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FBI informant charged with cooking up Biden-Burisma story

House GOP leaders are still moving forward with their impeachment inquiry


Hunter Biden after a meeting at Capitol Hill on January 10 Getty Images/Photo by Kent Nishimura

FBI informant charged with cooking up Biden-Burisma story

Alexander Smirnov stepped off a plane in Las Vegas and into police custody on Feb. 14. The former FBI informant faces two charges of lying to federal agents and making up proof to back up his false statements—all related to Biden family business dealings in Ukraine. His arrest could damage the credibility of a high-stakes GOP inquiry into whether to impeach the president of the United States.

Who is the informant?

Smirnov, a Los Angeles resident for several years, was a confidential source for the FBI due to his ties in Russia and Ukraine. The Justice Department revealed in an indictment that Smirnov, 43, communicated with an FBI handler for several years about his interactions with Burisma, a Ukrainian industrial conglomerate. Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, was on the board of Burisma from 2013 to 2018. Smirnov frequently texted his handler about meetings with Burisma officials, especially when they were interested in acquiring an American gas and oil company.

Smirnov was taken into custody at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas on Wednesday after he returned from an overseas trip. He did not enter a plea at his initial appearance in court. He was released pending trial but taken into custody again on Thursday.

What are the charges?

Under Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, making false statements and then creating a false record to substantiate them is a crime. Special counsel David Weiss announced the charges against Smirnov on Wednesday. Weiss has been tasked with overseeing investigations into Hunter Biden’s business affairs and has already charged the president’s son with tax fraud and gun violations.

The charges against Smirnov stem from two official records known as FD-1023s that record his statements to the FBI in 2017 and 2020. Both of the forms referred to Biden and his son Hunter. The statements documented on the forms are not completed under oath, though it is a crime to lie to federal agents. According to the 2020 form, Smirnov at the time reported information he said he learned at a 2015 meeting with Burisma.

The FBI alleges Smirnov, motivated by bias against the elder Biden, lied to agents to try to implicate the former vice president in financial crimes while he served in the Obama administration. The agency said Smirnov changed his story in further interviews as the FBI investigated whether his information was accurate.

How is the president involved?

Republicans are investigating whether Biden, while serving as vice president, accepted bribes or inappropriately tried to influence foreign policy by involving himself in his son’s foreign business contacts with companies like Burisma. Neither Biden is listed by name in the indictment, but they are referred to as “Public Official 1” and “Businessperson 1, Public Official 1’s son.” Smirnov’s first FD-1023 was filed after Biden left office. According to text conversations in the indictment, Smirnov learned about GOP investigations into Hunter Biden in May 2020. He expressed frustration that Democrats were also trying to impeach then–President Donald Trump. He said politicians like the Bidens should go to jail and that he’d try to prove Joe Biden accepted a bribe from Burisma.

As recorded on the second FD-1023, Smirnov moved the timeline up and claimed he met with Burisma as early as 2015. He said he found out that Hunter Biden was on Burisma’s board at a 2015 meeting in which officials asked for his advice on how to acquire an American company. According to Smirnov’s information, the officials admitted to bringing Hunter on board to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems.” They were referring to an investigation the prosecutor-general of Ukraine was conducting into Burisma. The prosecutor was fired in 2016, something Biden claimed credit for in a 2018 speech. Smirnov claimed that his contacts admitted to paying both Bidens $5 million each using a Russian slang term that denoted they were forced to do so.

But the FBI determined the meeting never happened. According to travel records, Smirnov did not go to Ukraine in 2015. He claimed that an associate traveled with him and attended the meeting, but that associate had not left the United States since 2011. The FBI reported, citing to recovered emails and texts with the handler, the same Burisma officials Smirnov claimed to meet in 2015 introduced themselves to Smirnov as if for the first time in 2017. It was the 2017 meeting where they asked how to acquire an American company. In the FD-1023 form recorded shortly afterward, Smirnov had said there was a “brief, non-relevant discussion” about Hunter Biden, and he said no further information was necessary.

What does this mean for the impeachment inquiry?

House Republicans have directed three committees to spearhead an impeachment inquiry into President Biden based on his son’s business deals. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., subpoenaed at least one of the FD-1023 forms last year and battled with FBI Director Christopher Wray over access to it. Eventually, Wray agreed to release the form but only for the committee members to view. Comer then said that the form, along with an anonymous whistleblower and other private interviews, proved the Bidens were involved in a corrupt influence-peddling scheme with the Bidens. He has yet to release a final report into his findings.

Comer said this week that the indictment against Smirnov will not stall his investigation. In recent updates, the committee said it is investigating the Bidens’ other foreign ties, as well.

“To be clear, the impeachment inquiry is not reliant on the FBI’s FD-1023,” Comer said in a statement. “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. … We will continue to follow the facts to propose legislation to reform federal ethics laws and to determine whether articles of impeachment are warranted.”

Democrats on the committee insisted the Republicans drop the impeachment inquiry in light of the indictment. An attorney for Hunter Biden, who is expected to give a deposition later this month, said the charges show the probe is “based on dishonest, uncredible allegations and witnesses.” House Speaker Mike Johnson has not yet commented on the matter. 

If the committees release a final impeachment report recommending charges, the House will vote on whether to approve them. The case would go to the Senate to open a trial, which is unlikely while Democrats control the chamber. In December, the House voted to make the probe official, which did not change its procedure but cemented the matter as a high-priority item for Republicans in this Congress.

Editor’s note: WORLD has updated this report from its initial posting to reflect the rearrest of Alexander Smirnov.


Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.

@CarolinaLumetta


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