Grassley unrepentant as DOJ declares explosive claims to be "fabrications"

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley did his best last year to promote what he called “very significant allegations from a trusted FBI informant implicating then-Vice President Biden in a criminal bribery scheme.”

On February 15, the Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging that informant, Alexander Smirnov, with two felonies: making a false statement to a government agent, and creating a false and fictitious record. Last July, Grassley released that document (an FBI FD-1023 form) to bolster claims President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, had accepted bribes worth $5 million. Federal prosecutors determined the events Smirnov first reported to his handler in June 2020 “were fabrications.”

At this writing, Grassley’s office has not sent out a news release about the criminal charges returned by a federal grand jury in California. But in a statement provided to Bleeding Heartland, staff claimed the indictment “confirms several points Senator Grassley has made repeatedly.”

The spin was not convincing.


According to the charging document, Smirnov had been a “confidential human source” for the FBI since 2010 and in that role was “authorized to engage in illegal activity for investigative purposes.” However, he was repeatedly told “he must provide truthful information to the FBI and that he must not fabricate evidence.”

Smirnov had told his handler in 2017 about a conversation with the owner of the Ukrainian company Burisma. Among other things, he mentioned that Hunter Biden served on the company’s board.

The handler reached out to Smirnov about this statement again in June 2020, “at the request of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office.” As Philip Bump reported for the Washington Post, “[Rudy] Giuliani’s slapdash efforts to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine had led then-Attorney General William P. Barr to set up a process for assessing such allegations based out of the FBI field office in Pittsburgh.”

At that point, Smirnov reported new claims, which turned out to be “false derogatory information” about the Bidens. Supposedly, Burisma officials had told him in 2015 or 2016 that they had orchestrated $5 million bribes to Joe Biden and Hunter Biden during the Obama administration, when the vice president would have been able to influence U.S. policy toward Ukraine. FBI staff memorialized those assertions in an FD-1023 form.

The FBI then asked Smirnov for travel records, in order to verify his account. By August 2020—while Donald Trump was still president—the FBI’s Pittsburgh office had determined the investigation “should be closed.” The FBI’s Deputy director and the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General “concurred that it should be closed.”

The indictment explains how conversations Smirnov recounted were “fabrications,” which “were false, as he knew.” The government found that Smirnov “met with officials from Burisma for the first time in 2017, after the end of the Obama-Biden Administration,” and did not travel to Vienna around the time he claimed to have met with a Burisma official while Biden was still vice president.

Smirnov, it alleges, “transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against Public Official 1, the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties for President, after expressing bias against Public Official 1 and his candidacy.” He repeated some of the false claims and changed some aspects of his story when FBI agents interviewed him again in September 2023.


Grassley amplified the bribery allegations in numerous press releases and media appearances last year. He drew criticism for releasing the FD-1023 form based on Smirnov’s 2020 statements.

So I sought comment from Grassley’s office on February 15: does the senator still believe Smirnov’s claims about bribery involving the Biden family? And does he regret releasing the FD-1023 form relating to those allegations?

Communications staff emailed a short while later,

Today’s indictment confirms several points Senator Grassley has made repeatedly. The informant behind the FD-1023 was, indeed, a long-serving, trusted FBI source used by the agency for criminal investigations since the Obama administration. In fact, he was so trusted that the FBI provided him authorization “to engage in illegal activity for investigative purposes.”

But, when presented with information from a source the agency so trusted, the FBI – as exposed by Senator Grassley – sat on the document for years, without performing due diligence. It’s clear that only after Senator Grassley made the FD-1023 public did the FBI investigate the allegations in the document. 

Not really. The indictment makes clear that “After the Defendant made these reports [in June 2020], the FBI asked him for travel records, which he provided, in an attempt to determine whether the information he provided was accurate.”

Those records didn’t support the bribery allegations. Nor did the statement Smirnov provided to his handler in 2017 about his first conversation with a Burisma official.

