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Former FBI informant charged with lying about the Bidens’ role in Ukraine business, undercutting GOP impeachment inquiry

<i>Kent Nishimura/Getty Images</i><br/>
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

By Hannah Rabinowitz, Evan Perez and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) — Special counsel David Weiss charged a former FBI informant with lying about President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s involvement in business dealings with Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, undercutting a major aspect of Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into the president.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, is facing charges in connection with lying to the FBI and creating false records. He was arrested Thursday at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, after his arrival in the US from overseas, and will make his initial appearance in federal court Thursday afternoon.

CNN is working to determine whether Smirnov has an attorney.

The indictment alleges that Smirnov’s story to the FBI “was a fabrication, an amalgam of otherwise unremarkable business meetings and contacts that had actually occurred but at a later date than he claimed and for the purpose of pitching Burisma on the Defendant’s services and products, not for discussing bribes to [Joe Biden] when he was in office.”

Congressional Republicans have championed Smirnov’s now-discredited allegations for roughly a year, though not by name. They fought with the FBI to obtain memos about what Smirnov told investigators and publicly released the materials over the FBI’s objections. The congressional Republicans repeatedly praised Smirnov as “credible” and put his uncorroborated claims front-and-center in their impeachment inquiry into the president.

While announcing the impeachment inquiry, then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said “a trusted FBI informant has alleged a bribe to the Biden family.” The FBI is now using some of the same memos that congressional Republicans released as part of their indictment against Smirnov.

“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,” said Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, in a statement to CNN.

“We were right and the air is out of their balloon. This is just another instance of Chairmen Comer and Jordan peddling falsehoods based on dishonest, uncredible allegations and witnesses,” he added.

House Oversight Chair James Comer said in a Thursday statement to CNN that his investigation into the president does not revolve around Smirnov or his claims made in the FD-1023 – a form the FBI uses to memorialize information gathered from confidential sources – that Republican legislators have cited.

“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,” the Kentucky Republican said.

He said the FBI had previously defended Smirnov’s credibility.

“When asked by the committee about their confidence in the confidential human source, the FBI told the committee the confidential human source was credible and trusted, had worked with the FBI for over a decade, and had been paid six figures,” Comer added.

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who publicly released the 1023 form last year after the FBI declined to do so, said his goal has been to make the Justice Department investigate the bribery allegations against the Bidens.

“This indictment isn’t enough,” a Grassley spokesperson said in a statement. “The public has a right to see all the underlying evidence supporting the Biden Justice Department’s case. The Biden administration must show it’s work.”

According to court records, Smirnov told an FBI agent that he had spoken with the owner of Burisma about the company’s efforts to buy a company in the United States.

As part of his report to the FBI, the indictment alleges, Smirnov also noted that someone referred to as “Businessperson 1” was on the board of Burisma and was also the son of an individual referred to as “Public Official 1.” Though the indictment does not identify these individuals, sources identified “Public Official 1” as Joe Biden and “Businessperson 1” as Hunter Biden.

During Joe Biden’s campaign for presidency, Smirnov allegedly submitted reports to the FBI about two meetings with Burisma executives from 2015 and 2016, during which the executives admitted that they hired Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems.” Smirnov also allegedly reported that executives paid $5 million each to Joe and Hunter Biden while Joe Biden was vice president so that Hunter would “take care of all those issues through his dad,” referring to a criminal investigation being conducted by the then-Ukrainian prosecutor general into Burisma.

“In truth and fact, the Defendant had contact with executives from Burisma in 2017, after the end of the Obama-Biden Administration and after the then Ukrainian Prosecutor General had been fired in February 2016, in other words, when [Joe Biden] had no ability to influence U.S. policy and when the Prosecutor General was no longer in office,” the indictment states.

It continues, “In short, the Defendant transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against [Joe Biden], the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties for President, after expressing bias against [Joe Biden] and his candidacy.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Annie Grayer and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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