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Grassley releases internal FBI document about unverified Biden bribery allegations

<i>Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images</i><br/>Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks at a news conference on the Supreme Court at the U.S. Capitol Building on July 19 in Washington
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks at a news conference on the Supreme Court at the U.S. Capitol Building on July 19 in Washington

By Annie Grayer, Marshall Cohen and Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) — GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa on Thursday released an internal FBI document containing unverified allegations President Joe Biden was involved in an illegal foreign bribery scheme.

The FBI had previously allowed members of the House Oversight Committee to privately view – but not obtain – the unclassified FBI document, known as an FD-1023.

Republicans, including Grassley and House Oversight Chairman James Comer, have been pushing for the FBI to publicly release the document, which the bureau has declined to do. Comer had even threatened to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt until the two sides reached a last-minute agreement.

Grassley said Thursday he was able to release the document himself because of “legally protected disclosures by Justice Department whistleblowers,” though his move still drew a strong public rebuke from the FBI.

The 1023 form memorializes claims from an FBI informant, but it doesn’t provide proof that the allegations are true. Republicans, though, have seized on the unverified material as part of their broader investigation into the Bidens.

The FBI document indicates that the informant provided the information to federal investigators in June 2020, but was describing meetings and conversations dating back to 2015.

The FBI document says an informant described a 2016 meeting where Mykola Zlochevsky, the CEO of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, claimed that he had made two $5 million payments to “the Bidens,” though he didn’t specify who received the alleged bribes.

“It costs 5 (million) to pay one Biden, and 5 (million) to another Biden,” Zlochevsky told the FBI informant at a 2016 meeting in Vienna, according to the document.

The informant, whom the FBI has described as highly credible was “not able to provide any further opinion as the veracity” of the claims, according to the FBI document.

At the time of the informant’s meeting with Zlochevsky, Hunter Biden was on Burisma’s board, earning $50,000 a month. But there’s no evidence Joe Biden was involved in his son’s work for the Ukrainian energy company or ever received any payments.

The FBI responded to the GOP disclosure with a sharply worded statement, blasting lawmakers for ignoring their “significant concerns” about the dangers of releasing the material.

“We have repeatedly explained to Congress, in correspondence and in briefings, how critical it is to keep this source information confidential. … Today’s release of the 1023 – at a minimum – unnecessarily risks the safety of a confidential source,” the FBI statement said.

House Democrats previously released a transcript of separate private comments by Zlochevsky made to former Rudy Giuliani ally Lev Parnas that contradict the notion that he ever paid Joe Biden.

According to the transcript, which Parnas provided to Congress in January 2020, Zlochevsky stated that “no one from Burisma had any contacts with VP Biden or people working for him” while Hunter Biden was on the board. Zlochevskey also said Joe Biden and his staff had no involvement in the business dealings of his company.

In statements to CNN, Comer accused the Justice Department of “seeking to bury this record to protect the Bidens,” and Grassley thanked the “brave and heroic whistleblowers” for enabling him to publicly disclose the material.

CNN previously reported that the allegations in the 1023 surfaced years ago as Giuliani was sharing information with the Justice Department during the Trump administration. Then-Attorney General Bill Barr tapped former Pittsburgh US Attorney Scott Brady to oversee an FBI investigation into a variety of claims Giuliani provided the department.

White House says claims are ‘debunked’

Shortly after lawmakers viewed the FBI document in a classified setting last month, the FBI wrote Comer about their concerns that some members, by taking notes and discussing what they read publicly, were breaking the agreement that predicated their viewing of the document, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

“The conduct of some Committee Members during the June 8 review flagrantly disregarded our agreement and has the potential to cause grave harm,” the FBI wrote Comer on June 9.

Prior to viewing the document last month, all members viewed a statement from the FBI that read, “While not classified, these materials have significant law enforcement value and sensitivity, and should not be disclosed without authorization, as wider distribution could pose a risk of physical harm to FBI sources or others.”

White House spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement to CNN, “It is remarkable that congressional Republicans, in their eagerness to go after President Biden regardless of the truth, continue to push claims that have been debunked for years and that they themselves have cautioned to take ‘with a grain of salt’ because they could be ‘made up.’”

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the House Oversight Committee’s top Democrat, said: “Releasing this document in isolation from explanatory context is another transparently desperate attempt by Committee Republicans to revive the aging and debunked Giuliani-framed conspiracy theories and to distract from their continuing failure to produce any actual evidence of wrongdoing by the President—even at the cost of endangering the safety of FBI sources.

Talk of influence peddling

The confidential human source who the FBI has described as highly credible, had only met Zlochevseky in person once, and spoke to Zlochevseky twice by phone, and therefore was “not able to provide any further opinion as the veracity” of the claims provided.

The informant told the FBI the supposed Biden bribes came up during a conversation about how to deal with a Ukrainian investigation into corruption by Burisma. For years, Republicans have falsely accused Joe Biden of abusing his powers to get the top Ukrainian prosecutor fired, so the probe would go away. In reality, his actions were consistent with bipartisan US policy, which sought to remove the prosecutor because he wasn’t doing enough to crack down on corruption.

The informant also claimed Zlochevsky had texts and 17 audiotapes, two of which included Joe Biden, that showed he was forced to pay the Bidens, according to the documents. A number of Republicans have questioned whether those audio recordings exist – and there’s been no evidence of the recordings to date.

The FBI document sheds new light on how Burisma executives allegedly hoped to leverage Hunter Biden’s position on their board to get benefits from his father while he was vice president.

Zlochevsky and another top Burisma official told the FBI informant that they thought Hunter Biden was unintelligent, but needed to keep him on their board because he could “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,” according to the FBI document.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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