GOP Lawmakers Release FBI Report Behind Unverified Bribery Claim

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

(Bloomberg) -- An FBI document released by Republicans marks the latest attempt by GOP lawmakers to support their unverified claims that President Joe Biden and his son Hunter engaged in corruption in Ukraine.

Most Read from Bloomberg

The document, a raw intelligence report that’s referred to as an FD-1023 form, was released Thursday by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Conservatives have seized on the report to claim the Bidens were bribed when the elder Biden was vice president to help remove Ukraine’s chief prosecutor and stop an investigation into energy company Burisma Holdings. Hunter served on the Burisma board from 2014 to 2019.

House GOP leaders have been advancing claims that the Bidens were each paid $5 million in bribes for assisting Burisma.

However, the document doesn’t conclusively show the Bidens received bribes. It cites recollections made to the FBI by a confidential source between late 2015 and June 2022. The source claimed to have had conversations with Ukrainian businessman Mykola Zlochevsky, who said he was coerced into paying the Bidens.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation criticized the lawmakers for releasing the document.

“Today’s release of the 1023 — at a minimum — unnecessarily risks the safety of a confidential source,” the bureau said in a statement. “Throughout the FBI’s engagements with Congress, we have been guided by our obligation to protect the physical safety of confidential human sources and the integrity of sensitive investigations.”

White House

The White House sought to discredit the document and noted that the allegations were already investigated by the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump.

“It is remarkable that congressional Republicans, in their eagerness to go after President Biden regardless of the truth, continue to push claims that have been debunked for years and that they themselves have cautioned to take ‘with a grain of salt’ because they could be ‘made up,’” said White House spokesman Ian Sams.

However, the US attorney in Delaware has said that the allegations are part of an ongoing, active investigation.

Efforts to damage Joe Biden over his dealings in Ukraine have blown back on Republicans in the past. Indeed, Trump was impeached in 2019 because he sought to press Ukrainian officials for damaging information on Biden, going as far as to withhold military aid to the country. Trump was impeached by the then-Democratic House and acquitted by the Republican-led Senate.

The document was released without “critical context” as a “transparently desperate attempt by Committee Republicans to revive the aging and debunked” conspiracy theories against Biden and at the cost of endangering the safety of FBI sources, said Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight panel.

Raskin cited a briefing that FBI officials gave to the committee in June saying the document was reviewed as part of an assessment done by federal investigators that was ultimately closed due to insufficient evidence.

Zlochevsky Statements

House Oversight Democrats have made public a written document containing Zlochevsky statements from 2019 that contradict allegations contained in the Form FD-1023. The transcript was produced by Lev Parnas, who was working with Trump ally Rudolph Giuliani at the time to gather damaging information on the Bidens.

Those previous Zlochevsky statements were among evidence provided to congressional committees overseeing the first impeachment inquiry against Trump in January 2020.

Specifically, the transcripts show Zlochevsky said in 2019 “no one from Burisma ever had any contacts with VP Biden or people working for him“ while Hunter Biden served on the Burisma board. He also said Burisma never received assistance from Joe Biden or any of his staff for deals or meetings with world leaders.

Biden’s actions to remove Shokin have been subject to scrutiny for years. Biden and his allies, including officials in Europe, said Shokin needed to be removed because he was corrupt.

In early 2016, Biden pushed Ukraine to fire Shokin, a position that was in line with official US foreign policy and other allied nations. Although Shokin had been investigating Burisma, the probe had long been dormant by the time Biden was pushing for his ouster, a former Ukrainian official told Bloomberg News in May 2019.

The conversations cited by the FBI source took place from 2016 to 2019, according to the FD-1023 document. Zlochevsky said it cost $5 million to “pay one Biden” and $5 million to pay “another Biden,” the document states.

However, the document doesn’t say Zlochevsky specified payments were made directly to Joe and Hunter. According to the source, Zlochevsky made references only to paying “the Bidens.”

Zlochevsky also told the source he had 17 recordings involving the Bidens, two that included Joe Biden and 15 with Hunter Biden, according to the document.

The source met Zlochevsky in person once and spoke to him twice on the phone and, therefore, “is not able to provide any further opinion as to the veracity of Zlochevsky’s aforementioned statements,” the document states.

Hunter Biden has previously said taking the Burisma role may have been “poor judgment” as his involvement with the Ukrainian energy company became a lightning rod during the 2020 presidential campaign.

--With assistance from Billy House.

(Updates with more details starting in the 13th paragraph)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.