Posts tagged with "Hunter Biden"

Ex-F.B.I. informant is charged with lying over Bidens’ role in Ukraine business

February 16, 2024

The special counsel investigating Hunter Biden has charged a former F.B.I. informant with fabricating claims that President Joe Biden and his son each sought $5 million bribes from a Ukrainian company—a stinging setback for Republicans who cited the allegations in their push to impeach the president, reports The New York Times.

The longtime informant, Alexander Smirnov, 43, is accused of falsely telling the F.B.I. that Hunter Biden—then a paid board member of the energy giant Burisma—demanded the money to protect the company from an investigation by the country’s prosecutor general at the time.

 

The explosive story, which seemed to back up unsubstantiated Republican claims of a “Biden crime family,” turned out to be a brazen lie, according to a 37-page indictment unsealed late Thursday in a California federal court, brought by the special counsel, David C. Weiss.

Smirnov’s motivation for lying, prosecutors wrote, appears to have been political. During the 2020 campaign, he sent his F.B.I. handler “a series of messages expressing bias” against Joe Biden, including texts, replete with typos and misspellings, boasting that he had information that would put him in jail.

Republicans pressured the F.B.I. to release internal reports after they learned of Smirnov’s claims. In May last year, Representative James Comer of Kentucky, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, threatened to hold the bureau’s director, Christopher Wray, in contempt if he did not disclose some details.

In July, after Wray complied, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa released a copy of an F.B.I. record that included the false allegation without naming Smirnov, or questioning its veracity.

He then described Smirnov’s claims as “very significant allegations from a trusted F.B.I. informant implicating then-Vice President Biden in a criminal bribery scheme.”

Comer, in a statement released after the charges against Smirnov became public, took no responsibility for spreading a claim that prosecutors suggested was a smear intended to hurt Biden politically.

Instead, he blamed bureau officials for privately telling the committee that their “source was credible and trusted, had worked with the F.B.I. for over a decade and had been paid six figures.”

But F.B.I. officials did not seem to think much of Smirnov’s allegations from the start, and requested he provide travel receipts to prove he attended meetings cited in his report. In 2020, they concluded that his claims did not merit continued investigation and told senior Trump administration officials in the Justice Department of that decision, prosecutors wrote.

Smirnov now faces two charges of making false statements and obstructing the government’s long-running investigation into the president’s troubled son. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

The indictment did not say if Smirnov was a U.S. citizen, or specify his country of origin—only that he is a globe-trotting businessman who speaks Russian and who became an F.B.I. informant in 2010.

He was arrested in Las Vegas on Wednesday after disembarking from an international flight and detained pending a hearing on Tuesday, February 20.

The president’s son still faces indictments on a gun charge in Delaware and tax charges in California. But his lawyers said Smirnov’s indictment was proof that he was the target of a mendacious and politically motivated smear campaign.

“For months, we have warned that Republicans have built their conspiracies about Hunter and his family on lies told by people with political agendas, not facts,” Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, said in a statement. “We were right, and the air is out of their balloon.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Hunter Biden crashes committee vote on contempt resolution against him

January 11, 2024

On Wednesday, January 10, President Joe Biden’s son made a surprise appearance at a House Oversight Committee hearing at which Republicans planned to approve a resolution holding him in contempt of Congress, reports HuffPost.

Hunter Biden’s arrival served as a reminder that he has offered to testify in response to Republicans’ subpoena for his testimony—but only in public.

Republicans have insisted he speak in a private deposition and are holding him in contempt because of his refusal. If approved by the full House, the contempt resolution would result in a request for the Justice Department to press charges.

Biden arrived as the committee’s top members made their opening statements and sat in the audience, behind the witness table, occasionally smirking as Representative Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) mocked him and said he belonged in jail.

“Who bribed Hunter Biden to be here today?” Mace said. “You are the epitome of white privilege, coming to the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed … What are you afraid of?”

Representative Jared Moskowitz (D-Florida) called Mace’s remarks interesting. He’s here. Doesn’t seem to be too afraid,” Moskowitz said. “The only folks that are afraid to hear from the witness, with the American people watching, are my friends on the other side of the aisle.”

But Biden got up and left as soon as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) started speaking. Last summer at a committee hearing, Greene displayed photos of Biden in the midst of sex acts with women who were apparent sex workers.

In the hallway outside of the hearing room, Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said Biden had previously made five offers to provide “relevant information” to the investigation.

