The explosive allegations at the center of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden were false, federal prosecutors said, and came from an ex-FBI informant who said he was in touch with Russian intelligence.

The informant, Alexander Smirnov, is “actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections,” federal prosecutors said on February 21, as they appealed to a judge to keep him behind bars ahead of trial on charges alleging he lied to the FBI about a phony multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving the Bidens and the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

The Republican release of Smirnov’s allegations in July 2023 did not happen in a vacuum: they came right after the Republican-led House censured Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) for “misleading the American public and for conduct unbecoming of an elected Member of the House of Representatives,” including “spread[ing] false accusations that the [2016] Trump campaign colluded with Russia.”

But the Mueller Report concluded that “[t]he Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” and that “the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” The Senate Intelligence Committee Report found that “the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence…the outcome of the 2016 presidential election” and that Trump campaign advisor Paul Manafort worked directly with Konstantin Kilimnik, “a Russian intelligence officer.”

That effort continued in 2020, with the U.S. intelligence community assessing in March 2021 that “Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the U.S.”

That foreign countries try to influence elections is far less a surprise than that one of the two major U.S. political parties now appears to be, wittingly or not, working on their behalf. Here is a look at what is known about Smirnov, the case against him, and fears about potential effects on U.S. elections:


Smirnov had been an informant since 2010, growing close to an FBI handler he spoke to “nearly every day,” prosecutors said in court documents. He met with Burisma executives starting in the spring of 2017 because the company was interested in buying an American company and making an initial public offering on a U.S. stock exchange, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say he has access to more than $6 million, with some money held in the name of his longtime partner. His recent reports to his handler included the guest lists from parties on mega yachts with Russian oligarchs, prosecutors said.

He holds dual Israeli-US citizenship and lived in Israel for more than a decade, later moving to Los Angeles and finally Las Vegas in 2022, prosecutors said.


Smirnov has been charged with falsely reporting that Burisma executives paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each around 2015 after hiring Hunter Biden to sit on its board and “protect us” from an investigation by the then-Ukrainian prosecutor general. The charges were filed by the Justice Department special counsel who has separately filed gun and tax charges against Hunter Biden.

No evidence has emerged that Joe Biden acted corruptly or accepted bribes in his current role or previous office as vice president.

Smirnov, meanwhile, had only routine business dealings with Burisma, and they did not start until 2017 after the prosecutor general was gone and when Joe Biden was unable to influence U.S. policy since he was out of office, prosecutors said.

Smirnov “expressed bias” against Joe Biden before he made the bribery allegations in June 2020, years after they supposedly occurred, prosecutors said. An FBI field office investigated the allegations and recommended the case be closed in August 2020, according to charging documents.

Smirnov’s defense attorneys have said he is presumed innocent, and they successfully pushed for his release from jail ahead of trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts in Las Vegas said on February 20 he was concerned about Smirnov’s access to money but that federal guidelines require him to fashion “the least restrictive conditions” ahead of trial. Prosecutors are appealing that decision.


Prosecutors laid out in court documents “extensive and extremely recent,” contact Smirnov said he had with people aligned with Russian intelligence.

Smirnov had told his FBI handler that he had been in touch with “multiple” other foreign intelligence services, including “extensive and extremely recent” ties with “Russian intelligence agencies,” according to court documents.

As recently as December, court documents state he was relaying details about meetings with Russian officials, one of whom said the country’s intelligence services had intercepted calls from prominent Americans that “the Russian government may use as ‘kompromat’ in the 2024 election, depending on who the candidates will be,” using a word for compromising material.

That echoed a previous bogus story from months before when he pushed his handler to investigate whether Hunter Biden had been recorded in a Ukrainian hotel, prosecutors said. The president’s son has never traveled to Ukraine, according to court documents.

“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,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.

National security experts have warned for years that foreign governments — primarily Russia, China, and Iran — want to undermine the U.S. and see elections as a way to do it.

In a threat assessment late last year, Microsoft warned Russia remains “the most committed and capable threat to the 2024 election,” with the Kremlin seeing next year’s vote as a “must-win political warfare battle” that could determine the outcome of its war against Ukraine.


The accusation that the Bidens accepted bribes broke into public channels on May 3, 2023, when Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative James Comer (R-KY), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray saying they had received “highly credible … whistleblower disclosures” that said the Department of Justice and the FBI appeared to have “valuable, verifiable information that you have failed to disclose to the American people.”

Grassley and Comer claimed there was “growing concern about the DOJ and the FBI’s track record of allowing political bias to infect their decision-making process,” and so Congress would be conducting its own “independent and objective review of this matter.”

Comer then issued a subpoena for the document containing the information, a so-called FD-1023, which is the form used by FBI agents to record “raw, unverified” information from confidential informants. In it, informant Alexander Smirnov made a number of allegations about the Bidens, including that they had accepted bribes.

In July, Grassley and Comer got the document and showed it to others in a secure facility. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) saw it there, took pictures of it, and posted them on social media. She claimed that “Joe Biden is a criminal and is compromised” and that he was backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion because Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky “has proof of more Biden crimes.” “IMPEACH BIDEN,” she wrote.

Grassley also released it, suggesting that the Justice Department and the FBI were trying to cover up a “criminal bribery scheme” implicating the Bidens. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) jumped in, saying: “Every day, the evidence keeps mounting and the evidence that is coming in is number one, of a widespread bribery scheme of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and the entire Biden family, to extract bribes from foreign nationals.”

The idea that Biden had accepted bribes was central to the House impeachment effort that then–House speaker Kevin McCarthy (D-CA) announced in September 2023. That story fell apart on February 14, when a federal grand jury indicted Smirnov for lying and “creating a false and fictitious record.”

Smirnov’s claims have been the backbone of the false Republican effort in Congress to investigate the president and his family ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Republicans acknowledged they could not confirm if the allegations were true.

The allegations of Russian contact – with the source of those allegations – should be a death knell for the impeachment inquiry, said Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

“It appears like the whole thing was not only obviously false and fraudulent but a product of Russian disinformation and propaganda,” he said. “And that’s been the motor force behind this investigation for more than a year.”

Lindsay Whitehurst, Hеаthеr Cоx Rіchаrdsоn, and MI Staff

Associated Press


Mariam Zuhaib (AP), Jose Luis Magana (AP), K.M. Cannon (AP), and Bizuayehu Tesfaye (AP)