It’s true that FBI staff did more work on this front after Grassley released the document, interviewing Smirnov again in September 2023. But that doesn’t support the idea that the agency “sat on the document for years, without performing due diligence.” Why would Bill Barr’s DOJ sit on explosive allegations against Joe Biden, who in the summer of 2020 was the presumptive Democratic nominee against Trump?

The statement Grassley’s office provided on February 15 continued:

Since October 2022, Senator Grassley has had a single aim: to ensure the DOJ and FBI investigated the FD-1023. Today’s indictment makes clear that, without Senator Grassley’s oversight and exposure of the FD-1023, the agency would have continued neglecting its duties and failing to provide the transparency the American people deserve. Congress shouldn’t have to threaten contempt to obtain an unclassified document.

After withholding information from Congress and the American people, and hiding behind the guise of protecting “sources and methods,” the Department of Justice has now exposed their own source. Accordingly, this indictment isn’t enough – the public has a right to see all the underlying evidence supporting the Biden Justice Department’s case. The Biden administration must show its work.

It’s disingenuous to say Grassley’s “single aim” was to ensure Smirnov’s claims were investigated. In reality, his longstanding goal has been to depict Biden as corrupt. That’s why he spread unproven bribery claims to the widest possible audience through conservative and mainstream media outlets.

Even now, the senator does not acknowledge the bribery allegations were false. On the contrary, his office implies the Justice Department is still hiding evidence about the Smirnov affair.


Kris Kolesnik, who served as director of investigations in Grassley’s office for nineteen years, has criticized his former boss for “waging political battles” and “wading in the bogs with provocateurs and witnesses who so far seem to be credibility-challenged.” After Grassley released the FD-1023 form last July, Kolesnik told one reporter, “I would never have advised him to do that.”

Asked about the criminal charges against Smirnov, Kolesnik told Bleeding Heartland via email, “What a surprise. Another Republican oversight bombshell dud. First it was Gal Luft, now Alexander Smirnov.”

Luft was at the center of different corruption allegations against the Bidens, related to a Chinese energy company. Some Congressional Republicans hyped Luft’s claims, and he suggested the Biden administration was persecuting him. But he was indicted in 2022 for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran, trafficking weapons, and aiding the Chinese government without registering as a foreign agent.

Kolesnik also said House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, and Grassley “have weaponized duds against FBI ‘bias’ and Biden ‘family corruption.’ It’s oversight amateur hour. How much egg on their faces is enough?”

We’ll get our first clue when the House of Representatives decides whether to proceed with impeaching Biden. The bribery tale Smirnov fabricated in 2020 was one of the pretexts for launching a formal impeachment inquiry last September.

Top image: Senator Chuck Grassley reads from prepared remarks on the Senate floor about the FD-1023 form he had made public. Screenshot from a video posted to the senator’s YouTube channel on July 25, 2023.

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin

  • Yes, what a surprise.

    Well done, Laura! Thanks for linking to the June 2023 Kolesnik op-ed. Learning of his role in Grassley’s championing of whistleblowers helps answer my What-happened-to-Grassley questions. ~Dan Clark

  • Let Justice proceed

    At the moment, there are charges that the FBI employee lied and was biased. Let the Court decide if he lied.

    Hunter Biden was paid $40,000+ per year to sit on the board of a Ukrainian utility company when his dad was vice-President of the US, for several years. This is corruption and nepotism and this is the bigger story.

