Democrats on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee are poking holes in GOP arguments that President Biden is corrupt, claims that are founded on unverified allegations from an FBI form released in controversial fashion last week.
The uncorroborated allegations of Biden corruption and bribery are related to his son Hunter’s business relationship with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and were part of an FBI form released by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) last week.
The form documents information that is a confidential human source relayed to an FBI agent, but does not assess that information.
While the GOP sees the document as key to its investigation of the Biden family’s business dealings, Democrats view the release as a stunning move that jeopardizes the FBI’s ability to work with confidential sources while offering no proof of any wrongdoing.
The FBI last week admonished Comer and Grassley for releasing the form.
“Chairman Comer’s and Senator Grassley’s decision to publicly release the form is in brazen disregard of the safety of FBI human sources and the integrity of its investigations,” House Oversight Committee Democratic staff wrote to Democratic lawmakers in a memo obtained by The Hill.
“Contrary to Republican messaging, the form provides no new or additional support for their corruption allegations against the President or Hunter Biden. Instead, its release merely seeks to breathe new life into years-old conspiracy theories, initially peddled by Rudy Giuliani, that have been thoroughly debunked.”
Republicans pushed back on the Democratic memo.
“The Democrats’ latest memo is another piece of garbage that should be thrown in the trash. Senator Grassley acquired the unclassified FD-1023 form through legally protected disclosures by Justice Department whistleblowers,” a GOP Oversight Committee spokesperson said in a statement. “The record is based on a trusted confidential human source’s conversations with a Burisma executive, and it has nothing to do with Rudy Guiliani.”
The tipster, dubbed CHS as short for confidential human source, relayed conversations he had with Mykola Zlochevsky, the CEO of Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Zlochevsky thought that having Hunter Biden on the board could help insulate the company from its problems with being investigated by Ukrainian authorities.
The crux of the unproven bribery allegation has been pushed by allies of former President Trump for years: that then-Vice President Biden’s threat to withhold funding to Ukraine unless Prosecutor Viktor Shokin was removed was intended to benefit Burisma, which was paying his son.
But Democrats point to numerous facts and comments — including from the FBI source, from congressional Republicans and from a man who was involved in pushing these theories — that severely undercut that theory.
Some reports say that the investigation into Burisma was, in fact, dormant by the time Biden called for Shokin’s outer. Shokin was also criticized for failure to prosecute corruption, and his exile was supported by numerous US officials as well as other European allies far beyond Biden.
The Democratic memo also quoted numerous Republicans — including Grassley — casting doubt on the veracity of the claims in the memo.
“Last month, Senator Johnson, who led Senate Republicans’ 2020 investigation into the allegations involving Burisma, considered the issues with the Form FD-1023: ‘That’s what this person says, but again, take that with a grain of salt. This could be coming from a very corrupt oligarch who could be making this stuff up,’” the Democratic memo said, citing a June podcast.
“Senator Grassley also tacitly questioned the truthfulness of the allegations in the Form FD-1023 when he admitted he was ‘not interested’ in whether the accusations in the form ‘are accurate or not,’” the memo continued, pointing to a Fox News interview in June.
Grassley has argued that his interest in the FBI forms rests more with whether the FBI and Department of Justice adequately investigated the tip rather than in the bribery allegations themselves.
“What did the Justice Department and FBI do with the detailed information in the document? And why have they tried to hide it from Congress and the American people for so long?” Grassley said in a statement alongside the memo’s release last week.
But Democrats push back on that reasoning.
“Under US Attorney Brady, the DOJ and FBI thoroughly investigated the allegations as part of an eight-month formal assessment, which included interviewing Mr. Giuliani and the CHS, and reviewing suspicious activity reports (SARs) from banks,” the memo said. “The FBI also confirmed to Chairman Comer and Ranking Member of Raskin during the June 5, 2023, briefing that Mr. Brady’s assessment was closed in August 2020 because his team found insufficient evidence to warrant escalating the probe from an assessment to a preliminary or full investigation.”
