WASHINGTON — The FBI on Monday privately informed lawmakers of an unverified tip the office received in 2020 that Joe Biden was involved in a bribery scheme when he was vice president.
Republicans have said the source of the allegation is highly credible while admitting they don’t know if it’s true or not.
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said after Monday’s briefing that the FBI had not determined the allegation was fakethough he also didn’t say he found the advice credible.
“Today, FBI officials confirmed that the unclassified file generated by the FBI has not been refuted and is currently being used in an ongoing investigation,” Comer told reporters after a briefing in a basement. of the Capitol.
But Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, said he learned from the briefing that the Justice Department under President Donald Trump reviewed tipping and found it wasn’t worth the hassle. a full investigation.
“They decided there was no reason to escalate this in the chain of investigation and prosecution,” Raskin said. “If there is a complaint, the complaint goes to Attorney General William Barr, the Trump Department of Justice, and the team the Trump administration has appointed to review it.”
In 2020, Barr said the Department of Justice was examine the material that former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani collected from Ukraine in an effort to find dirt on Biden. Barr said at the time that “we can’t take everything we’ve received from Ukraine at face value.” No charges resulted from Giuliani’s material, though it may have prompted an investigation into Hunter Biden in addition to an investigation by federal prosecutors in Delaware.
In a written statement later Monday, Raskin said Barr’s task force interviewed the source who relayed the information and that much of the source’s uncorroborated information had already been turned over to the FBI by Giuliani. “In August 2020, Attorney General Barr and his hand-picked U.S. attorney signed off on the assessment, having found no evidence to support Mr. Giuliani’s allegations,” Raskin said in the statement.
White House spokesman Ian Sams on Monday called the latest development in the FBI corruption information saga “another factless stunt staged by President Comer not to carry out legitimate surveillance, but to spread thin insinuations”.
Comer previously said the tip, given to the FBI in June 2020, reflected a “very credible” allegation that Biden had something to do with a $5 million bribe involving a foreign national. The allegation emerged as key to Comer’s quest to link Biden himself to “influence peddling” by his family members, who Comer says received millions in sketchy payments from foreign sources.
Comer declined the DOJ’s initial offer to let lawmakers view the document at FBI headquarters, but later agreed to take a look at it after the FBI offered to take it to Capitol Hill.
Even though the FBI showed them the document on Monday, Comer said Republicans would still file contempt proceedings against FBI Director Christopher Wray because they weren’t allowed to keep a copy.
“At the briefing, the FBI again refused to release the unclassified file to the custody of the House Oversight Committee, and we will now begin contempt of Congress hearings this Thursday,” Comer said.
When asked why he needed his own copy of the form, Comer complained that news reports about the dispute highlighted that the allegation remained unverified. He pointed out that the FBI source is highly credible and suggested reporters frame the allegations that way.
“Remember, the main reason they don’t want to make this public is that they’re concerned about the source,” Comer said, without explaining why it should be made public anyway.
In a statement, the FBI said access to the document in a reading room is a “common sense safeguard” used for congressional oversight and in court proceedings to protect sources. “The escalation to a contempt vote in these circumstances is unwarranted,” an FBI spokesperson said.
After the briefing, Raskin stressed that the source itself could not vouch for the incriminating tip.
“What we’re talking about here is a confidential human source reporting a conversation with someone else,” Raskin said. “What we’re talking about is second-hand hearsay.”
The DOJ argued that the document reflects unverified allegations gathered by an FBI agent, that the form itself lacks context, and that releasing the information could compromise confidential sources and investigations.
One way or another, Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have already seen the document, the two said last week. Grassley repeatedly said he didn’t know if the allegations were true, just that he wanted the Justice Department to say if it had investigated.
“We don’t want to know whether the allegations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not,” Grassley told Fox News last week. “We are responsible for making sure the FBI is doing its job, and that’s what we want to know.”