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Man accused of lying to FBI about Hunter Biden claims fake info came from Russia

In World
February 21, 2024

Washington —  The man accused last week of delivering false allegations to federal investigators about Hunter Biden and President Biden’s business dealings told officials after his arrest that individuals “associated with Russian intelligence” were tied to apparent efforts to peddle a story about the first son, federal prosecutors revealed in a court filing Tuesday.

Alexander Smirnov was arrested last week after being charged with two counts that alleged he lied to the FBI. Special counsel David Weiss — the Trump-appointed prosecutor tasked with investigating the president’s son — accused Smirnov of providing his FBI handlers with fake allegations about Hunter and Mr. Biden in 2020.  He claimed the two Bidens each accepted $5 million from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The claims “were false, as the Defendant knew,” according to the charging documents filed against him.

A judge ordered on Tuesday that he be released from custody on a personal recognizance bond.

In a court memo unsuccessfully urging a judge overseeing the case to keep Smirnov behind bars pending trial, prosecutors wrote Tuesday that after he was arrested last week for lying, “Smirnov admitted that officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story about Businessperson 1.” Businessperson 1 appears to align with Hunter Biden.

Prosecutors did not say whether Smirnov’s claims about the apparent ties to Russian intelligence have ever been substantiated.

Investigators said Smirnov first became an FBI informant in 2010, meeting with and speaking to federal officials until last year. He told his FBI handlers about his contacts with foreign intelligence services, “including Russian intelligence agencies, and has had such contacts recently,” prosecutors alleged in Tuesday’s filing, but he was ultimately deemed unreliable and indicted.

“Law enforcement knows about Smirnov’s contact with officials affiliated with Russian intelligence because Smirnov himself reported on a number of those contacts to his FBI Handler,” the special counsel’s team wrote. “These contacts are extensive and extremely recent, and Smirnov had the intention of meeting with one of these officials on his upcoming planned overseas travel.”

According to prosecutors, the ties he claimed to have with Russian intelligence officials presented “a serious risk he will flee in order to avoid accountability for his actions.”

Although they described a number of meetings Smirnov claimed he had with intelligence officials, federal prosecutors did not reveal which story about Hunter Biden apparently came from individuals tied to Russia. And none of the claims appeared to have been verified in the court documents.

“He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November,” Tuesday’s court documents said.

The indictment against Smirnov unsealed last week accused him of “expressing a bias” against then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in May 2020 text messages with his FBI handler, expressing a view that Mr. Biden was “going to jail.”

The defendant’s now-debunked claims in 2020 — including that the Ukrainian energy company Burisma hired Hunter Biden for protection “through his dad” and that Hunter and Mr. Biden were paid millions by the company — were memorialized in an FBI document known as an FD 1023.

That document and the claims within it that federal prosecutors now say are false have been central to congressional Republicans’ investigation of Mr. Biden and his son. They have pointed to the document’s allegations of bribery as evidence of misdeeds.

The charges against Smirnoff appear to blunt those claims as he is accused of “transform[img] his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against” Hunter and Mr. Biden.

The president’s son has been charged with nine federal tax charges for what the special counsel alleges was a “four-year scheme” to avoid paying at least $1.4 million in federal taxes.

Weiss, who was appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware by former President Donald Trump and named special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2023, also charged Hunter Biden with three felony gun charges in the state of Delaware that are related to his alleged unlawful possession of a firearm.

He pleaded not guilty and in separate court papers filed in Delaware on Tuesday, Hunter Biden’s attorneys blamed Smirnov’s alleged lies for the sudden collapse last July of a plea and diversion agreement on the criminal charges. They wrote prosecutors took Smirnov’s “bait of grand, sensational charges” and changed the conditions of their agreement.

A federal judge last year rejected a proposed plea deal between Weiss’ office and the president’s son after they disagreed on key portions of the agreement in open court.

For his part, Smirnov’s attorneys successfully argued that their client should be free pending trial, citing long-term personal relationships based in Las Vegas and other support systems and needs in the U.S.

“With Mr. Smirnov in custody he will not be able to facilitate his counsel’s contact with critical witnesses, and assist counsel with language barriers that are sure to exist,” his attorney wrote.

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