Ex-FBI informant charged with lying about Bidens had Russian intelligence contacts, prosecutors say

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BY RIO YAMAT AND LINDSAY WHITEHURST

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former FBI informant charged with making up a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company had contacts with Russian intelligence-affiliated officials, prosecutors said in a court paper Tuesday.

Prosecutors revealed the alleged contact as they urged a judge to keep Alexander Smirnov behind bars while he awaits trial. He’s accused of falsely telling his handler that executives with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each around 2015. The claim became central to the Republican impeachment inquiry in Congress.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts allowed Smirnov to be released from custody on electronic GPS monitoring while he awaits trial. He must stay in Clark County, Nevada, and is prohibited from applying for a new passport.

Prosecutors said Smirnov, 43, admitted during an interview after his arrest last week that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden. They said Smirnov’s contacts with Russian officials were recent and extensive, and said Smirnov had planned to meet with one official during an upcoming overseas trip.

Smirnov has been in custody at a facility in rural Pahrump, about an hour’s drive west of Las Vegas, since his arrest last week at the airport while returning from overseas.

Defense attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld said in a statement they asked for Smirnov’s release while he awaits trial “so he can effectively fight the power of the government.”

The White House didn’t immediately comment on the claims in Tuesday’s court filing.

Prosecutors say Smirnov, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, falsely reported to the FBI in June 2020 that executives associated with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each in 2015 or 2016.

Smirnov in fact had only routine business dealings with the company starting in 2017 and made the bribery allegations after he “expressed bias” against Joe Biden while he was a presidential candidate, prosecutors said in court documents. He is charged with making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record. The charges were filed in Los Angeles, where he lived for 16 years before relocating to Las Vegas two years ago.

Smirnov’s claims have been central to the Republican effort in Congress to investigate the president and his family, and helped spark what is now a House impeachment inquiry into Biden. Democrats called for an end to the probe after the indictment came down last week, while Republicans distanced the inquiry from Smirnov’s claims and said they would continue to “follow the facts.”

Hunter Biden is expected to give a deposition next week.

The Burisma allegations became a flashpoint in Congress as Republicans pursuing investigations of President Biden and his family demanded the FBI release the unredacted form documenting the allegations. They acknowledged they couldn’t confirm if the allegations were true.

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Whitehurst reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.

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