Sen. Chuck Grassley released an unverified claim from a confidential FBI informant on Thursday that the Biden family years ago “goaded” a Ukrainian oligarch into paying them $10 million.
The extremely rare Grassley, R-Iowa stage further enacts an allegation that Democratic critics have warned against accepting at face value and which the White House continues to deny, saying it has been investigated and “debunked.”
Details of the unclassified document, known as FD-1023, have emerged in recent months as Republicans search for any evidence that President Joe Biden engaged in his son Hunter Biden’s controversial overseas business dealings, something the president and his aides have repeatedly said he did not do.
Republicans in Congress in May first subpoenaed the FBI for FD-1023, which documents information relayed by a confidential human source in June 2020. The bureau then showed a redacted version to the two top members of the House Oversight Committee and then, under threat of a contempt vote against FBI Director Christopher Wray, shared it with the full panel.
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FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate testified before the Senate last month that FD-1023 was redacted to protect the source: “It’s a matter of life and death, potentially.”
In a statement Thursday, Grassley said he was driven by transparency: “The American people can now read this document for themselves, without the filter of politicians or bureaucrats.”
Grassley’s office said it obtained its version of FD-1023, which is only lightly redacted, “through disclosures legally protected by Justice Department whistleblowers,” though the office said in a statement that such a release “at a minimum — unnecessarily risks the security of a confidential source.”
Democrats lashed out at Grassley for releasing FD-1023, accusing him of selectively highlighting unsubstantiated information to hurt a political opponent.
“It is remarkable that Congressional Republicans, in their eagerness to go after President Biden regardless of the truth, continue to advance claims that have been debunked for years,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement responding to the statement. “It’s clear that Congressional Republicans are determined to play shameless, dishonest politics and refuse to let the truth get in the way,” Sams said.
In a personal statement, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the oversight committee, reiterated that there was “no real evidence of wrongdoing” by President Biden and argued that “the release of this document in isolation from explanatory context is another obviously desperate attempt by Republicans on the committee.”
But House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., disputed that, saying in a statement, “The American people must be able to read this record for themselves.”
FD-1023 cites an unnamed source who recounts a series of interactions in 2015 and 2016 with Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter Biden as a board member in 2013.
The source indicates in FD-1023 that in a meeting and phone calls over the next year, Zlochevsky claimed he was “forced” to pay Joe and Hunter Biden $5 million each, apparently in exchange for firing a Ukrainian prosecutor named Viktor Shokin who was allegedly investigating Burisma at the time.
The claim that the former Biden, who was then vice president, acted to have Shokin impeached in an effort to protect Burisma has been contradicted by widespread criticism of the former Ukrainian prosecutor by several high-profile international leaders.
Securing Shokin’s ouster was the official policy stance of the US State Department at the time, and once Shokin was removed from office, European Union envoy to Ukraine Jan Tombinski hailed the decision as “an opportunity for a fresh start”.
The source cited in FD-1023, who was previously known to the FBI, added that Zlochevsky told him he had “17 records” involving the Bidens, including two with Joe Biden and 15 with just Hunter. Abbate, the FBI’s deputy director, testified in June that he had “no idea” whether the tapes were real.
As a presidential candidate in September 2019, the elder Biden told reporters, “I never spoke to my son about his overseas business dealings.” The White House has since reaffirmed that statement.
Grassley has in the past criticized the release of raw intelligence. He was one of Congress’s most vocal critics of Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Steele, like the confidential source cited in FD-1023, was also known to the FBI and approved by the FBI when he provided his unverified reports on Trump’s activities in Moscow prior to the 2016 presidential election. (Trump has long denied any allegations of wrongdoing.)
John Cohen, a former congressional investigator and federal law enforcement official, said it was “very disconcerting” to see a lawmaker release “raw, unsubstantiated intelligence without additional details about what those who received this report found when they investigated.”
“Releasing the report in this way creates the perception that has been made to reinforce a political narrative and if it is true then it should be viewed with skepticism by the public,” said Cohen, who is also an ABC News contributor.
The FBI has previously described the FD-1023 forms this way: “They do not reflect the conclusions of investigators based on a fuller context or understanding. The recording of this information does not validate it, establish its credibility, or compare it to other information known or developed by the FBI in our investigations.”
Biden-linked FD-1023 says the source reported to the FBI that they met with the CEO of Burisma once and spoke to him on the phone twice and were unable to “provide another opinion on the veracity” of what the CEO claimed.
Rep. Raskin said last month that in 2020, the Justice Department interviewed the source, investigated the source’s allegations, and then closed the investigation.
Comer, however, then said the FBI told him the allegations had “not been refuted”.
In a speech to the Senate, Grassley said in June that “the Justice Department and the FBI need to show their work.”
ABC News’ Luke Barr contributed to this report.
In a rare move, Grassley publishes an unverified FBI source report alleging Biden’s involvement in a bribe that originally appeared on abcnews.go.com