Tag: fbi
Sean Hannity

After Touting Russia's Biden Bribe Tale, Hannity Runs For Cover

Fox News host Sean Hannity has repeatedly tried to downplay what the arrest of FBI informant Alexander Smirnov means for the Republican Party’s impeachment case against President Joe Biden. But Hannity’s current minimization effort belies the central role he assigned Smirnov’s story as he sought to build an impeachment case around the president’s son in 2023.

After the government alleged Smirnov had lied to the bureau in claiming that Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden had each received a $5 million foreign bribe, recorded in a 2020 FBI FD-1023 form, Hannity first responded on his Fox show by calling the informant’s story “a very, very small part of what is the large body of evidence in the Biden impeachment inquiry.” In subsequent broadcasts, he criticized the notion that “this one piece of the puzzle negate[s]” the rest of the GOP’s narrative, and described Smirnov’s tale as “only one tiny piece of the case against what I call the Biden family and the Biden family syndicate.”

But Hannity kept Smirnov’s claims front-and-center from May 3, 2023 — when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. James Comer (R-KY) launched the story by publicly demanding the FBI produce an FD-1023 “alleging a criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national” by an unnamed “whistleblower,” since revealed as Smirnov — through the end of the year, Media Matters data show. During that period, 33 percent of all Hannity segments about Hunter Biden and 50 percent of Hannity’s monologues about the president’s son mentioned Smirnov’s bribe allegation.

On his Fox show the night Grassley and Comer issued their press release, Hannity declared that this “brand-new, legally protected, highly credible whistleblower disclosure might end up being the biggest story of the year.” He touted the “bombshell disclosure” as describing “the very definition of a high crime, also a serious felony, that if proven true could result in impeachment [and] possible imprisonment of Joe Biden, your president.” He went on to describe the form as “smoking-gun evidence.”

Hannity was similarly enthralled when Grassley released a version of the FD-1023 on July 20, 2023.

“There are now real and growing concerns that your president, the president of our country, is compromised,” Hannity said on his Fox show that night, arguing that through the form, Joe Biden had been “very credibly accused of public corruption on a scale this country has never seen before.” Hannity's crony, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, went on to accuse Joe Biden of a variety of crimes, including “bribery and treason,” which he stressed “are impeachable offenses in addition to being felonies. So, you know, this is a blockbuster scandal that could doom Biden's presidency.”

The following week, Hannity aired a one-hour special detailing the case against Joe Biden. Here’s how it began:

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And welcome to the special edition of Hannity this Friday night, “Biden’s bribery allegations.”

Now, tonight, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, has been accused by a credible FBI source of taking foreign cash in exchange for policy decisions. In other words, you call that bribery.

Hannity was so obsessed with Smirnov’s claims because they appeared to support the conspiracy theory he’s been pursuing for the last five years — that Joe Biden, as vice president, forced the Ukrainian government to fire the country’s top prosecutor for personal pecuniary reasons, in this case because of a supposed bribe extended by one of his son’s employers.

The Fox host helped make that bogus narrative — debunked during then-President Donald Trump’s own impeachment — into the heart of the House GOP’s impeachment case. As that case now collapses, they all look like credulous morons at best, and willing partners in a Russian intelligence operation at worst.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Sean Hannity

Fox Promoted Informant's Dubious Tale To Bolster Right-Wing Lies About Ukraine

Fox News credulously promoted an extraordinary story about President Joe Biden taking a $5 million bribe, now described by federal prosecutors as false, because it appeared to confirm a conspiracy theory the network had pursued for years — one that its own research “Brain Room” had warned was “disinformation” back in 2019.

A federal grand jury last week charged Alexander Smirnov, an FBI confidential informant, with lying to the bureau about Biden and his son, Hunter, in an interview memorialized in a 2020 FD-1023 form. Special counsel David Weiss’ indictment alleges that Smirnov fabricated numerous claims purportedly sourced to an official with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. Smirnov had claimed the official told him — in communications Weiss says never took place — that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,” and that Joe Biden accepted $5 million in bribes from the company. On Tuesday, Weiss filed a detention memo stating that Smirnov had claimed significant ties with Russian intelligence.

Fox had trumpeted the allegations in the FD-1023 memo, with its hosts and contributors citing the purported Biden bribe as evidence of massive corruption and criminality. Prime-time star Sean Hannity led the charge, touting those dubious and since-refuted claims in at least 85 segments in 2023. The network is now flailing in response to Smirnov’s indictment for making it all up, while journalists at other outlets highlight how Fox is implicated in the debacle.

Fox’s propagandists were willing to run with Smirnov’s story without question — even though all they really knew was that an FBI informant had offered it — because it seemed to support a bogus tale they’ve been telling for years: that Biden, as vice president, corruptly forced the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to benefit Hunter’s business interests. In their telling, Biden sought Shokin’s removal in order to halt an investigation Shokin was purportedly conducting into Burisma.

Rudy Giuliani, then Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, launched that lie back in 2018, working with GOP lawyers Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, Soviet-born con men Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. They laundered dubious information through the conservative writer John Solomon and Hannity, whose Fox program became the nexus of the monthslong disinformation campaign. The story eventually attracted the interest of Trump himself, who responded by corruptly seeking to condition military aid to Ukraine on Ukraine’s announcement of an investigation of the Bidens, eventually leading to his first impeachment. Last July’s release of the FD-1023, with its claims that Burisma officials told Smirnov they expected Hunter to “take care” of Shokin’s probe of the company “through his dad” and that father and son had both received large bribes, breathed new life into the story for Fox.

