Republicans’ impeachment farce implodes with indictment of star Biden “informant”


The Biden impeachment inquiry seems to attract witnesses who turn out to be con artists and criminals for some reason. The Republican inquisitors get a tip that somebody’s got the goods on “the Biden family” and they fan out to the right-wing media to hail the news that they’ve finally nabbed the Big Guy. Then the truth inevitably comes out that they were played for fools.

The alleged crime at the center of the impeachment probe is still that ridiculous claim that then vice president Joe Biden was working on behalf of his son’s business, Burisma, in Ukraine when he pushed the government to fire a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, whom they claim was investigating the company. The problem is that Shokin wasn’t investigating the company at all and was actually ousted because he failed to investigate corrupt politicians. (No wonder all these Republicans find him to be such a sympathetic figure.) In fact, the whole international community was agitating to have him fired because he was corrupt and the Ukrainian parliament finally did it.

When the Republicans took over the House in 2023, they went full steam ahead with their investigation of those same moldy facts, following the orders of their leader Donald Trump who has demanded that they impeach Joe Biden at least once as payback for Trump’s first impeachment which, not coincidentally, was also centered around Ukraine. (He also wants both of his impeachments “expunged” like they are a juvie record or something but it looks like that will have to wait until he’s restored to the White House.)

Republicans had been hinting around that they’d found a smoking gun in the case for some time with House Oversight Chair James Comer, R- Ky., and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley flamboyantly announcing last May that they’d sent a letter to the Justice Department stating that there was evidence of “an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions” and demanding that the department release this damning evidence to the public. Comer even threatened the FBI with contempt if they didn’t turn over the documents immediately. Grassley took the lead in leaking out tidbits of information about this evidence which was attributed to an FBI confidential informant who had been informed of the bribe by a Ukrainian businessman. And lordy, they said there were tapes of Biden and Hunter being bribed, electrifying the right-wing media and leading to hours of feverish innuendo on Fox News and other outlets.

Media Matters has tracked Fox News’ obsession with this story for some time:

Hannity’s show aired at least 85 Hunter Biden segments in 2023 promoting the dubiously sourced and wholly unproven notion that Mykola Zlochevsky, the Ukrainian oligarch who controlled Burisma, paid a $5 million bribe to Joe Biden. This is an extension of the Ukraine conspiracy theory with all the problems detailed above, in addition to its own issues, but nonetheless is treated credulously by the Fox host. Of those 85 segments, 28 were Hannity monologues.

Those hysterical monologues are truly something to see. Here’s a bit of the one Hannity gave on the day Grassley released the document:

There are now real and growing concerns that your president, the president of our country, is compromised. After months of obfuscation from the FBI and the DOJ, that FD-1023 form that documented allegations of bribery from a trusted FBI confidential human source has now finally been released, thanks to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Now, its contents are devastating…this is about the big guy himself, Joe Biden, a corrupt career politician who is now very credibly accused of public corruption on a scale this country has never seen before.

It was never very credible. One of the red flags, as I noted at the time, was the fact that this five million dollar bribe seemed to be a “sloppy conflation with a five million dollar bribe that was revealed in September 2020 when they arrested three Burisma executives for offering five million dollars to Ukrainian anti-corruption officials and which the Ukrainian government went to pained lengths to say neither Hunter Biden nor Joe Biden had anything to do with.” There is also the fact that there were quite a few Republicans who were very cagey about this breathless assertion that there were tapes of the bribes.

It makes you wonder what they knew or suspected about this whole thing now that it turns out that their smoking gun witness was arrested in Las Vegas yesterday on charges of lying to the FBI and creating false records. The indictment, returned by a grand jury and filed by Special Counsel David Weiss, tells quite a tale.

Informant Alexander Smirnov, the indictment reads, “transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against [Biden], the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties for President, after expressing bias against [Biden] and his candidacy.”

In the original interview, Smirnov had claimed that he’d been told about the bribe in 2016. But, apparently, Smirnov couldn’t have had that conversation in 2016 because he “met with officials from Burisma for the first time in 2017, after [Biden] left office in January 2017.” The indictment says that Smirnov’s meetings with Burisma were “unremarkable” pitch meetings, not discussions of bribes to then-VP Biden.

Smirnov’s accusation was cited over and over as the main basis for the impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden, despite the fact that they knew the information was unverified:

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None of the Fox News celebrity hosts mentioned this indictment tonight, after flogging in relentlessly for the past year. James Comer issued a statement expressing no remorse for his role and even criticized the FBI for not being forthcoming about its investigation of his big witness, despite the fact that he and Grassley made the whole thing public over their protests. He told CNN, “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.” None of that has panned out thus far.

Oh, and by the way, this is the second major Comer witness to be indicted. The first was Gal Luft indicted last July on 8 counts of arms trafficking, sanctions violations and acting as an unregistered agent for China. He’s now a fugitive from justice.

These Republicans sure know how to pick ’em. Or, to be more precise, these unsavory characters know how to pick Republicans. 

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