02.16.2024 0

Comer: ‘The impeachment inquiry is not reliant on the FBI’s FD-1023’ after FBI informant charged with lying to investigators, says there’s still a lot of evidence

By Robert Romano

Special Counsel David Weiss on Feb. 16 charged Alexander Smirnov with lying to FBI investigators when he alleged he had met with Burisma executives in 2015 and 2016 who had told him that President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden took $10 million of bribes in exchange for getting the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin fired in 2016.

As it turned out, according to the Justice Department indictment, Smirnov did not meet with Burisma officials until 2017: “The statements and representations were false because, as Alexander Smirnov then and there knew: The Defendant met with officials from Burisma for the first time in 2017, after the end of the Obama-Biden Administration.” And “The Defendant’s second meeting with officials from Burisma also occurred in 2017, not at the end of 2015 when Public Official 1 made public statements critical of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office. The second meeting also occurred after Public Official 1 left office and after the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General had been fired in February 2016.” and “The Defendant also did not travel to Vienna, Austria in December 2015, as he claimed.”

In the June 26, 2020 FD-1023, disclosed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Camer (R-Ky.) in 2023, the confidential human source, Smirnov, was said to have had his “[f]irst [m]eeting with Burisma executives in Kyiv, Ukraine… [i]n late 2015 or 2016…” And his second meeting was supposed to be “in Vienna, Austria in 2016” where it was alleged that Burisma CEO Mykola Zlochevsky was “pushed to pay” the Bidens, supposedly saying “it cost 5 [millon] to pay one Biden, and 5 [million] to another Biden.”

Except, those meetings never happened, Weiss alleges, because Smirnov did not meet the Burisma officials until 2017, rather than in 2015 and 2016 as the FD-1023 outlined.

Here, Weiss is alleging that Smirnov lied about the timeline to make his meetings with Burisma officials appear contemporaneous to the 2016 firing of Shokin at then-Vice President Biden’s behest, when they had occurred after Biden had already left office.

Now, House Oversight Committee Chairman Comer says that the impeachment inquiry into Biden is not reliant on the Smirnov account in a Feb. 15 statement: “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 also noted that the FBI had told the committee that Smirnov “was credible and trusted, had worked with the FBI for over a decade, and had been paid six figures… The FBI’s actions in this matter are very concerning.”

Comer also blasted the FBI and Justice Department for only following up on the Smirnov allegations after Congress had opened its own investigation: “The FBI had this form for years and it appears they did nothing to verify the troubling claims contained within the record until Congress became aware of and demanded access to them.”

Where the fallout from the FBI informant leaves the House Republican impeachment inquiry is a very good question. In a post to the X platform on Feb. 15, the House Oversight Committee stated “We have over $30 million reasons to continue this investigation and not one of those reasons relies on the corrupt FBI or an informant. Bank records don’t lie,” referring to millions of payments that were made to the Bidens through the family business over the course of Biden’s career.

This might tell whether a potential impeachment has to do with allegations related to Ukraine at all, where Hunter Biden served on the Board of Directors for Burisma.

The fact is, there were earlier, more public allegations to do with the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor, after the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Shokin had already come out with these allegations in the first place in 2019, predating the June 2020 FD-1023, testifying in European court that “The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors… On several occasions President Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the case against Burisma and consider the possibility of winding down the investigative actions in respect of this company but I refused to close this investigation.”

And after Shokin was fired, on May 13, 2016, according to the Obama White House, Biden had a phone call with Poroshenko about the Prosecutor General’s office, officially welcoming the firing of Shokin: “The Vice President spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The Vice President welcomed the appointment of a new Prosecutor General as an important first step to bringing much-needed reform to the Office of the Prosecutor General. The Vice President also commended legislative changes that will set up an independent Office of the Inspector General in the Office of the Prosecutor General and allow prosecutions to begin against Yanukovych-era officials. The Vice President informed President Poroshenko that the United States was prepared to move forward with the signing of the third $1 billion loan guarantee agreement, which will support continued progress on Ukrainian reforms‎. The leaders also condemned the continued aggression by combined Russian/separatist forces against Ukraine, and agreed on the critical importance of accelerating progress on Minsk implementation by all sides.”

This appears to be the same leaked call from May 2016 that was later removed by YouTube but is still viewable on web.archive.org, where Biden is heard saying, “[C]ongratulations on installing the new prosecutor general, it’s going to be critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage Shokin did. And I’m a man of my word. And now that the new prosecutor general is in place, we’re ready to move forward in signing that one billion dollar loan guarantee.” The call’s transcript appears to match the White House’s description of the call, and the phone call is said to have been recorded by Poroshenko himself, although the U.S. had alleged in 2020 when it was released that it was Russian disinformation.

When the audio was released in 2020 during the presidential election campaign, U.S. officials said that the Ukrainian lawmaker who had released it, Andrii Derkach, was an “active Russian agent”. In a Sept. 2020 AP News story, none other than disinformation “expert” Nina Janckowicz, then a disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, was quoted, “It’s certainly an influence campaign… It’s misleading to an audience that doesn’t have the full picture.”

