Watch GOP congressman fail to explain bonkers Trump assassination claim

After lying that President Joe Biden and the Department of Justice conspired to assassinate Donald Trump during a 2022 raid of Mar-a-Lago, Republican Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida is refusing to walk back his claims. 

During an interview on CNN Thursday night, Donalds repeatedly tried to change the subject when pressed by host Abby Phillip

Donalds wrote on social media, “Newly-released court documents reveal that Joe Biden's DOJ authorized the use of DEADLY FORCE in its raid of President Trump's home.” 

The FBI called this claim “patently false.” 

The language in the search warrant regarding the use of deadly force “is part of the standard operations plan for searches,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters during a press conference Thursday. “In fact, it was even used in the consensual search of President Biden's home.” 

When asked whether or not he will acknowledge the falsehood of his conspiracy claim, Donalds provided a series of nonanswers, including offensive remarks about Biden and claims that he’s using the DOJ as political ammunition against Trump.

“I’m telling you, we are witnessing a weaponization of the Department of Justice against a political rival,” he said. 

“It’s a simple question of whether the raid was carried out in a way that was standard operating procedure for the FBI,” Phillip said. “Why would you insinuate that that was some kind of attempt at former President Trump’s life?”

In response, Donalds calls back to a super timely GOP talking point: Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Like many Republicans, Donald Trump has tried to sidestep the issue of abortion and reproductive rights. But he stumbled during an interview with a CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh this week, promising an “interesting” new policy that would let states restrict contraception..

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15 times Ted Cruz shamelessly pushed GOP’s false allegations about Biden

We know Texas Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t unintelligent. Nor does he lack sophistication. After all, the guy graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. So he obviously knows the difference between clear proof of corruption and a sketchy accusation unsupported by the evidence—just as he knows the difference between an authentic Cancun marg and a bottle of premixed Chi Chi’s margarita drink he picks up at Citgo on his way home from the airport.

But being a Republican these days means pretending to be ignorant of basic realities, like whether a guy who campaigns as a dictator will govern as a dictator, or whether unsupported and unconfirmed accusations of bribery are real or simply part of a psyop conducted by a hostile foreign power that’s already attacked our elections twice.

Well, guess what? The obvious conclusion that even people who went to Cornell or Trump University could have arrived at on their own is, in fact, the correct one. The big Biden bribery allegation that congressional Republicans have been flogging for the better part of a year—and which was based on an unverified FBI form from 2020 that even the Trump administration declined to act on—was invented by a comrade with clear ties to Russian intelligence.

Weird, huh?

PBS Newshour:

A former FBI informant charged with making up a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company had contacts with officials affiliated with Russian intelligence, prosecutors said in a court paper Tuesday.

Prosecutors revealed the alleged contact as they urged a judge to keep Alexander Smirnov behind bars while he awaits trial. He’s charged with falsely reporting to the FBI in June 2020 that executives associated with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each in 2015 or 2016. The claim has been central to the Republican impeachment inquiry in Congress.

[...]

Prosecutors said that during an interview before his arrest last week, Smirnov admitted that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden. They said Smirnov’s contacts with Russian officials were recent and extensive, and said Smirnov had planned to meet with one official during an upcoming overseas trip.

But wait! Ted was so sure these allegations were real, he repeated them ad nauseam. And yet they’re not remotely true. What is true is that Donald Trump—the guy who implied Ted’s wife was heinous—has thousands of financial conflicts of interest that make him, prima facie, unfit to serve as president. These have been sitting out in the open this whole time, and yet Ted seemed more interested in a single, completely made up allegation about the guy who didn’t go out of his way to humiliate Ted and his family.

Weird how the world works sometimes, huh?

Unfortunately for Ted, we’ve collected some receipts, and they make the plucky Harvard Law School grad look pretty dopey. 

Here’s a chronological rundown of some of Ted’s most shameless Biden hits from the past year:

1.

The facts are simple—an informant told the FBI they had evidence that Joe Biden was involved in a $5 million bribery scheme involving a foreign country. Today, top House Oversight leaders will see the documents. More on the latest episode of #Verdict! https://t.co/zhqceE5A1R

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 5, 2023

Well, the facts weren’t that simple after all—though Ted knew his voters were, so that’s why this tweet happened.

2.

As you can see, June 2023 was a big month for bullshit, as Ted just kept piling on:

We have learned of credible evidence that Joe Biden received a $5 million bribe from Burisma, the Ukrainian natural gas company. Now we’re told there is evidence of that on audio tapes. These are allegations of serious misconduct. pic.twitter.com/XXUnSvTsKT

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 13, 2023

There are tapes! That no one has heard or can find! And no one claims anyone is being peed on in any of them—so they must be real! What more could you possibly need?! Impeach!

3.

But wait! Ted’s interrogation of Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate was a CRUZ MISSILE! YouTube confirms it.

This clip is really rich—especially in retrospect. His fake anger no doubt sent a fake tingle down Lindsey Graham’s fake spine.

Yes, why won’t the FBI talk about totally unsupported, unvetted “intelligence” about Joe Biden that the Trump administration decided not to follow up on during Trump’s pitched 2020 election battle with the former vice president? And why aren’t people lining up at FBI offices to make unsupported allegations that Ted is The Zodiac Killer? Because apparently that would be more than enough to convince Republicans to call a hearing.

4.

Now, in case you didn’t notice from that first tweet above, Ted basically launched an entire true crime podcast about the GOP’s false bribe allegation. It’s as if all 10 episodes of “Making a Murderer” had been based on something a Russian money launderer thought he’d overheard at a Green Bay Applebee’s.

So here’s a bit of Ted’s podcast: He brings up the already debunked accusation that Biden pushed to remove Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, to help the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which had connections to Biden’s son Hunter. In reality, Biden pushed to remove Shokin—as part of a unified U.S. government response—because he wasn’t investigating corruption. 

Enjoy!

If Joe Biden took official action that benefited Burisma after depositing $5 million, Joe Biden should be charged & prosecuted for bribery. That is the most grave allegation against a president that we've seen in our lifetimes. #Verdict https://t.co/vJGPoxxZCh pic.twitter.com/FLfKElvEKM

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 14, 2023

5.

And here’s Ted demanding that Joe Biden release the bullshit evidence that would make him look corrupt to people who have no clue—i.e., any and all Trump supporters—because that’s just good government.

Democrats don't want a hearing on the allegations against Joe Biden. If the allegations are false, you know who could disprove them? Joe Biden. He could call for evidence to be released publicly, but the FBI is stonewalling instead. #Verdict https://t.co/ErPhbZC29d

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 15, 2023

6.

