FBI ‘source’ who made bribery allegations against Biden charged with false statements

The false allegations have formed the backbone of a Republican impeachment probe into President Biden

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 15 February 2024 23:55 GMT
Hunter Biden walks out of Congress hearing over contempt claim

The FBI source who claimed to have information regarding alleged bribes paid to President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, has been charged with fabricating the allegations during interviews with federal agents.

David Weiss, the special prosecutor and Trump appointee who is overseeing two federal cases against Hunter Biden, obtained a grand jury indictment in the Central District of California against Alexander Smirnov on charges that he made false statements to federal investigators during his time as a confidential human source for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the indictment, Mr Smirnov allegedly “provided false derogatory information” to agents about President Biden, who is described in the court documents as “Public Official 1, an elected official in the Obama-Biden Administration who left office in January 2017,” and Hunter Biden, who prosecutors describe as “Businessperson 1, the son of Public Official 1, in 2020, after Public Official 1 became a candidate for President of the United States of America”.

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 Biden 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 Hunter Biden would “take care of all those issues through his dad,” referring to a criminal probe involving Burisma being conducted in Ukraine.

Prosecutors further allege that Mr Smirnov told agents about a phone call with the executive, in which the executive 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, which were documented in an FBI form used to record witness interviews, have figured prominently in claims made by Republican members of Congress who have been conducting an impeachment investigation into President Biden, most notably House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan.

Attorney Kevin Morris, left, sits next to Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, centre, and Mr Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell, right, sit in the front row at a House Oversight Committee hearing as Republicans are taking the first step toward holding him in contempt of Congress on 10 January 2024 on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP)

Yet prosecutors said in the indictment that the allegations against both Bidens — allegations touted by both Mr Comer and Mr Jordan — “were fabrications” on the part of Mr Smirnov.

Mr Smirnov, they wrote, had only had contact with Burisma executives in 2017, when Joe Biden “had no ability to influence U.S. policy”.

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

“Defendant’s story to the FBI was a fabrication, an amalgam of otherwise unremarkable business meetings and contacts that had actually occurred but at a later date than he claimed and for the purpose of pitching Burisma on the Defendant’s services and products, not for discussing bribes to Public Official 1 when he was in office,” they added.

The charges against Mr Smirnov mark a low point for the year-long investigation run by Mr Comer and Mr Jordan, which has produced no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of President Biden.

The two Republican committee chairs have maintained that their investigation, which has largely focused on Hunter Biden, is focused on the 46th president, who they have accused — without evidence thus far — of benefiting from his son’s overseas business ventures.

Democrat Jamie Raskin, the ranking member on the House oversight and accountability committee, said it was time to wrap up the impeachment inquiry. In a statement he said: "In a detailed indictment, Special Counsel David Weiss – who was appointed by former President Donald Trump – has demonstrated how key evidence at the heart of House Republicans' impeachment inquiry is based on a lie.

"Special Counsel Weiss's investigation is just the most recent to debunk the Ukraine-Burisma conspiracy theory at the heart of this fraudulent impeachment inquiry.

"It is an undeniable fact that Republicans' allegations against President Biden have always been a tissue of lies built on conspiracy theories, and I formally call on Speaker Johnson, Chairman Comer, and House Republicans to stop promoting this nonsense and end their doomed impeachment inquiry."

Hunter Biden, who has admitted to a long history of alcohol and drug abuse, is currently facing two sets of federal charges for tax evasion and for allegedly lying on a gun background check form.

Prosecutors also allege that Mr Smirnov lied to investigators about Hunter Biden during a 2023 interview after he allegedly realised that his earlier bribery accusations could not be backed up by evidence in his possession.

They say Mr Smirnov asked them to investigate a Kyiv hotel called the Premiere Palace, which he claimed was “under the control” of Russians and “wired” for the purpose of blackmail.

Mr Smirnov allegedly told investigators that Hunter Biden was videotaped at the Kyiv hotel and suggested they ask him “how many times he visited and what he did while at the Premier Palace Hotel”.

But prosecutors noted in the indictment that Hunter Biden has never once visited Ukraine.

Spokespersons for the White House, President Biden’s re-election campaign and Mr Jordan did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

A spokesperson for Mr Comer and the House Oversight Committee’s Republican majority, Austin Hacker, said in a statement that the impeachment probe into Mr Biden is “not reliant” on the allegations levelled at Mr Biden by Mr Smirnov and claimed that the FBI had described the defendant as “credible and trusted”.

He also said the impeachment probe is “based on a large record of evidence, including bank records and witness testimony, revealing that Joe Biden knew of and participated in his family’s business dealings”.

Congressional Integrity Project executive director Kyle Herrig issued a statement saying:“The only course of action left is for the MAGA House Republicans to end their sham impeachment inquiry into the President and for James Comer, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mike Johnson, and everyone else who voted for this farce to immediately, personally apologize to President Biden, his family, and the American people.

“This investigation — that has turned up no evidence despite over a year of work — is based on nothing but lies. The house of cards has crumbled. It’s far past time for MAGA Republicans to admit it.”

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