As the House continued its probe last week into allegations that the Biden family received $10 million from a foreign source in exchange for influencing U.S. foreign policy, the scandal deepened when a Republican Senator testified to the alleged existence of audio recordings that verify the accusations.
The bribery allegations first surfaced in May when an FBI whistleblower came forward with a report claiming that when President Joe Biden was vice president in the Obama administration, he and family members were involved in a $10 million “influence-peddling” scheme that exploited Biden’s political clout.
The FBI recently allowed members of the House Oversight Committee to see part of the 1023 document that describes talks with the whistleblower. This followed a game of cat-and-mouse whereby the FBI for two weeks denied having the document, then admitted to possessing it but ignored the Committee’s subpoena.
Finally, the Bureau explicitly refused to turn over the document, citing the need to protect its sources.
After Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky, threatened to hold FBI director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress, Wray caved and agreed to produce the 1023 for the Committee. He admitted the document came from a credible, FBI-trusted source and was no longer classified.
But the FBI director did not actually comply with the subpoena. He brought the document in heavily redacted form for select Committee members to read only in a classified facility, instead of turning it over to Congress as directed.
Grassley’s Shocking Disclosure
Matters appeared to be at an impasse when Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, released a shocking fact at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last Monday.
He said that he had been privy to the 1023 in question and that it alleged the existence of 17 audio recordings secretly taped by a Ukrainian oil executive– identified as Mykola Zlochevsky—as he negotiated the bribery scheme with Hunter and Joe Biden, according to the document.
Zlochevsky founded the Burisma gas company which employed Hunter Biden on its board at the behest of Vice President Biden, according to Grassley’s understanding of the whistleblower’s report. The company is no longer in operation, having been shut down by authorities after its founder was convicted of corruption.
Grassley said the 1023 contains a statement that the Burisma executive possesses fifteen audio recordings of phone calls with Hunter Biden and two audio recordings of phone calls with then-Vice President Joe Biden. These recordings were allegedly kept by the executive as a sort of “insurance policy” for himself in case he got into “a tight spot.”
This information was blacked out in the copy the FBI allowed the Oversight Committee members to view, Grassley said. He slammed the FBI for the numerous redactions in the document, in defiance of the Oversight Committee’s subpoena.
“What, if anything, has the Justice Department and FBI done to investigate these serious allegations?” he asked. “The FBI is playing games with the American people by hiding the 1023 document from Congress.”
The Iowa senator called attention to the “double standard of justice” on display as the Justice Department indicted former President Trump on the same day that the explosive 1023 implicating President Biden came to light on the floor of Congress.
“Just as the Joe Biden bribery scandal starts to explode, the Biden Administration indicts Trump. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”
“Attorney General Garland signed off on prosecuting Trump for conduct similar to what Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton engaged in,” Grassley went on. “It’s clear that the Justice Department and FBI will use every resource to investigate former President Trump. Where is the same laser focus on the Biden family?”
“Two standards of justice in this country will turn our constitutional Republic upside down,” Grassley warned. “Thanks to the political infection within the Biden Justice Department and FBI, we’re well along the road for that to happen.
Grassley railed against “an out-of-control Executive Branch drunk with political infection,” vowing to do all he can to fight that infection. “You fight it by bringing transparency to what the government does. Transparency brings accountability.”
The Biden team meanwhile has categorically denied the accusations against the Biden family, dismissing the investigation as “politically motivated.” President Biden himself brushed off the allegations, telling critics to “show me the money.”
FBI Seeking Re-authorization of Surveillance Program Accused of Spying on Americans
A stormy session played out on the Senate floor one day later as Senators Josh Hawley (MO), Ted Cruz (TX), and Marsha Blackburn (TN) followed up on Grassley’s revelations.
They relentlessly grilled a top FBI official about why the Bureau refuses to release the document to Congress, whether the FBI possesses copies of the alleged audio recordings and why the FBI refuses to answer questions about it.
The focus of the Senate Judiciary hearing was actually over a separate issue: whether Congress should reauthorize the Bureau’s surveillance powers under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, set to expire at the end of this year. Section 702 grants U.S. intelligence agencies vast surveillance authority to collect communications of non-Americans for national security reasons.
Courts have determined that the FBI’s excessive use of its surveillance power, with which it accesses not only non-American’s abroad but billions of phone calls, emails, texts and other private information of rank and file American citizens, is unlawful and must be halted. [See Sidebar]
Key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they won’t vote to renew the programs under Section 702 without proof that major reforms have been instituted.
Although Abbate’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was for the purpose of requesting reauthorization of Section 702, several Republican senators seized the opportunity to question him about the FBI’s conduct regarding the Biden bribery allegations.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, slammed the FBI for refusing to answer questions regarding its possession of the whistleblower document. When asked if the FBI would be willing to provide the Senate committee with the FD-1023 whistleblower report, as well as 17 voice recordings, Abbate refused to comment.
“You don’t owe an obligation to the American people to be candid about evidence of corruption by the president of the United States?” Cruz asked.
“This is an area I’m not going to get into with you, Senator,” The FBI director replied.