And here he is plugging that same bullshit podcast episode the very next day. This time he demanded that the fake whistleblower give his fake testimony so the American people could decide for themselves what’s real and what isn’t. The same American people who made the inventor of spray-on hair fabulously wealthy. 

What should come next with the allegations against Joe Biden? This alleged whistleblower should testify in front of Congress on national television so the American people can hear his allegations & assess if he's telling the truth. #Verdicthttps://t.co/ErPhbZC29d

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 15, 2023

7.

And—ugh—another tweet with more unsupported innuendo. And another plug for that same podcast episode. Ted must have been super proud of this one.

Why the hell is the FBI hiding the possible existence of evidence that Joe Biden accepted a bribe? Why did they redact the allegation that there may be 17 tape recordings? #Verdict https://t.co/ErPhbZC29d

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 15, 2023

8.

And yet another plug for the podcast. But wait! This one’s for a different episode. Though the bullshit smells the same.

Don't forget to catch the latest episode of #Verdict, where we follow the money & examine what every prosecutor, reporter, or anyone interested in the truth should be asking—did Joe Biden take a bribe? Tune in wherever you get your podcasts! https://t.co/jKjIN10WTW pic.twitter.com/ZrwX8vSEDf

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 17, 2023

9.

Of course, Ted was dead certain that a former vice president and household name couldn’t have possibly made millions from book deals and speaking gigs. After all, only Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney can demand such gaudy fees.

The Daily Mail:

'You're looking at a tax return that has $10 million in cash that came from a mystery source,' Cruz said on Friday during his podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz.

Biden's two S corporations, CelticCapri Corp and GiaCoppa Corp, reported income of $9,490,857 and $557,882 respectively in 2017, Biden's first year as a private citizen after decades in federal elected office as a senator and the vice president.

That money, which Biden says is from book deals and speeches, was then remitted to Biden and his wife primarily as 'distributions' rather than salary, according to CNBC.

10.

And here’s Ted plugging his nonsense podcast again, pointing out that there’s something fishy about the relative of a high-ranking government official making $5 million at a law firm and not, say, $2 billion from a bloodthirsty Saudi murderer, as God and the Founding Fathers intended. 

Nobody would pay Hunter Biden to represent them in a lawsuit. Nobody would pay him for legal work. If he can make $5 million at a law firm in America, it is purely because he's selling access to the “Big Guy.” #Verdict https://t.co/HxCxWbv3S4

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 3, 2023

11.

And here’s the bullshit FD-1023 form itself! READ this! It’s an allegation! For realz! Why didn’t the Trump DOJ follow up on this when it first came to their attention? We may not know for another several months, when this whole thing blows up in Ted’s beard. 

READ this. This is serious, credible evidence that Joe & Hunter Biden solicited & received a $10m bribe from a foreign national. (1) why didn’t FBI fully investigate? (2) why is corporate media ignoring? https://t.co/jGBsj767Cf

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 21, 2023

12.

Explain yourselves, FBI! Why aren’t you publicizing incendiary claims of corruption with no basis in fact? Well, what if we told you they’re based on dubious sources and support a wild, already debunked theory that plays into the hands of an enemy authoritarian regime? Would that change your mind?

With the grave allegations that Joe Biden took a bribe from a foreign national for official favors, the FBI owes the American people complete candor. If they found these allegations to be false, they need to come forward and explain. #Verdicthttps://t.co/HKrwnB91iT

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 24, 2023

13.

Yeah, well, it’s not true, so ...

If it is true that the oligarch who owned Burisma paid Hunter & Joe Biden $10 million for an official act, then both are guilty of bribery. On the latest episode of #Verdict, we break down all the explosive allegations in the FBI’s form FD-1023. Tune in! https://t.co/fwEzuTu81j

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 25, 2023

14.

Meanwhile, based on this now-debunked claim, Ted thought President Biden should be forced to share a prison cell with his son—which would be particularly cruel, as Hunter prefers to make toilet gin and Joe would naturally insist on making toilet mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Newsweek: 

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said President Joe Biden should "share a cell" with his son Hunter Biden as more findings are released by the House.

Speaking with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Cruz said the "evidence is growing and growing" that Hunter Biden sold "official favors from his father Joe Biden."

[...]

"Bribery is paying someone something of value in exchange for an official favor. Joe Biden has confessed to it in a video interview," Cruz said after Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley released an FD-1023 document containing a confidential FBI informant's unverified claim that the Biden family made a Ukrainian oligarch pay them $10 million. Newsweek has been unable to verify that any such video exists.

In other news, Newsweek has been unable to verify that every pumpkin pie Ted Cruz has served since Thanksgiving 1989 was made from the earwax of his murder victims. 

15.

Aaaannnddd … more innuendo ...

What could Hunter Biden possibly do to earn $5 million from a Chinese company? He had no skills, & no one pays a crackhead $5 million for his talent. The only thing he could have sold was favors from his father. We discuss this corruption on Verdict.https://t.co/RcCse5vQ6i

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 3, 2023

I wouldn’t pay Hunter Biden to sit on a board, but I might pay to watch him fight Ted Cruz in Vegas. Or someone would, anyway. Probably not a Putin-connected Russian national, though. Ted’s far too useful to Russia to come to that sort of end.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link

Biden interviewed as part of the special counsel investigation into handling of classified documents

President Joe Biden has been interviewed as part of an independent investigation into his handling of classified documents, the White House said late Monday. It's a possible sign that the investigation is nearing its end.

Special counsel Robert Hur is examining the improper retention of classified documents by Biden from his time as a U.S. senator and as vice president that were found at his Delaware home, as well as at a private office he used after his service in the Obama administration.

Biden has said he was unaware he had the documents and that " there's no there there. ”

Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House counsel's office, said in a statement that the voluntary interview was conducted at the White House on Sunday and Monday as Biden and his national security team grappled with their response to the surprise weekend attack on Israel by Hamas militants and as the president received some criticism for not being more visible during the crisis.

It’s not clear when Hur’s team approached Biden’s lawyers about an interview or how long they’d been negotiating. Asked on Aug. 25 if he planned to sit for an interview with the special counsel, Biden replied, “There's no such request and no such interest.”

The interview could signal that the special counsel investigation is nearing its conclusion.

In 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey announced his recommendation against criminal charges for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. the Democratic presidential nominee, over her handling of classified information just three days after agents interviewed her at FBI headquarters.

Investigators with Hur's office have already cast a broad net in the Biden probe, interviewing a wide range of witnesses about their knowledge of the handling of classified documents.

In his statement, Sams reiterated that Biden and the White House were cooperating. He referred any questions to the Justice Department.

“As we have said from the beginning, the President and the White House are cooperating with this investigation, and as it has been appropriate, we have provided relevant updates publicly, being as transparent as we can consistent with protecting and preserving the integrity of the investigation,” Sams said. "We would refer other questions to the Justice Department at this time.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland in January 2023 named Hur, a former U.S. attorney for Maryland, to handle the politically sensitive Justice Department inquiry in an attempt to avoid conflicts of interest.

It is one of three recent Justice Department investigations into the handling of classified documents by politically prominent figures.

The investigation into Biden is separate from special counsel Jack Smith’s probe into the handling of classified documents by former President Donald Trump after he left the White House. Smith’s team has charged Trump with illegally retaining top secret records at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and then obstructing government efforts to get them back. Trump has said he did nothing wrong.

No evidence has emerged to suggest that Biden engaged in comparable conduct or willfully held onto records he wasn’t supposed to have.

Questioned in January about the discovery, Biden told reporters that the documents were immediately turned over to the National Archives and the Justice Department. He said he was cooperating fully with the investigation and was “looking forward to getting this resolved quickly.”

“I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there,” he said. “There’s no there there.”

In June, the Justice Department informed former Vice President Mike Pence's legal team that it would not pursue criminal charges against him related to the discovery of classified documents at his Indiana home. The news came as Pence finalized plans to launch his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

About a dozen documents with classified markings were discovered at Pence’s home in January after he asked his lawyers to search his vice presidential belongings “out of an abundance of caution” after the Biden discovery. The items had been “inadvertently boxed and transported” to Pence’s home at the end of the last administration, Pence’s lawyer, Greg Jacob, wrote in a letter to the National Archives.

The FBI then discovered an additional document with classified markings at the Indiana house during its own search the following month.

Pence repeatedly had said he was unaware of the documents’ existence, but that “mistakes were made" in his handling of classified material.

It is hardly unprecedented for sitting presidents to be interviewed in criminal investigations.

President George W. Bush sat for a 70-minute interview as part of an investigation into the leak of the identify of a CIA operative. President Bill Clinton in 1998 underwent more than four hours of questioning from independent counsel Kenneth Starr before a federal grand jury.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team negotiated with lawyers for then-President Donald Trump for an interview but Trump never sat for one. His lawyers instead submitted answers to written questions.

Sign the petition: Denounce MAGA GOP's baseless impeachment inquiry against Biden

At impeachment, lawyer recounts Texas AG Ken Paxton supervising his investigation into FBI and judge

A junior lawyer testifying at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial said Tuesday that he kept Paxton informed through encrypted communications of every step he took in launching a criminal investigation into law enforcement officials at the behest of one of the attorney general's wealthy donors.

The testimony on the sixth day of the historic proceeding addresses a central charge against Paxton: that the Republican abused his office to help a local real estate developer resist FBI investigation by hiring an outside lawyer to look into the agents, a judge and other officials involved in the probe.

That lawyer, Brandon Cammack, told the jury of state senators who could decide Paxton's political fate within days that he consulted with the attorney general about how to proceed. Cammack also said he kept Paxton apprised as he obtained a series of grand jury subpoenas with guidance from the developer's lawyer.

“I did everything at his supervision,” Cammack said of Paxton.

Paxton has pleaded not guilty in the impeachment. He is not required to be present in the Senate for testimony and was absent Tuesday, as he has been for most of the trial. It was Paxton's hiring of Cammack in 2020 that prompted eight of his top deputies to report the attorney general to law enforcement for allegedly breaking the law to help developer Nate Paul. Their allegations prompted an FBI investigation of Paxton that remains ongoing.

That year, Paul alleged wrongdoing by state and federal authorities, including a federal judge, after the FBI searched his home. Several of Paxton's former deputies have testified for the prosecution in the impeachment trial and said they found Paul's claims “ludicrous" and not worthy of investigation.

Paul was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks. He has pleaded not guilty.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers prosecuting Paxton's impeachment have alleged that in return for Paxton's help, Paul paid for renovations to his Austin home and employed a woman with whom the attorney general was having an extramarital affair.

Cammack testified Tuesday that he met several times with Paxton, Paul and Paul's lawyer about Cammack's investigation, and regularly forwarded Paxton information Paul's lawyer was sending him about whom to target with grand jury subpoenas. Cammack said Paxton used the encrypted email service Proton Mail for these communications and that the attorney general told him to communicate over encrypted messaging service Signal.

Cammack said he learned that Paxton had a different official email address when he saw it copied on an email from one of Paxton's deputies ordering Cammack to stop his investigation.

In 2020, Cammack was five years out of law school and had a modest criminal defense practice in Houston. He testified that Paxton hired him at the recommendation of Paul's lawyer, whom he said he knew socially. Cammack recalled that as he was being hired Paxton told him he would “need to have some guts” for the investigation Paxton had in mind. He said he was exited to be working for Texas' top lawyer and impressed after the attorney general took him to watch a news conference. “It was cool,” Cammack said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley put American lives at risk to spread a document he knew was a lie

 Sen. Chuck Grassley released an FBI FD-1023 form related to the Hunter Biden investigation. These forms are not intended to be public documents and it is highly unusual to release them publicly. These are the forms that the FBI uses to “record raw, unverified reporting from confidential human sources.” They do not represent the results of investigations, and “recording this information does not validate it or establish its credibility.”  

These forms are not classified, but they are kept in confidence for a number of reasons that are mostly connected with protecting sources. The FBI has made it clear to Grassley repeatedly that releasing the form would have a negative impact not just on this case, but on every case that depends on confidential human sources.

Grassley released it anyway because he has placed what he sees as a momentary opportunity to hurt President Joe Biden over the needs of the FBI and the good of the nation. More than that, Grassley is doing this to forward a story that he knows is a lie.

The form, which is dated June 2020, claims to be sourced from a businessman who was introduced to leadership at Burisma energy in Ukraine in “late 2015 or early 2016” to help the company find a U.S. company to purchase. During a meeting with Burisma leadership, the source claims that he was told Hunter Biden was put on the company board to "protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems.” Asked why it isn’t Hunter doing the job of locating a U.S. form to purchase, he’s told that “Hunter is not that smart.” Finally the source is told by Burisma executive Mykola Zlochevsky that the company has to pay $5 million to Joe Biden and another $5 million to Hunter Biden because they are being investigated by Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, and Burisma needed Biden to “deal with Shokin.”

