In rare move, Grassley releases unverified FBI source report alleging Biden involvement in bribe
The White House said the allegation is "debunked" and called the move a stunt.
Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday released a confidential FBI informant's unverified claim that, years ago, the Biden family "pushed" a Ukrainian oligarch to pay them $10 million.
The exceedingly rare step by Grassley, R-Iowa, further promulgates an allegation that Democratic critics warned against accepting at face value and which the White House continues to deny, saying it was investigated under the Trump administration and "debunked."
Details of the unclassified document, known as an FD-1023, have emerged in recent months as Republicans search for any evidence that President Joe Biden engaged in the controversial overseas business dealings of his son Hunter Biden, which the president and his aides have repeatedly said he didn't do.
Republicans in Congress in May first subpoenaed the FBI for the FD-1023, which documents information relayed by a confidential human source in June 2020. The bureau later showed a redacted version to the top two members of the House Oversight Committee and then, under threat of a contempt vote against FBI Director Christopher Wray, shared it with the full panel.
The FBI's deputy director, Paul Abbate, testified before the Senate last month that the FD-1023 had been redacted to protect the source: "This a question of life and death, potentially."
In a statement on Thursday, Grassley said he was motivated by transparency: "The American people can now read this document for themselves, without the filter of politicians or bureaucrats."
Grassley's office said he obtained his version of the FD-1023, which is only lightly redacted, "via legally protected disclosures by Justice Department whistleblowers," though the bureau said in a statement that such a release "at a minimum - unnecessarily risks the safety of a confidential source."
Democrats pounced on Grassley for publishing the FD-1023, accusing him of selectively highlighting uncorroborated information to hurt a political opponent.
"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," White House spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement responding to the release. "It's clear that congressional Republicans are dead-set on playing shameless, dishonest politics and refuse to let truth get in the way," Sams said.
In a statement of his own, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, reiterated there had been "no actual evidence of wrongdoing" by President Biden and argued that "releasing this document in isolation from explanatory context is another transparently desperate attempt by Committee Republicans."
But House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., challenged that, saying in a statement, "The American people must be able to read this record for themselves."
The FD-1023 cites an unnamed source who recounts a series of interactions in 2015 and 2016 with Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm that hired Hunter Biden as a board member in 2013.
The source says in the FD-1023 that in a meeting and in phone calls over the next year, Zlochevsky claimed that he was "forced" to pay Joe and Hunter Biden $5 million each, apparently in exchange for firing a Ukrainian prosecutor named Viktor Shokin who was purportedly investigating Burisma at the time.
The assertion that the elder Biden, who was then vice president, acted to have Shokin removed in an effort to protect Burisma has been undercut by widespread criticism of the former Ukrainian prosecutor by several high-profile international leaders.
Securing Shokin's ouster was the U.S. State Department's official policy stance at the time, and once Shokin was removed, the European Union's envoy to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, lauded the decision as "an opportunity to make a fresh start."
The source cited in the FD-1023, who was previously known to the FBI, added that Zlochevsky told him he had "17 recordings" involving the Bidens, including two with Joe Biden and 15 with only Hunter. Abbate, the FBI's deputy director, testified in June that he had "no idea" if the recordings were real.
As a presidential candidate in September 2019, the elder Biden told reporters, "I've never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings." The White House has since reaffirmed that statement.
Grassley has in the past criticized the release of raw intelligence. He was one of Congress' most vocal critics of Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Steele, like the confidential source cited in the FD-1023, was also known to the FBI and trusted by the FBI when he provided his unverified reports about Trump's activities Moscow ahead of the 2016 presidential election. (Trump has long denied any allegations of wrongdoing.)
John Cohen, a former congressional investigator and federal law enforcement official, said it was "highly disconcerting" to see a lawmaker release "uncorroborated, raw intelligence without additional detail on what those who received this reporting found when they investigated it."
"Releasing the report in this manner creates the perception that is was done to reinforce a political narrative and if true, then it should be viewed with skepticism by the public," said Cohen, who is also an ABC News contributor.
The FBI has previously described FD-1023 forms this way: "They do not reflect the conclusions of investigators based on a fuller context or understanding. Recording this information does not validate it, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information known or developed by the FBI in our investigations."
The FD-1023 related to Biden states that the source reported to the FBI that they met Burisma's CEO once and spoke with him on the phone twice and was unable to "provide any further opinion as to the veracity" of what the CEO claimed.
Rep. Raskin said last month that in 2020, the Justice Department interviewed the source, investigated the source's claims and then closed the investigation.
Comer, however, said then that the FBI told him that the allegations had "not been disproven."
In a speech on the Senate floor, Grassley said in June that "the Justice Department and FBI must show their work."
ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.
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