Hunter Biden informant charged with lying had high-level Russian contacts: Documents

Alexander Smirnov was indicted for alleged false statements and obstruction.

February 21, 2024, 12:48 PM

The informant accused of fabricating a story about President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden taking $5 million each in bribes allegedly had high-level Russian intelligence contacts, according to newly filed court documents.

In the filing Tuesday, special counsel David Weiss revealed that after his arrest last week, Alexander Smirnov told the FBI "that officials with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story" about Hunter Biden.

Prosecutors argued in their filing Smirnov should be held pending trial, with Weiss saying that Smirnov claims that he has active contacts with "multiple foreign intelligence agencies" and that he had planned to leave the U.S. just two days after his arrival last week "for a months-long, multi-country foreign trip."

However, a Nevada magistrate judge late Tuesday ordered Smirnov released from custody, under the condition that he surrender his passport, wear an ankle monitor, and be restricted to traveling only to Nevada and to California for court purposes.

On Wednesday, Weiss asked a federal judge in California to reconsider the magistrate judge's ruling that ordered Smirnov's release.

Weiss says they are continuing to seek Smirnov's detention and are asking for the judge overseeing Smirnov's case to intervene and potentially hold an additional detention hearing if necessary.

In Weiss' filing Tuesday, he wrote that "foreign intelligence agencies could resettle Smirnov outside the United States if he were released."

PHOTO: Hunter Biden
FILE - Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, Dec. 13, 2023. An FBI informant has been charged with lying to his handler about ties between Joe Biden and son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company. Prosecutors said Thursday that Alexander Smirnov falsely told FBI agents in June 2020 that executives associated with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each in 2015 and 2016.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Furthermore, "Smirnov's efforts to spread misinformation about a candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States continues," the filing states. "What this shows is that the misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020. He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November. In light of that fact there is a serious risk he will flee in order to avoid accountability for his actions."

Smirnov's assigned defense counsel disputed Weiss' claims that Smirnov misled the court's pretrial services officer about his personal wealth.

Attorney David Chesnoff said that when Smirnov met with the officer he was "only asked about his personal assets and not the business account."

His attorney did not directly address the other claims raised by Weiss regarding Smirnov's claimed extensive ties to Russian intelligence or other issues they say present a risk he will flee prosecution.

The developments come as Hunter Biden's team suggested that the informant's alleged fabrications helped tank a plea deal.

Attorneys for Hunter Biden claimed in court filings on Tuesday that a bribery allegation made by the newly indicted ex-FBI informant may have contributed to the demise of their client's plea deal with prosecutors last year.

According to the filings, the lawyers largely base their assertion on the fact that Hunter Biden's deal unraveled around the same time that the Justice Department began scrutinizing the informant's claims of Biden family corruption. In court papers filed Tuesday, Abbe Lowell, an attorney for the president's son, slammed Weiss for allegedly following the informant, Smirnov, "down his rabbit hole of lies."

But it's not clear from court records that the downfall of Hunter Biden's deal was connected in any meaningful way to Smirnov's allegations. And it's not clear that Weiss ever found Smirnov's allegations credible.

Weiss opened his investigation years after senior Justice Department officials determined that Smirnov's allegations were not worth pursuing further. And the investigation came around the same time that Republican lawmakers publicly released an FBI document detailing the informant's allegations, which the Justice Department now says were completely "fabricated."

Specifically, Weiss filed felony false statement and obstruction charges against Smirnov last week for telling his FBI handler in 2020, as Joe Biden was running for the White House, that Biden and his son had accepted $10 million in bribes from a Ukrainian oligarch.

In Weiss' indictment of Smirnov, he noted that in July 2023, investigators pursuing Hunter Biden launched "an investigation of allegations related to" the informant's prior claims -- shortly before a July 26, 2023, court hearing where their negotiated plea agreement with Hunter Biden fell apart.

In court papers filed Tuesday, Lowell tried to tie it all to his client's doomed plea deal.

"Having taken Mr. Smirnov's bait of grand, sensational charges, the [plea deal] … that was on the verge of being finalized suddenly became inconvenient for the prosecution, and it reversed course and repudiated those agreements," Lowell wrote. "It now seems clear that the Smirnov allegations infected this case."

Lowell's allegation appeared in filings intended to convince a judge to order the Justice Department to hand over even more government documents related to his client's case.

Investigators spent five years probing Hunter Biden's foreign business deals before reaching a deal last summer that would allow him to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax crimes in exchange for probation. Hunter Biden also would have agreed to a pretrial diversion on a separate gun charge, with the charge being dropped if he adhered to certain terms.

But that deal fell apart under questioning from a federal judge, whose line of questioning about the deal exposed fissures between the two parties, prompting prosecutors to threaten Hunter Biden with additional charges under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

It was the specter of potential FARA violations that led Lowell to accuse Weiss' team of inappropriately reviewing Smirnov's claim years after the FBI determined them to be incorrect.

Weiss ultimately brought three felony gun-related charges against Hunter Biden in Delaware and additional tax-related charges in California. Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to them all.

Sawdust or cocaine?

Meanwhile, in the same filing Tuesday, Lowell pointed out what appears to be an embarrassing gaffe by prosecutors: mistaking sawdust for cocaine. Weiss' office included in a previous filing an image of what he said were lines of cocaine on Hunter Biden's phone around the time that he purchased a firearm.

But according to Lowell, the photo was sent by Hunter Biden's then-psychiatrist and showed not cocaine, but sawdust, which Lowell said, "sounds more like a storyline from one of the 1980s Police Academy comedies than what should be expected in a high-profile prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice."