WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee wants the FBI to tell the public what it really thought of a mysterious bribery allegation against President Joe Biden.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Friday asked the FBI to make public its analysis of a tip submitted to the bureau in 2020 that a foreign national claimed to have paid Biden $5 million when he was vice president.
Publicly, the Justice Department has said nothing about the allegation ― and Republicans have run with the rumor, claiming that Biden’s been caught on tape in a corrupt scheme and that the FBI has protected him while going after former President Donald Trump.
Officials from the FBI privately briefed Raskin and House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) last week. The two lawmakers have offered wildly divergent accounts of what the officials said, with Comer claiming that the allegation “has not been disproven” and that the president remained “under investigation for bribery.”
“It is deeply concerning that recent public statements are plainly inconsistent with statements made by the FBI in the June 5, 2023, briefing,” Raskin said in his Friday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Raskin has said that the derogatory material was brought to the Justice Department’s attention by former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in 2020, and that U.S. Attorney General William Barr assigned Scott Brady, then the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, to assess the material ― which Brady later determined wasn’t worth investigating fully.
“The FBI explained that the assessment was closed because Mr. Brady’s team found insufficient evidence to warrant escalating their probe of Mr. Giuliani’s allegations from an assessment of the allegations to a preliminary or full investigation,” Raskin said in his letter. “The FBI read an excerpt from a memorandum closing down the assessment with the concurrence of both Mr. Brady and high-level officials at DOJ.”
Barr has said in recent weeks that the Pittsburgh office wasn’t authorized to open an investigation and that the Justice Department passed the material along to prosecutors in Delaware, who are reportedly weighing tax-evasion charges against Hunter Biden.
In his letter, Raskin asked the FBI to “reiterate in writing the non-classified information” that FBI officials had provided to him and Comer by the end of next week.
The letter marks something of a role reversal, since Republicans have been demanding that the FBI release the bureau’s tip sheet and explain their investigative efforts. It comes after Republicans have dribbled out details from the document on a near-daily basis for the past several weeks, while occasionally admitting they don’t know if any of it is true.
When Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) first asked the FBI to hand over the form memorializing the tip at the beginning of May because they had somehow independently learned of the document’s contents, they described it as alleging a “bribery scheme with a foreign national.” The following week, Comer added that the scheme involved a $5 million sum.
This week, in response to Trump’s indictment on obstruction of justice and other charges, Grassley revealed that the document alleged that the foreign national who spoke to the FBI informant claimed to have multiple recordings of himself speaking to Joe and Hunter Biden.
“These recordings were allegedly kept as a sort of insurance policy for the foreign national in case he got into a tight spot,” Grassley said on the Senate floor. Comer and others have cautioned that they don’t know if the recordings actually exist.
Giuliani, for his part, has said during several Newsmax TV appearances that he alerted the Justice Department to the allegation and that the foreign national involved is Mykola Zlochevksy, co-founder of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
“The document they’re talking about, the $10 million bribe from Mykola Zlochevsky, it really is the tip of the iceberg,” Giuliani said on Newsmax on Saturday. “That document was discovered because it was at least one FBI agent that went out and tried to corroborate what I gave them.”
Hunter Biden infamously served on Burisma’s board of directors while his father served as U.S. vice president and urged Ukraine to fire a prosecutor. Trump’s first impeachment stemmed from his effort to coerce Ukraine into announcing a bogus investigation into the Bidens, despite no credible evidence of wrongdoing by the elder Biden.
Comer has insisted that Giuliani, who faces disbarment for his role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is not the reason the FBI looked into the bribery allegation.
Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), an Oversight Committee member who has seen a redacted copy of the form, suggested lawmakers were able to infer the source’s identity themselves.
“One of the sentences where the name was redacted in the same sentence, it referred to him and said ‘he/Burisma,’” Greene told HuffPost.
Zlochevsky fled embezzlement charges in Ukraine, and his whereabouts are unknown.
In 2020, when Barr acknowledged that the Justice Department was looking at Giuliani’s material, he said it warranted skepticism.
“There are a lot of agendas in the Ukraine, a lot of cross currents. And we can’t take anything we received from Ukraine at face value.”