“Do you have the recordings mentioned in the 1023? Yes or no?” Cruz repeated.
“I’m not going to get further into it,” Abbate stonewalled.
“Did you investigate these allegations in any way shape or form?
Abbate repeated his refusal to comment.
In response, Sen. Cruz castigated the agency for its “unlimited hubris” in not believing it is accountable to the United States Congress and to the American people. “Every day when I’m home in Texas I hear from Texans who are deeply dismayed about the growing politicization, weaponization of the Department of Justice and the FBI,” he said.
“Everyone of you [at the Bureau] should be deeply concerned about the damage being done to the integrity of the institutions in which you operate.”
Sen Blackburn: ‘FBI Targeting Parents, People of Faith and Conservatives’
“The American people have watched your agents target parents, people of faith, and almost anyone with conservative values and they wonder—am I next?” noted Blackburn in her rigorous questioning of FBI deputy director Abbate. “There is only one conclusion that any serious person could draw: there is a two-tiered system of justice under this administration.”
“The American people know that, if they aren’t loyal to Washington’s liberal political elite or if their last name doesn’t happen to be Biden or Clinton, they are at risk of being targeted,” Blackburn said.
Abatte denied the Bureau employed different standards for conservatives and dissenters, saying “that’s not the FBI that I know.”
But Blackburn persisted, saying that FBI agents, under Abatte’s leadership, drew their guns on a pro-life advocate in front of his wife and children; labeled concerned parents as “domestic terrorists;” and even conducted an unprecedented raid on the home of a former president and political opponent.”
These actions have only confirmed everyday Americans’ worst suspicions, especially considering that the FBI has refused to hold the Democratic elite to the same standard, Blackburn went on.
‘When Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information, wiped her personal email server with a tool called BleachBit, and literally had her phone destroyed with a hammer, the FBI did nothing,” Blackburn pointed out. “When President Biden mishandled classified documents, the FBI did not raid his home like they did for President Trump.”
“Now that the Biden family has been implicated in a far-reaching bribery scheme with a foreign nation, this administration has resorted to its old playbook: distract and deflect,” said Blackburn. “Well, the American people will not be distracted from the left’s weaponization of our government or President Biden’s two-tiered system of justice.”
Sen. Hawley Castigates FBI for Stonewalling Investigation
Sen. Josh Hawley then took the floor, pressing Abbate to explain why the Bureau would not release the 1023 allegedly containing evidence of the bribery scheme.
Hawley: You told Sen. Blackburn it’s a matter of life and death. Explain. For whom?
Abbate: It is potentially a question of life and death with regard to the source of the information.
Hawley: So now we’ve confirmed that the document exists! That’s progress because the FBI director originally denied that it exists. Why did he do that?
Abbate: We have previously acknowledged the existence of the document.
Hawley: Yeah, after you first denied it. Let’s get the record straight. The FBI director originally said [the document] doesn’t exist. But Sen. Grassley said he’s read it. So the FBI had no choice but to say “Oh, ok, gotcha. I guess it does exist.” Now you’re going back and forth with members of this committee about what’s in the document? Why don’t you just release it? Is it classified?
Abbate: The document is not classified.
Hawley: Okay. Will you commit to releasing this unclassified document that alleges that the President of the United States has taken $5 million or more in bribes from a foreign nation? Don’t you think the American people have the right to see it?
Abbate argued that the document “contains sensitive information that potentially has bearing on the life” of the whistleblower to which Hawley countered, “You can redact the source’s name, we do this all the time.”
The FBI deputy director insisted that redacting the name in some instances is not sufficient to protect people, adding, “And that’s what we strive to do each and every day, and I would hope you take that seriously too.”
‘Extraordinary’ Abuse of Power
Hawley seized on Abbate’s rebuke about “the need to protect people” to highlight the agency’s propensity to do the exact opposite —targeting ordinary Americans whose views they don’t like.
“Your institution has repeatedly abused its power and targeted its political opponents,” Hawley shot back. “Your institution is the one that went to the doors of non-violent protesters with SWAT teams to try to intimidate people because they didn’t like their speech. Your institution is the one that treated parents as domestic terrorists because of their speech.
“Multiple courts have uncovered extraordinary abuses perpetrated by your institution,” charged Hawley. “Your institution, according to the FISA Court, ran 278,000 unwarranted, probably illegal queries on Americans, correct?”
FBI deputy director Abbate admitted the allegations, saying he did not approve of the unlawful surveillance of Americans. Hawley wanted to know how many agents had been fired over this breach of the law.
Abbate responded that most of the illegal surveillance was “unintentional.”
“You’re saying that the 278,000 queries were unintentional?” the senator repeated in astonishment. Abbate had just admitted that more than a quarter-million Americans have had their legally protected data accessed by the FBI without sufficient legal cause.
“I believe that’s correct,” the FBI deputy director said.
“278,000 times, American citizens’ private information was queried by your agency ‘unintentionally’? That’s your testimony?” pressed Hawley in disbelief.
