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House Republicans demand info from FBI about Alexander Smirnov, informant charged with lying about Bidens

Prosecutors: FBI informant lied about Bidens
Former FBI informant lied about Bidens' ties to Ukraine energy company, prosecutors say 02:26

Washington — House Republicans on Friday demanded information from the FBI about a confidential source now charged with lying about purported bribes paid to President Biden and his son, an allegation that GOP lawmakers used as one justification for opening an impeachment inquiry into the president.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, served as a confidential FBI source for 14 years before he was charged and arrested last month for allegedly lying to federal investigators in 2020. Prosecutors said he fabricated a claim that an executive at a Ukrainian energy company told him in 2015 or 2016 that the firm paid the Bidens bribes of $5 million each.

An FBI document memorializing his claims became the subject of a bitter back-and-forth between congressional Republicans and the FBI last summer. The bureau resisted GOP lawmakers' calls to hand over the document, known as an FD-1023, saying that doing so could compromise a valuable source. The FBI eventually allowed some lawmakers to review the record, and Republicans trumpeted the bribery allegations as evidence of wrongdoing by the president. The GOP-led House voted to formalize an impeachment inquiry against Mr. Biden in December.

In February, a federal grand jury in California indicted Smirnov on two counts of making a false statement and creating a fictitious record, referring to the FD-1023. Prosecutors said Smirnov did not meet the Ukrainian energy executive until 2017, the year after he said the executive told him about the supposed bribes. The federal charges stemmed from the investigation into Hunter Biden led by special counsel David Weiss. Smirnov is being held behind bars pending trial and has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

In a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray on Friday, Republicans Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer, the respective chairs of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, said the charges against Smirnov raise "even greater concerns about abuse and mismanagement in the FBI's [confidential human source] program." Jordan and Comer's committees are leading House Republicans' impeachment probe.

"Although the FBI and Justice Department received Mr. Smirnov's information in 2020, it was only after the FD-1023 was publicly released nearly three years later — implicating President Biden and his family — that the FBI apparently decided to conduct any review of Mr. Smirnov's credibility as a CHS," the lawmakers wrote. "During the intervening period, the FBI represented to Congress that the CHS was 'highly credible' and that the release of his information would endanger Americans."

Comer and Jordan said the reversal "is just another example of how the FBI is motivated by politics." 

The GOP chairmen demanded that Wray hand over documents about any criminal cases that relied upon information Smirnov provided his handlers, details about how much he was paid over 14 years of being an FBI informant and several other categories of information. They gave Wray a deadline of March 15 to produce the documents.

The FBI confirmed it received the letter but declined to comment further.

The White House has repeatedly denied wrongdoing by the president, saying he was not involved in his son Hunter's business dealings. House Democrats have said the charges against Smirnov severely undermine Republicans' impeachment push.

"I think the Smirnov revelations destroy the entire case," Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said on Feb. 21. "Smirnov was the foundation of the whole thing. He was the one who came forward to say that Burisma had given Joe Biden $5 million, and that was just concocted in thin air."

Hunter Biden testified before lawmakers behind closed doors earlier this week, telling them that he "did not involve my father in my business." 

"You have trafficked in innuendo, distortion, and sensationalism — all the while ignoring the clear and convincing evidence staring you in the face," he said in his opening statement. "You do not have evidence to support the baseless and MAGA-motivated conspiracies about my father because there isn't any." 

Andres Triay contributed reporting.

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