The U.S. Treasury sanctioned Derkach in Sept. 2020, according to the Treasury statement, “Derkach has directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election. Today’s designation of Derkach is focused on exposing Russian malign influence campaigns and protecting our upcoming elections from foreign interference.”

House Republicans should want to find out of if the video was real or not by obtaining a transcript of the phone call with Poroshenko.

In Jan. 2018, Biden bragged to the Council on Foreign Relations about getting Shokin fired by threatening to withhold a $1.2 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan from then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016.

According to Biden, “I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’… Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

In short, the entire story of Shokin’s firing depends, not on Smirnov, but on both Shokin and Biden’s accounts. The firing really happened. But why?

On Jan. 31, the House Oversight Committee noted in an X post that earlier draft versions of then-Vice President Biden’s speech given Dec. 9, 2015 to the Rada where Biden called for an overhaul of the Prosecutor General’s office are being suppressed: “The White House is REFUSING to hand over early drafts of President Biden’s 2015 Ukraine speech where he called for the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. These drafts are important as it is believed, based on public reporting, that the then-VP “called an audible” and changed U.S. policy toward Ukraine to benefit his son on the plane ride to Ukraine. Joe Biden later bragged about withholding a U.S. loan guarantee if Ukraine did not fire the prosecutor. If the White House does not permit the production of these documents, our committee will consider the use of compulsory process.”

The X post also has a Jan. 31 letter from the House Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means committees to White House Counsel Edward Siskel stating “For more than five months the White House has declined to authorize the production of these draft speeches to the Oversight Committee or to assert a valid privilege over them. Such a lengthy delay in processing a discrete and limited category of documents is unacceptable and appears to represent an attempt to obstruct the Committees’ legitimate investigation.”

The Biden speech in Ukraine occurred just days after a Burisma board meeting in Dubai, when then-Vice President Biden stated of Viktor Shokin and his office was “desperately [in need of] reform”: “[I]t’s not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a special prosecutor fighting corruption. The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform. The judiciary should be overhauled. The energy sector needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles — not sweetheart deals.”

Biden added, “It’s not enough to push through laws to increase transparency with regard to official sources of income. Senior elected officials have to remove all conflicts between their business interest and their government responsibilities.”

That had followed a meeting by Burisma in Dubai, United Arab Emirates days earlier on Dec. 4, 2015, wherein former Hunter Biden business partner Devon Archer has testified that Hunter Biden “called his dad” when he was being pressured by Burisma, whom he also served on the board of directors, for “help in D.C.” on Dec. 4, 2015 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, according to a transcript of his July 31 testimony to the House Oversight Committee.

Hunter Biden was specifically asked for help with Ukrainian government investigations into Burisma and Burisma CEO Mykola Zlochevsky: “The request was I think they were getting pressure and they requested Hunter, you know, help them with some of that pressure… Government. Government pressure on their — you know, government pressure from Ukrainian Government investigations into [Burisma CEO] Mykola [Zlochevsky], et cetera.”

The Ukrainian government investigations into Burisma and Burisma CEO Zlochevsky at that time were being led by Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. According to Archer, “[T]here was several pressure issues. It was kind of a theme of Burisma. There was capital tied up in London, 23 million pounds. There was, you know, a U.S. visa denied and then a Mexico visa denied. And then there was — so [Ukrainian Prosecutor General] Shokin wasn’t specifically on my radar as being an individual that was — that was targeting him. But yes, there was constant pressure. And it was like — it was like whack-a-mole in regards to the pressures that had to resolve.”

Archer added, “it was a high-pressure environment, and … there was constant requests for help.”

And according to Archer, when requested for help, Hunter Biden “called his dad,” then-Vice President Joe Biden, but said he did not hear the phone call: “Listen, I did not hear this phone call, but he — he called his dad.”

When asked how he knew that if he did not hear the phone call, Archer stated that Burisma CFO Vadym Pozharsky told him so: “Because he — because I think [Burisma CFO] Vadym [Pozharsky] told me. But, again, it’s unclear. I just know that there was a call that happened there and I was not privy to it.”

Much could depend on what the drafts of the speech to the Rada show. Was it rewritten as the House Oversight Committee alleged at the request of Burisma? That might show the quid pro quo Republicans are alleging. The Smirnov claims wouldn’t be needed then because Hunter Biden had been paid millions for being on the Board of Directors of Burisma, and both Biden’s account of the Shokin firing and Shokin’s own allegations predate the June 2020 FD-1023.

On the other hand, in Oct. 2015, months before Biden’s speech to the Rada, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the “dirty” Prosecutor General’s Office had to be “reinvented”: “the Prosecutor General’s Office has to be reinvented as an institution that serves the citizens of Ukraine, rather than ripping them off. That means it must investigate and successfully prosecute corruption and asset recovery cases – including locking up dirty personnel in the PGO itself…” This might show that U.S. policy to remove Shokin predated the alleged Dec. 2015 interactions between Joe Biden and Burisma.

The key question might be when Biden decided to have Shokin removed, since neither Nuland nor Biden had explicitly called for the removal of the Prosecutor General in the respective testimony and speech. Had it already been decided, or did it come later after Biden’s speech? That’s what the Oversight Committee needs to figure out.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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