Abbate responded by saying he believes the “vast majority” of the queries in question were unintentional, but he wasn’t sure.
Hawley did not let up. “You are at the same time concealing information about serious allegations against the president of the United States even as your institution also targets his chief political opponent in an unprecedented way,” he went on.
Visibly uncomfortable, Abbate tried to steer the discussion in a different direction. “Senator, we’re here to talk about reforms —
“No we’re not,” Hawley cut him off. “We’re here to talk about the reauthorization of Section 702. Why would we re-authorize it given your track record of abuse and illegal improper surveillance and political targeting? Why would it be appropriate for this body to grant that?”
Abbate responded that the FBI has been implementing improvements and reforms, but Hawley concluded the exchange by saying the agency “has promised a thousand times” to clean up its act but “nothing ever changes” and its promises are not credible.
Rep. Comer Promises ‘A Lot More Evidence to Come’
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., told Fox News that more witnesses and sources will be coming forward as his panel continues its probe of alleged bribery and influence peddling by the Biden family.
“Our job in the House Oversight Committee is to follow the money, and we have more bank records coming in,” he said.
Comer told Life, Liberty & Levin that he and fellow lawmakers have accomplished more than might be expected given their narrower range of authority than that of the Justice Department, to investigate information relevant to the probe.
“We’ve had to overcome obstacles,” he said. “No one thought I would get bank records. No one thought we would get access to the Treasury, to suspicious financial activity reports, but we would not take no for an answer, we kept fighting.”
“When we got access to the suspicious activity reports, the mainstream media said there was nothing there,” Comer continued. “But we discovered indirect wire transfers to Biden family members while Joe Biden was vice president, which originated in Romania and China.”
He alleged the wires were made via shell companies to nine Biden kin, and that the discovery of an FBI 1023 form has even further deepened the investigation.
Shielding the Biden Family
“You heard when Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley grilled the deputy FBI director as to why they wouldn’t release the Form 1023,” Comer said. “Their answer was, ‘we don’t want to endanger the life of our paid informant who’s one of our most trusted, highest paid FBI informants.’”
“So if the FBI informant is that credible and he’s the one telling the FBI that the vice president of the United States took a bribe from a foreign national in exchange for foreign policy and foreign aid, why didn’t they investigate?”
Rep. Comer said the 1023 saga is characteristic of a pattern his committee has encountered when trying to elicit information from government sources. The IRS would only investigate tax evasion-related claims against first son Hunter Biden, Comer claimed.
“They didn’t want to investigate the shell companies. They didn’t want to investigate the money laundering. The Department of Justice has done nothing. So there’s an obvious pattern here where the federal government, the deep state bureaucracies, have turned a blind eye when it comes to Joe Biden.”
[As this article goes to press, Comer’s assessment has been validated, with the announcement that Hunter Biden will plead guilty to federal tax evasion charges. His guilty plea, if accepted, will shield him from jail time, requiring only two years probation and enrollment in a rehabilitation program. “With these arrangements,” attorney Chris Clark said, the long-running criminal investigation against Hunter “is resolved.”]
Comer said there is a lot more to come as his panel investigates further. “We’re going to start bringing in key figures in the Biden family influence-peddling schemes for depositions. I think we’re on the right track, even though we’re having to fight the FBI, the DOJ, the Democrats in Congress and the mainstream media.”
A Surveillance Program Run Amok
Lawmakers and intelligence officials clashed at a Senate Judiciary hearing last Tuesday over whether to re-authorize a controversial surveillance program known as Section 702 of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), set to expire at the end of this year.
The debate included how to potentially reform the law so that Americans are free of unlawful surveillance, while national security is not compromised.
“I will only support the reauthorization of Section 702 if there are significant, significant reforms. And that means first and foremost, addressing the warrantless surveillance of Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in his opening statement at the Senate Judiciary hearing.
The Biden administration and its allies insist that failing to renew the law would endanger national security. Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, officials detailed several examples of Section 702’s role in combating hostile cyber operations and narcotics trafficking.
But that argument has failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing were largely united in opposing reauthorization of Section 702, arguing that the intelligence agencies haven’t shown that they can self-correct a history of serious abuses.
At the heart of lawmakers’ concerns is the FBI’s indiscriminate use of Section 702, which is designed to collect data belonging to non-Americans abroad. Their communications with Americans in the United States, however, place those American citizens in the same electronic surveillance “orbit,” where their data is “incidentally” collected.
Oversight Committee members raised concerns about the FBI’s history of abusing “incidental” collection, citing a court ruling declassified last month that showed that the FBI misused the powerful surveillance tool more than 278,000 times.
A number of reform proposals were suggested at the Judiciary Hearing last week, including the requirement to obtain a warrant for a FISA search, but none elicited broad approval.
“The new items the FBI touted at the hearing are wholly inadequate, and out of touch with how serious these abuses are,” said Jake Laperruque, the director of a group that is calling for FISA reforms.
“Why should we ever trust the FBI and the DOJ again to police themselves under FISA when they’ve shown us repeatedly, for more than a decade, that they cannot be trusted to do so?” asked Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.