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FBI informant at heart of GOP's Biden bribery allegations indicted over false statements

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The confidential source at the center of allegations being promoted by House Republicans that President Biden accepted a bribe has been arrested and charged with making false statements to the FBI.

The allegations risk unwinding the House GOP probe into President Biden. In making their case, GOP lawmakers have frequently pointed to conversations the confidential source, Alexander Smirnov, had with the FBI relaying that the head of Ukrainian energy company Burisma told him he had paid both President Biden and his son Hunter Biden $5 million.

The indictment alleges Smirnov made up the allegations given his opposition to President Biden’s candidacy.

“As alleged in the indictment, the events that Smirnov first reported to the FBI Agent in June 2020 were fabrications,” the Justice Department wrote in a press release announcing the grand jury indictment.

“The indictment alleges that the defendant transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against Public Official 1 after expressing bias against Public Official 1 and his presidential candidacy,” they added, referring to President Biden.

Smirnov was arrested on Valentine’s Day at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas as he was arriving to the U.S. from overseas, and was charged with making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. 

The charges were brought by special counsel David Weiss, a Trump appointee who has brought tax changes against Hunter Biden, who once served on Burisma’s board.

Republicans have frequently pointed to Smirnov’s role as a confidential human informant to the FBI. His conversations were memorialized in an FD-1023 that relayed what he heard from Mykola Zlochevsky, the Burisma official.

The FBI was never able to corroborate the information, and Zlochevsky would later appear to refute this claim in information supplied to Congress during Trump’s impeachment through an exchange captured with Vitaly Pruss, an associate of Rudy Giuliani. 

But the tip has become central to the House GOP’s impeachment probe, which has sought to connect the allegations to then Vice President Biden’s efforts to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor accused by the international community of failing to address corruption.

Then-Vice President Biden conditioned a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine on firing state prosecutor Viktor Shokin. The GOP argues the loan guarantee benefited Burisma and by extension Hunter Biden – a largely disproven claim given that a prior investigation into Burisma had gone dormant and a new prosecutor risks further scrutiny.

The FD-1023 memorializing Smirnov’s conversation with the FBI was first shared by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) with House Republicans using its bribery allegations to justify launching an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. 

Thursday’s indictment alleged Smirnov did not even have contacts with Zlochevsky until well after President Bides had left office.

“In truth and fact, the defendant had contact with executives from Burisma in 2017, after the end of the administration when Public Official 1 had no ability to influence U.S. policy and after the Ukrainian Prosecutor General had been fired in February 2016,” DOJ states.

And while Smirnov had previously been described to lawmakers as a credible source, the indictment alleges he was actually repeatedly admonished for making false statements.

“Despite repeated admonishments that he must provide truthful information to the FBI and that he must not fabricate evidence, Smirnov provided false derogatory information to the FBI about Public Official 1, and Businessperson 1, the son of Public Official 1, in 2020, after Public Official 1 became a presidential candidate,” DOJ stated, referring to President Biden and Hunter Biden.

Democrats made clear they view the indictment as a fatal blow to the basis of the GOP impeachment inquiry.

“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,” House Oversight Chair Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said in a statement.

“It is an undeniable fact that Republicans’ allegations against President Biden have always been a tissue of lies built on conspiracy theories.”

The House, with unanimous backing from Republicans, voted in December to formalize an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Numerous members said they supported the measure because they felt the need to investigate the claims Biden accepted a bribe – an impeachable offense.

The House Oversight Committee, one of the top panels investigating Biden, defended the use of the FD-1023, noting the FBI had described Smirnov, then just known as a confidential informant, as being a trusted source that had been paid six figures by the bureau.

“FBI officials and Director Wray refused to release the form publicly because they claimed it would jeopardize the safety of a confidential human source who they claimed was invaluable to the FBI. When asked by the committee about their confidence in the confidential human source, the FBI told the committee the confidential human source was credible and trusted,” Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

But he said the indictment does not undercut his investigation, which has accused the Biden family of influence peddling, even as they’ve struggled to connect Hunter Biden’s business dealings with any political action taken by his father.

“To be clear, the impeachment inquiry is not reliant on the FBI’s FD-1023. It 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,” Comer said.

Updated 7:34 p.m. ET.

Source: The Hill

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