The story then jumps to a phone call in 2016. Or maybe it was 2017. As with the original meeting, the source can’t recall the year, though he recalls the dialogue word for word. This time Zlochevsky complains that Burisma was forced to pay Biden, using a term that the source describes as “Russian-criminal-slang,” and now that Trump has been elected their investment is worthless. However, Shokin has been fired, so there was no investigation and no one would ever know about the money they paid the Bidens.

Jump forward to 2019 when CHS again meets with Burisma executives and Zlochevsky brags to the source about how clever they were in hiding the payments to Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, and how no one will ever find those payments. According to the source, this is the kind of thing Ukrainian businessmen like to brag about in casual conversation.

Finally, it comes down to this bit where one of the Burisma executives tells the source:

"... he has many text messages and 'recordings' that show he was coerced to make such payments … he had a total of "17 recordings" involving the Bidens; two of the recordings included Joe Biden, and the remaining 15 recordings only Included Hunter Biden. … These recordings evidence Zlochevskiy was somehow coerced into paying the Bidens to ensure Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was fired.”

If any of this sounds slightly familiar, it’s because it’s the exact story that Rudy Giuliani told to The New York Times in May 2019. In that story, Hunter Biden was placed on the board of Burisma in 2014 not because he was clearly a well-placed American with years of experience in lobbying, investment banking, and corporate governance who might be essential to an energy company looking to expand internationally, but because his father could get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired.

And Shokin was fired in 2016. The Ukrainian parliament voted him out after Joe Biden made it clear that the United States was very concerned about Shokin and might withhold or delay assistance to Ukraine unless he was removed. That’s a real thing. Biden even bragged about it later, telling a group of foreign policy advisers that he confronted the Ukrainian president and demanded Shokin’s firing.

Except the reason that Shokin was fired was because he was not investigating cases of corruption and was instead either turning a blind eye or an outstretched hand when dealing with Ukrainian oligarchs who were making off with billions. Both the U.S. and the U.K. governments had been pressuring Ukraine about Shokin for over a year before Joe Biden’s visit. In fact, the thing that upset the U.K. government most was that Shokin was refusing to investigate one firm in particular: Burisma.

As the head of a Ukrainian anti-corruption organization told Radio Free Europe, Shokin had dumped the investigation of Burisma when he took office.

"Ironically, Joe Biden asked Shokin to leave because the prosecutor failed [to pursue] the Burisma investigation, not because Shokin was tough and active with this case," Kaleniuk said.

When The New York Times ran Giuliani’s version of the story in 2019, it took Bloomberg News just one week to rip it apart.

… at the time Biden made his ultimatum, the probe into the company—Burisma Holdings, owned by Mykola Zlochevsky—had been long dormant, according to the former official, Vitaliy Kasko.

“There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against Zlochevsky,” Kasko said in an interview last week. “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.”

From the beginning of this whole affair, and in fact from the moment Giuliani set foot in Ukraine, it’s been obvious that in getting Shokin fired Joe Biden wasn’t protecting Burisma, he was taking action that put the company under renewed scrutiny. And in fact prosecutors did reopen their investigation of Burisma, reviewing multiple instances in which Zlochevsky was suspected of crimes.

All of this—all of it—was thoroughly covered just two years ago, including just how Giuliani generated his claims against Joe Biden and Hunter Biden in the first place.

Giuliani made a personal visit to an outgoing prosecutor, tried to convince him to play ball, and even called Trump directly while in the prosecutor’s office so that Trump could explain how excited he was about the “investigation” into Biden. The prosecutor even went so far as to add some new false claims, asserting that Joe Biden personally took a payment to act as an agent of a Ukrainian company.

That moment when Giuliani was making calls directly to the White House from the office of an outgoing official is the genesis of the idea that Joe Biden took some kind of payment from Burisma. Until that moment, it had come up nowhere. From no one.

Over the following months, Giuliani assembled a group of known criminals and former members of the pro-Russian government who had been ousted with the election of Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He found several willing to play along with his growing story, but they had a price: They wanted Trump to get rid of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was too effective in fighting corruption. Trump gave them exactly what they wanted to get his false evidence against Biden, but even in 2019 the holes in the story were so big that the whole scheme was obviously a … scheme.

Now it’s back again and nothing has changed. The document that the FBI held was clearly authored by someone who was part of Giuliani’s plot, and it was clearly Giuliani himself who pointed out this document to Grassley and others. The document contains exactly the same false, easily disproved claims as the story the Times printed up for Giuliani and was obviously written with the sole purpose of providing some faux documentary evidence for the story Giuliani and Trump were pushing at the time. It’s all part of what Trump was trying to get Zelenskyy to say when he made his impeachment-worthy phone call to the Ukrainian leader.

The content of the FD-1023 form is a lie. What’s more, Grassley knows it is a lie. He knows this has all been investigated and found to be baseless accusations. And he knows that releasing this document causes real, genuine harm.

Protecting this type of information from wider disclosure is crucial to our ability to recruit sources and ensure the safety of the source or others mentioned in the reporting. CHSs are critical to cases across all FBI programs—whether it’s violent crime, drug cartels, or terrorism. It would be difficult to effectively recruit these sources if we can’t assure them of their confidentiality. And without these sources, we would not be able to build the cases that are so important to keeping Americans safe.

Grassley was sent a letter reminding him of exactly this issue and asking him expressly to remind everyone involved to keep in mind the importance of keeping these documents secure. Instead, Grassley did the opposite: He published the FD-1023 in blatant defiance of the FBI’s request.

Why did he do it? He did it for the same reason that Republicans had been seeking release of the document all along, and that was because they knew it would generate headlines like this:

Bidens allegedly 'coerced' Burisma CEO to pay them millions to help get Ukraine prosecutor fired: FBI form

Bidens allegedly 'coerced' Burisma CEO to pay them millions to help get Ukraine prosecutor fired: FBI form

Grassley purposely released a document that he knew was a lie for the purpose of attacking Joe Biden even though he knew it would put Americans in danger and damage the FBI’s ability to investigate actual crimes of all sorts.

To gain a moment of political attention, Grassley is creating an immeasurable risk. How can witnesses come to the FBI to make a confidential statement knowing that their identities and claims can be revealed for political expediency by someone who has no real interest in the truth?

There is a genuine broad streak of corruption in this case, and it runs right through Iowa.

Sign the petition: No more spending taxpayer money on frivolous GOP hearings.

