Grassley silent after feds link Biden smear to Russian intelligence

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has yet to comment publicly on a new document asserting that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden.

The revelation came in a detention memo federal prosecutors filed on February 20, hoping to convince a court to keep former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov incarcerated pending trial. Smirnov was arrested last week and charged with lying to FBI agents about an alleged bribery scheme involving Hunter Biden and his father, when Joe Biden was vice president. The FBI memorialized those claims in an FD-1023 document, which Grassley released and hyped last year as evidence of Biden family corruption. Prosecutors now say Smirnov fabricated the allegations.

The detention memo details Smirnov’s “extensive and extremely recent” contacts with “officials affiliated with Russian intelligence,” and asserts he was planning to to meet with Russian operatives during an upcoming trip abroad. The defendant reported some of those contacts to his FBI handler before being arrested and divulged other relevant information in a custodial interview on February 14.

Grassley’s communications staff did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries this week about Smirnov’s reported contacts with Russian intelligence. The senator has regularly posted on social media as he tours northern Iowa, but has not acknowledged news related to the false bribery claims. His office has issued ten news releases about various other topics since February 20.

Grassley reacted angrily in 2020 and again in 2021, when critics asserted Russian disinformation had influenced his Biden-related investigations. In an August 2020 letter to Democratic leaders in Congress, Grassley and fellow GOP Senator Ron Johnson claimed,

We have neither sought out, relied upon, nor publicly released anything that could even remotely be considered disinformation. […] Far from promoting Russian disinformation, our investigation is focused on uncovering the facts concerning what did and did not occur so that we can put these matters to rest.

If that’s the case, why won’t Grassley admit now that the bribes never happened? The only statement his office has released about the Smirnov prosecution claimed credit for forcing the FBI to perform “due diligence” on the FD-1023.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake observed, “This isn’t even the first time we’ve learned that a person has been indicted after the GOP cited his claims. Nor is it the first time a person has been linked to Russian intelligence after the GOP leaned on their version of events.”

Marcy Wheeler has extensively covered criminal cases and Congressional investigations related to Donald Trump and the Bidens for years at her website EmptyWheel. Following Smirnov’s arrest, she speculated about why the FBI reopened its investigation of the FD-1023 form last summer. Wheeler also pointed to curious details from a letter Grassley sent to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray in October 2023.

In that letter, Grassley noted that in December 2019, the FBI’s Washington field office closed a kleptocracy investigation of Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of the Burisma company (for which Hunter Biden had served on the board). But according to Grassley, “Then, in March 2020 and at the request of the Justice Department, a ‘Guardian’ Assessment was opened out of the Pittsburgh Field Office to analyze information provided by Rudy Giuliani.”

Wheeler connected the dots:

So during Trump’s impeachment for extorting a bribery investigation, Bill Barr’s DOJ shut down a kleptocracy investigation of Mykola Zlochevsky, then, weeks later, opened up a back channel for Rudy Giuliani that led to an assessment of whether Mykola Zlochevsky had bribed Joe Biden.

Close a corruption investigation into Zlochevsky, then open a corruption investigation into an make-believe bribe Zlochevsky made to Joe Biden.

Few Republicans have done more to publicize the “make-believe bribe” than Grassley. In June 2023, several weeks before he released the FD-1023 form, Grassley described its contents in a Senate floor speech. The senator asserted that the foreign national who supposedly bribed the Bidens had seventeen audio recordings of his conversations with Joe and Hunter Biden.

WHO-Radio host Simon Conway interviewed Grassley that same week, and told him he had played part of those Senate floor remarks to Donald Trump. Nick Mordowanec reported for Newsweek that Grassley told Conway, “Well, I hope he thinks I’m doing good work. I’d like to have him think that of my oversight work.”

Grassley owes it to all Americans to admit that knowingly or unwittingly, his “oversight” helped spread tales that Russian intelligence planted.

UPDATE: Martin Pengelly reported for The Guardian on February 23 that U.S. Representative Dan Goldman, a Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee, is calling for an investigation of how Republicans in Congress have handled the Smirnov allegations.

“The House Republicans are simply doing the bidding of Donald Trump and [Russian president] Vladimir Putin by peddling what they knew already to be false allegations,” Goldman said. “I do think there should be more inquiry into not only what Chairman Comer and Chairman Jordan knew about any Russian involvement in pushing … these allegations but [into] Senator Grassley as well.”

The 90-year-old Iowa senator, Goldman said, “was leading an investigation in 2020” – when Smirnov made his allegations – “and was receiving information from Andrii Derkach, who has been sanctioned as a Russian agent”.

Top photo of Senator Chuck Grassley speaking with constituents in northern Iowa originally posted on his official Facebook page on February 21.

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin

  • Chuck is from the silent generation

    Chuck is from the silent generation, so there is no wonder he works behind the scenes, speaks little, and only when he thinks it is appropriate. The legal proceedings are ongoing.

    Among these, the son of President Biden has been indicted in 2023 of tax evasion, as the BBC reports: “US President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, is facing a nine-count criminal indictment for alleged tax evasion. (…) The president’s son began working for Ukrainian private energy company Burisma Holdings Limited in April 2014, with a starting annual salary of $1m. (…)
    The 56-page charge sheet accuses him of evading $1.4m in taxes from 2016-19 and funding an “extravagant lifestyle”. Much of the recovering crack cocaine addict’s alleged illicit activities occurred while his father was US vice-president under Barack Obama.”

    It’s a bit daring and early to ask Grassley to state that “bribes never happened”. Besides an attempt to corrupt the father, I do not see why Hunter Biden would have been hired for major business deals with China and Ukraine.

  • he's always been shameless, untrustworthy, and a bit dim

    just think about the bs he pulled with Obamacare and let’s not even get into his maneuvers around the Supreme Court, still waiting to see armed IRS raids in Iowa…

  • Special prosecutor?

    It seems to be time for a special prosecutor to be appointed with the mission to find out who knew this was Russian misinformation and when they knew it. (Shades of Watergate)

  • US Rep Dan Goldman

    wants an investigation into how Republican members of Congress handled the information that came from Smirnov.

  • New York Times article link:

  • The New York Times

    “Sadly, the credibility of Mr. Biden’s message may be undermined by the association of his son with a Ukrainian natural-gas company, Burisma Holdings, which is owned by a former government official suspected of corrupt practices. A spokesman for the son, Hunter Biden, argues that he joined the board of Burisma to strengthen its corporate governance. That may be so. But Burisma’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, has been under investigation in Britain and in Ukraine. It should be plain to Hunter Biden that any connection with a Ukrainian oligarch damages his father’s efforts to help Ukraine. This is not a board he should be sitting on.”

    This warning was signed by the Editorial Board of the New York Times, in 2015. Ten years and one war later, it sheds a crude light on the Biden administration. Today’s chatter is just partisan noise about how evidence of corruption has been collected.

  • be interesting to see if our senior senator was in the loop