Jamie Raskin Calls Biden Impeachment Inquiry A 'Product Of Russian Disinformation'

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said that House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden is a product of Russian propaganda.

The Justice Department revealed Tuesday that Alexander Smirnov, an FBI informant who is charged with making up a bribery allegation against Biden, may have ties to Russian intelligence sources.

“It appears like the whole thing is not only obviously false and fraudulent, but a product of Russian disinformation and propaganda,” Raskin, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, told reporters Wednesday.

In a Tuesday court filing urging a judge to keep Smirnov in jail ahead of his trial, the Justice Department said Tuesday that he “claims to have contacts with multiple foreign intelligence agencies” and that those agencies “could resettle Smirnov outside the United States if he were released.”

The brief said that “law enforcement knows about Smirnov’s contact with officials affiliated with Russian intelligence” because Smirnov had provided information about them, along with photographs and documents, to his FBI handler before the agency caught on to his made-up bribery allegation about Biden last fall.

It’s not clear if the Justice Department has independently confirmed Smirnov’s ties with Russian intelligence. Spokespeople declined to comment.

Smirnov had served as an FBI source for years, earning thousands of dollars for his tips, Justice Department officials told lawmakers during a private briefing last year, adding that they considered him highly credible. Republicans obtained and released an FBI file describing Smirnov’s account of the head of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that employed the president’s son on its board, saying that he’d paid both Joe and Hunter Biden $5 million in bribes.

After Republicans released the file, the FBI asked U.S. Attorney David Weiss, the special counsel prosecutor leading a criminal case against Hunter Biden, to look into Smirnov’s claim. Investigators found travel records and other details that didn’t match his story. He was arrested last week and charged with making false statements.

A judge rebuffed the government’s request to detain him before his trial, however. But the government’s sentencing memo, with its allegations that Smirnov has contacts with Russian intelligence, was another blow to an impeachment inquiry that has already struggled to find high crimes and misdemeanors by Joe Biden.

“The impeachment investigation essentially ended yesterday, in substance if not in form, with the explosive revelation that Mr. Smirnov’s allegations about Ukrainian Burisma payments to Joe Biden were concocted along with Russian intelligence agents,” Raskin said.

A spokesperson for Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who chairs the House oversight committee, said that Biden family bank records the committee has obtained through subpoenas are not Russian disinformation.

“The House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry 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 spokesperson said.

“Witnesses have confirmed Joe Biden was the brand being sold by the Bidens around the world. President Biden continues to lie to the American people about this matter and the American people demand the truth and accountability for any wrongdoing.”

Republicans have claimed that witness testimony shows Joe Biden participated in his son’s business because business associates have testified that on several occasions Joe Biden greeted and exchanged pleasantries with them, such as when Hunter Biden would put his father on speakerphone in their company. No witness has said that Joe Biden actually talked about business with them, however.

The most serious allegation Republicans have pursued is that Joe Biden, as vice president in 2015, made Ukraine fire a prosecutor because he was investigating Burisma. State Department officials have repeatedly said that the allegation is untrue; the supposed bribe brought the claim new life last year, but now it’s dead. And Republicans have deleted mentions of it from their letters requesting interviews.

The impeachment committees held a transcribed interview with the president’s brother James Biden, who told them that he never asked his sibling for official favors or help with his work. Hunter Biden will sit for a deposition next week.

“I found it interesting. I kind of want to wait and see the transcript,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the House Judiciary Committee chair and one of the leaders of the impeachment inquiry, told HuffPost after leaving the interview with James Biden.

Jordan said that the implosion of the FBI informant’s bribery claim didn’t change the facts of the case.

Raskin said that the mood in the room for James Biden’s interview was subdued.

“It feels to me as if everyone knows the impeachment investigation is over,” Raskin said.