House GOP conducts discredited Biden-Burisma probe that Zelenskyy wouldn’t do as ‘favor’ for Trump

Remember that “perfect” phone call in July 2019 that led to President Donald Trump’s first impeachment? That’s the call in which Trump asked Ukraine’s newly elected president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to do “a favor” for him—namely to speak with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and announce an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, related to the Ukrainian energy firm, Burisma.

The call came just a week after the White House had ordered the State Department and Pentagon to withhold nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine that had already been authorized. Despite the pressure, Zelenskyy didn’t announce any such investigation, which might have derailed Biden’s presidential campaign.

But now Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is doing the very favor for Trump that Zelenskyy wouldn’t do. And it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the embattled former president, who is facing a federal indictment for mishandling classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort. 

RELATED STORY: Trump plays victim and savior

Comer had threatened to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress for failure to turn over an FBI document created in June 2020 that contained unsubstantiated allegations from a confidential source in Ukraine about Joe and Hunter Biden. Comer said a “whistleblower” had informed lawmakers about the FBI document.

The Washington Post wrote: “It is not hard to figure out why this is unfolding the way it is unfolding. There’s an enormous appetite on the right at the moment for evidence that the FBI and Justice Department are deploying a double standard or that Biden deserves to face criminal charges just as much as former president Donald Trump.”

The allegations that Comer wants to investigate relate to the Bidens and Burisma. And this latest political stunt by Comer could backfire like others.

It’s possible that the committee is simply regurgitating Russian disinformation. The U.S. intelligence community, in an unclassified report released in March 2021 said that “Ukraine-linked individuals with ties to Russian intelligence engaged in activities targeting the 2020 U.S. presidential election,” including “alleging corrupt ties between President Biden, his family, and other U.S. officials and Ukraine.”

“a bunch of malarkey”

Wray had cited the need to protect confidential sources in refusing to turn over the document. But the FBI director eventually relented and allowed all the members of the Oversight Committee to view the redacted document, known as an FD-1023 form, usually a report about information relating to alleged crimes provided to the FBI by an informant.   

Wray insisted that the committee members view the document in a secure room known as a SCIF, for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, on Capitol Hill. The viewing occurred on Thursday, just hours before Trump broke the news about his indictment.

It’s unknown why the FBI insisted that committee members view the document in a SCIF. But Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wasted no time in rushing out of the room to take notes and reveal the contents of the document to reporters.

RELATED STORY: You have to see Marjorie Taylor Greene's plan to 'take down the Deep State'

Greene and fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida both said Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky allegedly told an FBI source that he had paid $5 million apiece to Hunter Biden and then-Vice President Biden in an attempt to avoid a corruption investigation, the New York Post reported.

“It was all a bribe to get (former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor) Shokin fired,” Greene said in a video that she posted on Twitter. She concluded by saying: “We are going to continue following this investigation; we are going to continue to look into every single thing that we can uncover.”

President Biden dismissed the bribery allegations as a “bunch of malarkey.”

The claim that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire Shokin because he was investigating Burisma has been totally debunked. The evidence shows Biden was carrying out U.S. policy when he went to Kyiv and warned then-president Petro Poroshenko that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees until Shokin was removed as prosecutor general. The International Monetary Fund also threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine because Shokin wasn’t pursuing corruption cases.

Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, an independent agency, has said Burisma was not even under investigation when Biden was pushing for Shokin’s removal. But the facts haven’t stopped Republicans from claiming that the FBI form proves that the Bidens took millions in bribes. 

The day after Trump’s indictment, the Murdoch-owned New York Post had a front-page cover with photos of both Biden and Trump with the headline “Hail to the Thiefs” and subheadlines “Trump indicted for taking classified documents” and “Ukraine bizman: ‘I bribed Biden for $10M.”

Trump complained that his federal indictment came on the same day that House Republicans gained access to the FBI document, so the bribery allegations got less attention in the news media.

"It's no coincidence they indicted me the very same day it was revealed that the FBI had explosive evidence that Joe Biden took a $5 billion illegal bribe from Ukraine," Trump said Saturday from the North Carolina Republican Party Convention.

questioning credibility

But as independent journalist Ed Krassenstein pointed out in a tweet, there are many reasons to question the credibility of the information provided to the FBI in the FD-1023 form that has so excited the MAGAverse.

Breaking: The Bribery allegations that Comer, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Republicans have been touting are concerning Burisma. While Republicans are making the claim that the allegations “100%” prove that Biden committed bribery, let’s take a step back and evaluate where the… pic.twitter.com/pLuWAj5vSq

— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) June 8, 2023

Moreover, The Washington Post reported that the FBI and Justice Department under then-Attorney General William Barr had reviewed the allegations from the confidential informant and “determined there were no grounds for further investigative steps.”

The Post wrote:

The allegation contained in the document was reviewed by the FBI at the time and was found to not be supported by facts, and the investigation was subsequently dropped with the Trump Justice Department’s sign-off, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

Barr said the information in the June 2020 FBI form was passed along to U.S. Attorney David Weiss of Delaware, who began an investigation into Hunter Biden’s overseas business ties and consulting work in 2018. That would mean Weiss, a holdover from the Trump administration, has been in possession of the information for three years, but has not acted on it.

The Washington Post reported that Weiss is nearing a decision on whether to charge Hunter Biden for relatively minor tax- and gun-related violations. The newspaper reported last year that federal agents had concluded that they had enough evidence to charge Biden with failing to report all of his income on tax filings and lying on a form for a gun purchase by denying that he had substance abuse problems.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, wrote in a statement that “much of the information provided by the source (in the June 2020 form) was information Mr. Giuliani had already provided the FBI.” Raskin added:

“We now know what I had long suspected: that Chairman Comer’s subpoena is about recycling stale and debunked Burisma conspiracy theories long peddled by Rudy Giuliani and a Russian agent, sanctioned by former President Trump’s own Treasury Department, as part of the effort to smear President Biden and help Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign.”

That Russian agent Raskin is apparently referring to is Andriy Derkach, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament who represented various pro-Russian parties. Among them was the Party of Regions headed by ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which paid millions of dollars to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to work as a consultant.

Here’s how The Washington Post described Derkach’s background:

Derkach, a former member of Ukraine’s Russia-leaning Party of Regions, was educated at the Higher School of the KGB in Moscow before entering business and politics in independent Ukraine after the Soviet Union’s collapse. His father was a longtime KGB officer who later ran independent Ukraine’s intelligence service in the late 1990s and early 2000s before losing his position amid a scandal over Ukrainian authorities’ involvement in the kidnapping and murder of a prominent journalist.