“Our first five offers were ignored, and then in November they issued a subpoena for a behind-closed-doors deposition, a tactic that the Republicans have repeatedly misused in their political crusade to selectively leak and mischaracterize what witnesses have said,” Lowell said, with Biden standing by his side.

The contempt hearing is an offshoot of the impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, whom Republicans have dubiously claimed participated in his son’s foreign business deals.

Research contact: @ HuffPost

Vladimir veers left: Putin rejects Trump’s criticism of Biden family business

October 27, 2020

Russia, are you listening? Russian President Vladimir Putin said on October 25 that he saw nothing criminal in Hunter Biden’s past business ties with Ukraine or Russia—openly breaking with Donald Trump on one of the POTUS’s key attack lines in the U.S. presidential election.

Putin was responding to comments made by Trump during televised debates with Democratic challenger Joe Biden ahead of the November 3 election.

According to Reuters, the Russian leader made his position clear, saying: “[Hunter Biden] had at least one company, which he practically headed up, and judging from everything he made good money. I don’t see anything criminal about this, at least we don’t know anything about this.”

The unexpected statement of support for the Bidens “could be interpreted as the Russian president trying to offer an olive branch to Joe Biden days out from the election,” said The Daily Beast.

Trump, who is trailing in opinion polls, has used the debates to make accusations that Biden and his son Hunter engaged in unethical practices in Ukraine. No evidence has been verified to support the allegations, and Joe Biden has called them false and discredited.

Putin, who has praised Trump in the past for saying he wanted better ties with Moscow, has said Russia will work with any U.S. leader, while noting what he called Joe Biden’s “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric”.

However, in a clear effort to distance himself from Trump’s claims, the Russian leader added, “Yes, in Ukraine he (Hunter Biden) had or maybe still has a business, I don’t know. It doesn’t concern us. It concerns the Americans and the Ukrainians,” said Putin.

Putin also reacted with visible irritation when asked about comments Trump has made concerning Putin’s ties to the former mayor of Moscow, and to an alleged payment made to Hunter Biden by the ex-mayor’s widow. Putin said he knew nothing about the existence of any commercial relationship between Hunter and the woman. Joe Biden says the accusation about his son is not true.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to tilt the contest in Trump’s favour, an allegation Moscow has denied. Russia has also dismissed accusations by U.S. intelligence agencies of trying to interfere with this year’s election too.

Research contact: @Reuters

Engel subpoenas State Department for ‘smear documents’ on Biden already given to Senate Republicans

August 3, 2020

Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York)—who is serving out his 16th term in Congress after losing his seat in the June primary to progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman—intends to go out fighting, both for his constituents and against the GOP.

Engel, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee , subpoenaed the State Department on Friday, July 31— demanding copies of documents that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo already has provided to Senate Republicans investigating Joe Biden, Politico reported.

According to a press release issued by the committee, the subpoena demands all records purportedly dealing with the Bidens and Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings the department has produced to Republican-led Senate committees. Despite delivering Republican Senate chairmen thousands of pages of records, the Department of State has refused Chairman Engel’s request to provide duplicates to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In addition, Chairman Engel’s subpoena seeks internal State Department correspondence about responding to Congress.

“After trying to stonewall virtually every oversight effort by the Foreign Affairs Committee in the last two years, Mr. Pompeo is more than happy to help Senate Republicans advance their conspiracy theories about the Bidens,” Engel said in a statement. “I want to see the full record of what the department has sent to the Senate and I want the American people to see it too.”

Engel also stated that, “Just days after the conclusion of President Trump’s impeachment trial, in which Secretary Pompeo refused to comply with a duly authorized subpoena for documents and attempted to block testimony of key witnesses, the State Department producing documents to Senate Republicans to help advance a political smear of Vice President Biden.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Politico.

Engel has threatened to subpoena for the documents since May, when the probe of Burisma by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) began ramping up. Johnson has denied that his investigation is meant as a political cudgel or is being influenced by foreign interests seeking to hurt Biden, Politico says.

The House impeached President Donald Trump last year for pushing Ukraine’s leaders to investigate Biden and other Democrats, and withholding security assistance to the country—amid its war with Russia—to exert pressure.

Now, Republicans clearly are trying to change the plot line. Indeed, Trump allies responded by leveling discredited allegations that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma, an energy company where his son Hunter served on the board.

Conversely, State Department leaders testified during impeachment proceedings that Biden’s work in Ukraine was done in accordance with department policy, and that efforts to remove the prosecutor were part of an international push to root out corruption.

