview by Stefan Passantino, a Republican elections lawyer and former Trump White House attorney who achieved a measure of notoriety when it was revealed that he’d pushed former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson to conceal testimony during the House’s investigation into the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

According to a transcript of one of Ms Hutchinson’s interviews with the House January 6 select committee, she told the panel — after she’d obtained new counsel — that Mr Passantino had advised her: “The less you remember, the better”.

And, according to an FBI memorandum of a 2020 interview of Mr Bobulinski by FBI agents, Mr Passantino represented the former naval officer even as he was working for the Trump campaign as an attorney.

And now, Mr Passantino is still on the Trump campaign payroll as the former president continues his efforts to return to the White House.

Federal Election Commission reports reviewed by The Independent show Mr Passantino’s firm, Elections LLC, receiving $92,500 during the last six months of 2023 from the Make America Great Again PAC, $90,000 from the MAGA Inc Super PAC, and another $150,000 from three other Trump-linked political committees during the same period of time.

Not only is the Republican party’s star witness against Mr Biden — a witness who couldn’t back up his claims — conclusively linked to Mr Trump, but the FBI informant who started the entire impeachment enterprise has been shown to be both a liar and a purveyor of foreign intelligence.

Last week, special prosecutor David Weiss obtained a grand jury indictment in the Central District of California against a former FBI source, Alexander Smirnov, on charges that he made false statements to federal investigators about Mr Biden and his son Hunter.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Smirnov made the false allegations to agents in June 2020, when he allegedly told them about two meetings with an executive from Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company which employed Hunter as an attorney and later as a member of its corporate board.

Mr Smirnov allegedly told agents that “executives associated with Burisma, including Burisma Official 1, admitted to him that they hired [Hunter Biden] to ‘protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems”.

He also allegedly told agents that the Burisma executives had made $5m payments to both Joe and Hunter Biden when the elder Mr Biden was vice president, so that Hunter would “take care of all those issues through his dad,” referring to a criminal probe involving Burisma being conducted in Ukraine.

Prosecutors further alleged that Mr Smirnov told agents about a phone call with the executive, in which he claimed he’d been “forced” to pay the alleged bribes and said it would take investigators a decade to find evidence of the payments.

Those allegations have been heavily leaned on by the Republican members of Congress conducting an impeachment investigation into the president

But it turns out that Mr Smirnov wasn’t acting only out of some partisan animus against the Bidens.

According to court documents, prosecutors believe Mr Smirnov has been “actively peddling new lies” he picked up from “officials associated with Russian intelligence” who he claimed had been “involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden.

Prosecutors also said Mr Smirnov “has reported numerous contacts” with a top Russian intelligence official they described as “the son of a former high-ranking Russian government official, someone who purportedly controls two groups of individuals tasked with carrying out assassination efforts in a third-party country, a Russian representative to another country, and as someone with ties to a particular Russian intelligence service”.

“The misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020. He is actively peddling new lies that could impact US elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November,” they said.

In 2016, Mr Trump allegedly benefited from Russia’s effort to interfere in the presidential election on his behalf.

Based on what we now know, it certainly appears he and his allies could be banking on a repeat performance to smear the Bidens.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in