Derkach was mentioned by name by the National Intelligence Council, consisting of the CIA, NSA, and five other U.S. intelligence agencies, in its March 2021 assessment of “Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections.” The report read:

“We assess that President Putin and other senior Russian officials were aware of and probably directed Russia’s influence operations against the 2020 US Presidential election. For example, we assess that Putin had purview over the activities of Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian legislator who played a prominent role in Russia’s election influence activities. Derkach has ties to Russian officials as well as Russia’s intelligence services.”

It added:

A network of Ukraine-linked individuals—including Russian influence agent Konstantin Kilimnik—who were also connected to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) took steps throughout the election cycle to damage US ties to Ukraine, denigrate President Biden and his candidacy, and benefit former President Trump’s prospects for reelection.  

[…]

Derkach, Kilimnik, and their associates sought to use prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to US officials and audiences. These Russian proxies met with and provided materials to Trump administration-linked US persons to advocate for formal investigations; hired a US firm to petition US officials; and attempted to make contact with several senior US officials. They also made contact with established US media figures and helped produce a documentary that aired on a US television network in late January 2020.  

That U.S. television network was One America News Network. Media Matters for America said the right-wing cable station has a “notable history of acting as a mouthpiece for Russian propaganda,” including spoon-feeding its viewers Kremlin-backed propaganda about the war in Ukraine.

giuliani and derkach

In early December 2019, as the House was moving to impeach Trump, Giuliani traveled to Kyiv with an OAN crew to work on the documentary aired in January 2020. That’s when he met Derkach for the first time, TIME magazine reported. Derkach’s press office released this photo of his meeting with Giuliani, which was posted on his Facebook page that was later banned.

"In this handout photo provided by Adriii Derkach's press office, Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for U.S President Donald Trump, left, meets in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Dec. 5, 2019 with Derkach, who was later named an "active Russian agent" by the U.S. government." https://t.co/4nQpDNkbsR

— Markus T (@dforthandbview) October 16, 2020

Derkach had caught Giuliani’s attention when he held a November 2019 press conference in Kyiv to push his conspiracy theory of “DemoCorruption,” which holds “that Biden sits atop a vast system of graft that permeates the Democratic Party and colludes with George Soros and other Western billionaires,” TIME said.

Derkach had also been pushing the Kremlin-backed theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that had interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign on behalf of Clinton. When Time reporter Simon Shuster visited Derkach in his Kyiv office in 2021, he said Derkach handed him a folder labeled “Reports About Record-Setting Bribe,” which included press clippings, printouts from Twitter, and a letter that Derkach sent to U.S. Senate members accusing Biden and his family of corruption.

“Giuliani is a very capable lawyer. I appreciated his meticulousness,” Derkach told Shuster. “When we spoke, it was very useful for me. He records everything. He writes everything down in his notebook. He never relaxes.”

(That’s the same capable, meticulous lawyer who, in July 2020, was duped by Borat—a character played by actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen—in a compromising scene filmed in a New York hotel room.)

After the OAN documentary aired, Giuliani invited Derkach to New York for further talks in February 2020. Derkach appeared on Giuliani’s podcast.

In the months leading up to the November presidential election, Derkach continued his efforts to spread disinformation about Biden to Giuliani as well as Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa

the search for something incriminating

Derkach also released a series of audio tapes of 2016 conversations between Biden and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in which the U.S. vice president linked financial assistance to firing prosecutor Shokin. Derkach claimed he got the tapes from “investigative journalists.” 

There was nothing really incriminating or embarrassing in the heavily edited tapes, TIME reported. But during the first presidential debate in September 2020, Trump repeatedly brought up the tapes, accusing Biden of threatening Ukraine with withholding a billion dollars if Shokin wasn’t removed.

In September 2020, Derkach held a news conference in Kyiv in which he claimed that Burisma’s owner Zlochevsky had laundered money through off-shore banks to pay millions of dollars to a company co-owned by Hunter Biden, Ukraine’s Unian news agency reported.

Hunter Biden did serve on Burisma’s board of directors from 2014 to 2019, and was paid about $600,000 a year, according to the New York Times. His business partner Devon Archer also served on Burisma’s board. Burisma paid them several million dollars for consulting services through their investment firm Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC, Reuters reported. 

In September 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Derkach “for his efforts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a press release: ”Andrii Derkach and other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world.”

Last December, the Department of Justice indicted Derkach for a scheme to violate the sanctions by allegedly engaging in bank fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering. Prosecutors said Derkach allegedly concealed his involvement in the purchase and maintenance of two condominiums in Beverly Hills, California. “While participating in a scripted Russian disinformation campaign seeking to undermine U.S. institutions, Derkach simultaneously conspired to fraudulently benefit from a Western lifestyle for himself and his family in the United States,” said Michael J. Driscoll, head of the FBI’s New York office.

But Derkach stands accused of even worse offenses in Ukraine amounting to treason. In January, Zelenskyy announced that Derkach and three other pro-Russian lawmakers had been stripped of their Ukrainian citizenship for choosing “to serve not the people of Ukraine, but the murderers who came to Ukraine.”

In March, the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, a British think tank, issued a detailed report on Russia’s “unconventional operations” during the war in Ukraine in which Derkach figured prominently.

Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) made public information in June 2022 that Derkach had been under the control of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, since 2016, and had been receiving installments of U.S. $3 million to $4 million a month, according to the RUSI report.

“Derkach is alleged to have been tasked with establishing a network of private security firms which would assist in maintaining control in a number of towns by pathfinding and assisting Russian forces upon their arrival,” the report said.

More ominously, the report said Ukraine's intelligence agencies believe that "the main direction of Derkach's pro-Russian activities" in the years before 2022 was to influence Ukraine's nuclear energy industry "in the interests of Russia." Russia had plans to seize Ukraine’s nuclear power plants as part of the invasion, and to that end, “the Russian special services recruited employees of nuclear facilities, including from units responsible for the physical security of the facilities." 

Ukraine has issued a warrant for the arrest of Rudy’s one-time pal. 

Maybe Republicans on the House Oversight Committee should think twice before doing Trump a favor by accepting at face value unsubstantiated bribery allegations regarding Joe Biden and his family, especially if they might be recycling and spreading Russian disinformation. But they won’t.

RELATED STORY: How did Fox News cover Trump's indictment?