More recently, top Democrats have cited intelligence suggesting that at least some of the anti-Biden efforts are being fueled by Kremlin-aligned Ukrainians seeking to interfere in the 2020 election.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have demanded an all-Congress FBI briefing about intelligence they say shows a specific foreign plot to influence congressional action, Politico reports..

After attending a general election security briefing, Pelosi on Friday morning, July 31, blasted the administration for “withholding” evidence of foreign interference.

The subpoena, directed to Secretary Pompeo, requires that the records be turned over by August 7.

Research contact: @politico

Taylor: Trump cared more about politically motivated Biden ‘investigations’ than ally Ukraine

November 14, 2019

Ambassador William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, on Wednesday said that America’s Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland told a member of his staff in July that President Donald Trump cared more about a politically motivated investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden than he did about longtime ally Ukraine.

According to a report by The Hill, Taylor—who delivered public testimony under oath at the first televised impeachment inquiry—talked to Sondland on July 26.

That conversation came just one day after a now-infamous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25—during which the U.S. president allegedly tried to coerce the new leader into announcing that he would investigate the Biden family by withholding $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to the small nation.

 Taylor said his staffer, whom he did not name, overheard a phone call between Sondland and Trump during which the president asked the EU ambassador about the investigations.

“Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations,’” Taylor said, according to The Hill’s report.

“Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward. Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Trump attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for,” he continued.

Taylor said that Sondland made the comments following a meeting with a top Zelensky aide, Andriy Yermak, in Ukraine. Taylor said he was not aware of the details when he testified behind closed doors in connection with the impeachment inquiry last month and that he was including it for “completeness.”

“I reported this information through counsel to the State Department’s Legal Adviser, as well as to counsel for both the Majority and the Minority on the Committee. It is my understanding that the Committee is following up on this matter,” Taylor said.

Sondland, who testified privately before the committees before Taylor, has also corrected his remarks to say that he told Yermak during a meeting on September 1 that aid to Ukraine would not likely flow until Kyiv made a public statement about pursuing investigations related to 2016 election interference and Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm with ties to Hunter Biden.

Sondland has sought to distinguish the issue of Burisma from the Bidens, though other witnesses have connected the two. Trump specifically named Biden on the call with Zelensky in July.

As The Hill noted, the Trump Administration eventually released military aid to Ukraine, and Kyiv did not make a public statement about pursuing investigations sought by Giuliani and Trump.

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong in his interactions with Zelensky, describing the July 25 phone call as “perfect” and accusing Democrats of a partisan effort to damage him politically. Trump has said he wanted Ukraine to investigate “corruption” and that his comments had nothing to do with politics.

Research contact: @thehill

Democrats deploy new impeachment plan of attack after White House refuses to cooperate

October 11, 2019

House Democrats are now saying that they don’t need any help from the White House to make a case for impeachment, NBC News reports.

To circumvent Executive Branch efforts to impede and obstruct the House impeachment inquiry, Democrats have launched a fresh offensive: They intend to inundate the White House with subpoenas; as well as requests for interviews with people who no longer work in the administration.

Democrats issued additional subpoenas for testimony and relevant documents on October 10 to Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas —two associates of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, both of whom are alleged to have helped Giuliani dig for dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. They were requested to appear for depositions this Thursday and Friday before Congress, but before they could appear on Capitol Hill, they were arrested Wednesday night on charges tied to campaign finance violations, NBC News says.

Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) formally announced the impeachment inquiry last month, Democrats have so far issued eight subpoenas—including those to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rudy Giuliani, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Office of Management and Budget Acting Chief Russell Vought, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland In addition, they have requested documents from Vice President Mike Pence.

However, few, if any, of the current administration leaders are expected to respond to the Democrat’s subpoenas and requests. Just this week, Ambassador Sondland declined to testify, on orders from the State Department and President Donald Trump.

Therefore, the Democrats are targeting former officials,  who are now private citizens, and would not fall under the White House ‘s claims of executive privilege. Kurt Volker, who recently resigned as U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, testified before Congress last week, several days after he left the administration.

On Monday, Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill, volunteered to meet in a closed-door session with several congressional committees. A letter addressed to Hill, obtained by NBC, requested that she turn over several documents that date back to January 2017.

Congress returns next week from a two-week recess and Democrats are expected to speed up their investigation that could lead them filing articles of impeachment against the president. Two sources told NBC News that Pelosi will hold another caucus-wide conference call on Friday afternoon, so rank and file members can receive an update about the impeachment inquiry.

Research contact: @NBCNews