  • more of the same from Grassley

    Lyz Lenz did a nice job summarizing much of the research into our ever rad right Senator and how his kind paved the way for MAGA:
    “In many ways Grassley’s 1980 election was the perfect prologue for the current political climate. Ailes would go on to run Fox News and have an outsize influence on conservative politics as an operative and media executive, helping elect the likes of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Trump. Grassley’s victory was part of the ascendant New Right, a phrase that had become popular during Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential run and encompassed a backlash to the social liberalism of the civil rights era and the growing feminist movement. The rise of the Moral Majority, the Jerry Falwell–backed political action group pushing a conservative religious agenda, had given Grassley’s election heavenly stakes. The National Conservative Political Action Committee sent mailers claiming Culver had helped Senator Ted Kennedy “concoct [a] fallacy-ridden story” about the Chappaquiddick bridge incident. The radical anti-abortion group Iowa Pro-Life Action Council distributed fliers with the image of an 18-week-old thumb-sucking fetus, telling Iowans to vote for Grassley otherwise that baby might not live.

    The KKK cited Grassley, giving him an eight out of 10 for his voting record. The John Birch Society attacked Culver, and John Birchers donated to Grassley’s campaign. Also, The Des Moines Register reported that in 1979, as a member of Congress, Grassley had given a speech to the Liberty Lobby, whose founder asserted antisemitic conspiracy theories and campaigned to persuade Black Americans to go to Africa. (Grassley reportedly spoke about gold to the group’s Financial Survival Seminar, and his press secretary told The Des Moines Register at the time that Grassley had “not intended when he accepted the invitation to jump into bed with some political group. He thought he was going to be talking to a financial seminar, to economists and people like that.”) In 1977, Grassley was the only member of the Iowa House delegation to vote against a congressional resolution sanctioning Rhodesia for being an aparthied state.

  • Thanks, Laura

    Marcy Wheeler has covered this in excruciating detail over recent years.

    As Laura is the best in state of Iowa matters, Marcy is best in nation on national politics that implicate national security matters. (And I do seek out and find other very good reporters.)

    Peerless, the both of you, in your respective domains, IMHO.

    Marcy’s most recent couple of posts on this sordid affair:

    The Gaps in David Weiss’ Belated Indictment of Alexander Smirnov

    David Weiss Is a Direct Witness to the Crimes on Which He Indicted Alexander Smirnov

  • I'm a huge fan

    of Marcy Wheeler’s work. She was an inspiration to me during the 2000s. Thanks for sharing those links.

  • Ahhh...

    You, Laura, were likely Marcy-aware back when she wrote the “Sweet Judy Blew Lies” post on Judith Miller. I wasn’t there yet.

  • Karl - you're not wrong...

    The case against Smirnov could turn out to be weak and he could prevail in court. You’re also right that Hunter’s position within the company was somewhat problematic. At the very least, I always thought it was a bad look and it has certainly created endless headaches for Biden and the Democrats.

    But, Hunter’s position on the board, by itself, is not illegal. Potentially a conflict? Yes. Poor optics? Yes. Trading on the family name? Looks like it. But, it didn’t break any laws. I wish Biden told his son to stay away from shady overseas business opportunities like this, but ultimately it’s not illegal.

  • Island Hawk is not wrong

    A basic rule of good government is to avoid the appearance of conflict of interests. Biden not only couldn’t prevent his son to work on the board of Burisma, but also conditioned US foreign aid to the firing of the lead Ukrainian prosecutor investigating Burisma. Viktor Shokin is his name.

    It is possible that Biden committed no crime. His dealings with Ukraine could be justified with the same senility argument used by prosecutor Hur to dismiss charges of wrongly retaining classified material.

  • A Forgotten Man

    Grassley should be satisfied.
    When he chose to throw in this lot, he lost any gravitas he had for a chance to stand next to an empty suit.
    He has no future, and his past has been rendered meaningless.
    After he dies, he will soon be forgotten.

  • Russian Stooge

    I hope all the GQP are excited that Greasy is nothing but a Russian Stooge! That is where Smirnov got all his information, and he admitted it in court. He also admitted that he lied about Biden. So those saying wait for court, it happened. The GQP is nothing but a front and mouth piece for Putin. Time for Greasy to die and be remebered as the WORST Senator from Iowa. Just below “I sleep with anyone” Earnst.