FBI document GOP wants released to tarnish President Biden came from Rudy Giuliani

Republicans are desperately searching for something they can smear President Biden with in advance of the 2024 election and, needless to say, it’s been slow going. Of course, if Donald Trump had been in D.C. politics for the past 50 years—as Biden has—the Library of Congress would currently be listed as a two-star brothel on Yelp. But Biden’s opponents have been busy turning over every rock they can find outside of Louie Gohmert’s head, and so far they’ve found bupkis.

In the wake of reports that Biden’s sketchy sexual assault accuser Tara Reade has mysteriously turned up in OG Trump fan Vladimir Putin’s Russia, it’s now been revealed that the “bombshell” document supposedly detailing a Biden pay-for-play scheme originated with—oh, sweet Fiddle-Pants McGee—none other than Rudy Giuliani.

Yeah, given ol’ Rudes’ preternatural talent for barmy bullshittery, we can probably put this “scandal” to bed, and hope against hope that no one tries to spank it with a Forbes magazine.

RELATED STORY: Tara Reade's long and 'bumpy' road to Moscow isn't a surprise

The Daily Beast:

Facing looming contempt of Congress proceedings, FBI Director Christopher Wray has offered to show House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-KY) a document—behind closed doors—that Comer believes exposes nefarious dealings by Joe Biden during his days as vice president. The document is reportedly from a collection that Rudy Giuliani gave to the Department of Justice in 2020, according to CNN reporter Zachary Cohen, and contains unverified information from confidential sources. Since Republicans seized power in the House, Comer has led a crusade to expose what he alleges to be misconduct by President Biden and his family—but has so far come up empty. After threatening Wray with contempt of Congress, Comer now says that Wray’s offer to show him the document in the FBI headquarters won’t suffice. “If the FBI fails to hand over the FD-1023 form as required by the subpoena, the House Oversight Committee will begin contempt of Congress proceedings,” Comer said, according to CNN.

More: The document at center of this dispute has origins in a tranche of docs that Rudy Giuliani provided to DOJ in 2020, sources tell @evanperez. The allegations, many originating from sources Ukraine, included 1 claiming evidence of corruption involving Biden when he was VP. https://t.co/GXcpCYEIVR

— Zachary Cohen (@ZcohenCNN) May 31, 2023

The claims were dubious enough that then-AG Barr directed that they be reviewed by a US attorney in Pittsburgh, in part because Barr was concerned that Giuliani’s document tranche could taint the ongoing Hunter Biden investigation overseen by the Delaware US attorney.

— Zachary Cohen (@ZcohenCNN) May 31, 2023

Former Pittsburgh US Attorney Scott Brady oversaw the FBI investigation of the Giuliani claims. The document being demanded by Comer is among the products of that probe. While the document outlines claims from the informant, it doesn’t provide proof they are true, per sources.

— Zachary Cohen (@ZcohenCNN) May 31, 2023

For the nontweeters:

CNN REPORTER ZACHARY COHEN: More: The document at center of this dispute has origins in a tranche of docs that Rudy Giuliani provided to DOJ in 2020, sources tell @evanperez.

The allegations, many originating from sources Ukraine, included 1 claiming evidence of corruption involving Biden when he was VP.

The claims were dubious enough that then-AG Barr directed that they be reviewed by a US attorney in Pittsburgh, in part because Barr was concerned that Giuliani’s document tranche could taint the ongoing Hunter Biden investigation overseen by the Delaware US attorney.

Former Pittsburgh US Attorney Scott Brady oversaw the FBI investigation of the Giuliani claims. The document being demanded by Comer is among the products of that probe. While the document outlines claims from the informant, it doesn’t provide proof they are true, per sources.

Wait, Rudy’s sources in Ukraine are certain they’ve found evidence of Biden corruption? Do tell! 

Of course, there are good reasons to be skeptical of not only the document’s source, but of Republicans’ intentions as well. For one thing, it would be wildly inappropriate to make the document public, as doing so could endanger confidential sources. And for another, its release would prove exactly nothing. 

The Washington Post:

Congressional Republicans say they know of a whistleblower within the Justice Department who alleges that President Biden received millions of dollars from a foreigner in exchange for a policy decision.

That’s all we know; Republicans are in an escalating battle with the FBI to get hold of the informant tip that they say will shed light.

The evidence: The document Republicans are requesting is a form the FBI uses to record unverified tips. The FBI stressed that in its response to Republicans: “The FBI regularly receives information from sources with significant potential biases, motivations, and knowledge, including drug traffickers, members of organized crime, or even terrorists. … Recording the information does not validate the information, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information known or developed by the FBI.”

So why is the GOP so keen on getting its grubby hands on a document that reportedly came from Ratfucker Rudy and presumably contains wild, unverified accusations? Come on, you know why. For the same reason Donald Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to simply announce an investigation into Joe Biden that could have been used to smear him in the 2020 election. After all, a real investigation would have turned up nothing. An announced, ongoing investigation, on the other hand, would have been a golden political cudgel that Trump could have wielded with abandon throughout the presidential campaign.

They want an unverified (i.e., likely bullshit) “official” accusation against Biden to hang around the president’s neck like a moldering albatross. It would be like giving the MAGA media a coloring book they could fill in with the most lurid hues imaginable.

So that’s why you get comedy gold like the following:

Chuck Grassley on Fox News: "We are not interested in whether the allegations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not." pic.twitter.com/yI8G26vQRw

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 1, 2023

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: “We aren’t interested in whether or not the accusations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not. We’re responsible for making sure the FBI does its job, and that’s what we want to know.”

FOX NEWS’ BILL HEMMER: “Okay, Senator, let me stop you there. You just said you read the document, is that right?

GRASSLEY: “Yes.”

HEMMER: “And what did it say?”

GRASSLEY: “Well, I’m not going to characterize it.”

He’s not going to characterize a document that damns the leader of the opposition party? Wow, that information must really be explosive.

Oh, but it gets better.

FOX: How damning is this document for Biden? GRASSLEY: I, I dont know that FOX: But you've read it GRASSLEY: Let's put it this way, there are accusations in it pic.twitter.com/HxZqg35QG6

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 1, 2023

HEMMER: “Senator, how damning is this document to the sitting U.S. president?”

GRASSLEY: “Well, it’s … I, I don’t know that.”

HEMMER: “But you’ve read it.”

GRASSLEY: “I read it. Let’s put it this way, there’s accusations in it, but it’s not for me to make a judgment about whether these accusations are accurate or not. It’s my job to make sure the FBI is doing their job, and that’s what this is all about as far as I’m concerned. The public’s business ought to be public.”