Prosecutors now say that that meeting never happened. But the underlying story Fox was so eager to confirm was wildly wrong all along, according to the testimony of U.S. officials appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents, government documents, and reams of contemporaneous and more recent reporting. In reality, U.S. policy called for firing Shokin, who was viewed as unwilling to prosecute corruption by U.S. diplomats, foreign governments, international bodies, and Ukrainian anti-corruption groups, and his office had not been actively investigating Burisma at the time then-Vice President Biden sought his removal.

Fox’s research department, known internally as the “Brain Room,” warned that this was the case. A leaked memo, most recently updated in December 2019, accused Giuliani, Toensing, diGenova, and Solomon — at the time, all frequent guests on Fox’s most popular programs — of “spreading disinformation” about Biden and Ukraine, and singled out Hannity’s program for particular criticism.

A legitimate news operation would question how it came to be promoting such disinformation and try to ensure it didn’t happen again — but Fox is a Republican propaganda operation. Since that memo was released, the “Brain Room” has been hit with layoffs, while the network has hired former Trump officials and GOP operatives. And Hannity still enjoys his prime-time platform.

So when Republican politicians started promoting the incendiary nature of the FD-1023, Hannity and his allies went to work making it a focus of Fox’s coverage. GOP legislators touted its importance, with Hannity favorite Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) telling him it was the “heart” of the party’s impeachment case. Now they’re scrambling to explain how that case hasn’t been devastated by Smirnov’s indictment.

Hannity and company were working backward from a fatally flawed conclusion, so of course all the evidence they can amass turns out to originate with liars and grifters.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Hunter Biden

Busted Biden Informant -- And GOP Witness -- Had Contact With Top Kremlin Spies

The FBI informant who was indicted late last week for allegedly fabricating allegations about President Joe Biden and his son Hunter also reportedly had contact with officials in Vladimir Putin's regime, according to a new court filing.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, was charged last week with making false statements to federal authorities over his claim that both Joe and Hunter Biden solicited a $5 million bribe from Ukrainian company Burisma in exchange for protecting it from an investigation by the Ukrainian government. However, a new 28-page filing submitted in US District Court on Tuesday arguing for his continued pretrial detention suggests Smirnov may have had political motivations in concocting the alleged scheme.

"In December 2023 Smirnov reported to his handler about a recent overseas trip, where Smirnov attended a meeting with Russian Official 2, who Smirnov has described as a high-ranking member of a specific Russian intelligence service," read the filing, which was originally tweeted by Politico legal correspondent Kyle Cheney. "During this same trip, Smirnov apparently attended a separate meeting with Russian Official 1, the individual who controls groups that are engaged in overseas assassination efforts."

Revealingly, the filing said that Smirnov told his FBI handler that Russian intelligence officials obtained cell phone calls from "prominent US persons" that the Putin regime "may use as 'kompromat' in the 2024 election,' depending on who the candidates will be." The filing also read that Smirnov is "actively peddling new lies that could impact US elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November."

"Smirnov's contacts with Russian officials who are affiliated with Russian intelligence services are not benign," the DOJ argued in the filing. "The court should consider this conduct as well when evaluating his personal history and characteristics... In light of that fact there is a serious risk he will flee in order to avoid accountability for his actions."

Aside from his alleged fabrications about the Bidens, Smirnov has also been accused of lying about his finances. Even though he told the FBI he only had access to $1,500 in cash and another $5,000 in a savings account, the Tuesday filing read that he withdrew more than $1.7 million in cashier's checks between 2020 and 2022 in the name of "Avalon Group, Inc." It was not made clear from the filing where the money originated.

The lies Smirnov allegedly told make up the core of Republicans' arguments to impeach President Biden, with both House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer (R-KY) both citing his work with the FBI as justification for their impeachment crusade. They have not yet dropped their efforts to impeach Biden despite the president's calls for them to do so in light of Smirnov's indictment.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Fox Media Critic Slams Network Over Discredited Impeachment Witness

Fox Media Critic Slams Network Over Discredited Impeachment Witness

Fox News host Howard Kurtz suggested his network had not provided enough coverage after an impeachment witness, former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, was found to be lying about President Joe Biden.

On his Sunday Media Buzz program, Kurtz noted that Smirnov had been charged with making false statements about Biden and his son, Hunter.

"This is a star witness for Jim Comer, often cited by Fox and other outlets," Kurtz said. "And I think the story deserves even more coverage."

Washington Examiner editor Sarah Bedford agreed.

"Some of the allegations against the Biden family were built on lies," Bedford explained. "I don't think, though, that the impeachment inquiry here is necessarily completely undermined by this one fact, because so much additional evidence has been gathered. But certainly this is the blow to the credibility of the allegations against the Biden family."

Kurtz asked White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich if the indictment was a "big problem" for Republicans.

"Huge problem," Heinrich observed. "I think [Rep. James Comer (R-KY)] is going to have to lay out all of the evidence outside of this claim that makes the impeachment inquiry still valid."

"I mean, they threatened to hold the FBI director in contempt to get a hold of this 1023 form in which this witness makes his allegation," she continued. "So with this guy now having his credibility shot, a lot of onus on House Republicans to say that the impeachment inquiry is still warranted."

Watch the video below from Fox News or at the link.

Fox News host slams network over impeachment witness

via Fox News

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.