A GOP committee spokesperson, though, pointed to public comments from Attorney General Bill Barr refuting a previous claim from Raskin that an investigation into the claims had ended. Barr told the conservative website The Federalist in June that “it was sent to Delaware for further investigation.”
The memo also notes that the FBI source could verify the veracity of Zlochevsky’s claims, explaining that “it is extremely common for businessmen in post-Soviet countries to brag or show off” and to make “bribe” payments to government officials.
Democrats focus heavily on a recent letter to Comer from Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian who was later convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to Trump, and whom Guiliani relied on to dig up dirt about the Bidens in Ukraine ahead of the 2020 election. Parnas urged Comer to abandon efforts to uncover wrongdoing by the Biden family in Ukraine.
“Never, during any of my communications with Ukrainian officials or connections to Burisma, did any of them confirm or provide concrete facts linking the Bidens to illegal activities. In fact, they asked me multiple times why our team was so concerned with this idea,” Parnas wrote in the letter to Comer last week. “The truth is that everyone [involved in this effort to discredit the Bidens] knew that these allegations against the Bidens were false. There has never been any actual evidence, only conspiracy theories spread by people who knew exactly what they were doing.”
The memo also points to information collected during the first impeachment effort, including a conversation purported to be with Zlochevsky that contradicts the FD-1023 claims of communications with President Biden.
“No one from Burisma ever had any contacts with VP Biden or people working for him during Hunter Biden’s engagement,” Zlochevsky says in the exchange, which appears to be with Vitaly Pruss, whom the letter describes as “another long-time associate of Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani, who was a close friend of Mr. Zlochevsky.”
Democrats also took the Republicans to task for sharing information the FBI expressly asked them not to release publicly.
Raskin (D-Md.) says the publicly released form does not include all the same editorials as the first version shared with lawmakers, disclosing names of individuals in Ukraine as well as some specific locations referenced during the conversation.
“Chairman Comer and Senator Grassley chose to expose those additional details despite repeated warnings from the FBI about the critical need to protect the safety of its human sources and its ability to conduct investigations effectively,” Raskin wrote.
Indeed, a June 9 letter obtained by The Hill shows the FBI warned Comer about GOP members’ handling of the record just the day after offering a briefing to the full committee.
“The Committee and its Members were specifically told that ‘wider distribution could pose a risk of physical harm to FBI sources or others.’ The full text of this advertisement is included below for your reference. We are concerned that Members disregarded the Committee’s agreement that information from the document should not be further disclosed. Several Committee Members published specific details regarding their collection of confidential reporting sources purportedly referenced in the document,” the bureau wrote in the letter.
But Republicans defended the release of the FBI form and refuted claims of endangering a source.
“Before publicly releasing the document, redactions were made to protect the identity of the confidential human source. The FD-1023 is also unclassified and is not marked law enforcement sensitive,” a GOP Oversight Committee spokesperson said, pointing to statements from Democrats and information shared with the press that linked the document to Ukraine before it became public. “Those early public statements, based on apparent FBI or DOJ leaks, exposed the source well before the document became public.”
Despite the Democratic pushback, Republicans signal that the FBI form will fuel its investigations; Comer said in a statement last week that the form backs up his committee’s investigation of the Biden family’s business dealings.
“That sounds an awful lot like how the Bidens conduct business: using multiple bank accounts to hide the source and total amount of the money,” Comer said.
A GOP Oversight Committee spokesperson also defended release of the FBI form by linking it to another aspect of the committee’s probe into the Biden family business dealings.
When asked about the FBI form, IRS whistleblowers who looked into Hunter Biden said they had never heard of it. The GOP spokesperson said the form was “was kept from them” even though the whistleblowers had “potentially had corroborating evidence”
This story was updated at 6:13 pm
For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.