Hoo-boy! That’s convincing, huh? First of all, it’s clearly not the FBI’s job to burn sources in order to smear a sitting president with unverified allegations brought to the agency by his chief political opponent’s goofball lawyer. Secondly, if Grassley’s already read the document and can’t decide if there’s any “there” there, why does he think the American public would be any more discerning?

The truth is they want it released because they need to create at least a whiff of scandal to mask the refulgent stink lines pouring 24/7 off Donald John Trump’s purpling political corpse.

That’s clearly what Comer and Grassley’s performative—and very public—war with the FBI is all about, too. In fact, both Comer and Grassley already know what’s in the document, but instead of simply investigating the allegation, they’re determined to raise as much of a stink as possible.

The Washington Post:

The FBI did respond to the request for the document, saying that it opposed its release in part because it risked exposing its sourcing (a standard response) and in part because the allegation is just that: an allegation. The FBI isn’t new at this; it certainly understands why Grassley and (particularly) Comer are eager to have it released. An allegation encoded on an FBI form has a perceived weight that an allegation presented in a congressional press release doesn’t, even if that perception is unwarranted.

[…]

The logical implication from Grassley and Comer having seen the document is that their whistleblower is someone who had access to it; to wit, a current or former employee of the FBI or the government. (CNN reported on Wednesday that the document at issue may have been part of a number of files Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani gave the Justice Department in 2020.) Whoever the source was, they had a copy of the reporting document for years without more details about it being uncovered. Never mind that the allegation about Biden emerged in June of the year Donald Trump was seeking reelection, seemingly without Barr’s Justice Department developing a criminal case around it.

But Comer and Grassley have been aware of its contents for a month, and all they appear to have done is pester the FBI about it. Remember, Comer held a news conference in early May during which he alleged that foreign money had at times moved between members of Biden’s family. That was the product of months of investigations based on financial documents the Oversight Committee had retained.

In other words, Comer and Grassley are out on a very wobbly limb when it comes to these accusations. But hey, better luck next time, guys. Maybe Chuck can pin the dead pidgin in front of his house on Biden next. It would make at least as much sense as this. 

RELATED STORY: Whistleblower's complaints started while Trump was in office

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.   

House Judiciary Republicans release lie-packed, inflated ‘report.’ Will the media bite?

With four days to go before Election Day, the Republicans of the House Judiciary Committee have released a very serious report that is in no way a stunt. Now we get to see how much the media bites.

The report is supposedly about “FBI & DOJ politicization.” In translation: “The FBI and Department of Justice dared investigate Republicans, which can never be a legitimate thing to do.” For instance, it characterizes the FBI’s seizure of Rep. Scott Perry’s cell phone, which was backed by a court-authorized warrant, as the FBI having “stalked a Republican Congressman while on a family vacation to seize his cell phone.” Basically, if the FBI does its job and that is inconvenient for a Republican, it becomes evidence of politicization, according to the report from the Jim Jordan-led Republican committee members.

RELATED STORY: As DOJ reveals Trump concealing national security documents, GOP response is ... pathetic

The document also dedicates space to complaints about the Justice Department investigating threats against school board members (portrayed by Republicans as the Justice Department investigating parents simply for speaking in nonthreatening ways at school board meetings), accuses the FBI and Justice Department of “Artificially inflating statistics about domestic violent extremism” (while Republicans desperately need statistics about domestic violent extremism artificially deflated since it’s their people mostly committing this form of terrorism), and “Clearing the Bureau of employees who dissent from its woke, leftist agenda.” Haha, yes, the FBI is well known for its woke leftist agenda. Bunch of wild-eyed dope-smoking antifa hippies over there. (Fewer than 5% of FBI agents are Black, by the way.)

Here’s a measure of how seriously this report should be taken: The House Judiciary Republicans are promoting it as a “1,000 Page Report.”

1,000 of the 1,050 pages are copies of letters Rs have sent to the Biden administration — including 94 copies of the same five page letter to all US attorneys. https://t.co/I0Erhs2u9n

— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) November 4, 2022

That’s 470 pages of the same letter out of the 1,000 pages that Republicans are bragging about to make this sound like a detailed, meaty report.

They got their headline from Axios, which ran with “Scoop: House GOP to release 1,000-page road map for Biden FBI probe,” although they also got an Axios “reality check” noting that “Trump himself sought to exert pressure on his own Justice Department throughout his presidency, beginning with his demands for ‘loyalty’ from former FBI director James Comey and culminating in his attempts to use the agency to remain in power after the 2020 election” and quoting former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman: “Throughout my tenure as U.S. attorney, Trump’s Justice Department kept demanding that I use my office to aid them politically, and I kept declining — in ways just tactful enough to keep me from being fired.”

But to House Republicans like Jordan, it’s justified and righteous if a Republican fires an FBI director for refusing to offer loyalty and politicized and corrupt if the FBI executes a search based on a court warrant on a Republican. Their position is really that simple.

Even given all the repetition, the document still contains a large number of falsehoods. Check this out:

The House Judiciary GOP's new report features a ... very charitable summary of Trump's level of cooperation in the MAL documents case pic.twitter.com/jJIFuQmXbl

— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) November 4, 2022

In this account, the FBI and Justice Department’s efforts to get Donald Trump to give back the documents he stole become Trump graciously allowing them to try, and every so often coughing up a few more documents or adding security to the storage room where he was keeping the stolen documents.

This is the best part of that passage, though: “On September 13, a federal judge unsealed additional portions of the affidavit—although still largely redacted—that showed President Trump had returned even more documents to the Department than previously known.” So generous of him, right?

But! “Despite the publicly available level of cooperation, Attorney General Garland personally approved the decision to seek a warrant for excessive and unprecedented access to President Trump’s private residence. FBI agents spent approximately nine hours rummaging through President Trump’s personal belongings. They collected more than 11,000 documents, more than 1,600 press articles and printed materials, 19 items of clothing or gifts, and 33 books. They also collected about 100 documents with classification markings.”

I don’t know about you, but to me, following “Trump had returned even more documents to the Department than previously known” with a long list of the things he still had is not exculpatory. Sure, he had more than 11,000 government documents (because that’s a key word missing from their “more than 11,000 documents”—more than 11,000 government documents) in addition to the classified ones, but let’s give the man credit for having returned anything at all, eh? What this shows is that Trump took a damn lot of government documents. And about the “gifts” the FBI seized: Presidents and other government officials are not allowed to keep gifts they are given in their official capacity unless they buy them from the government. Otherwise, gifts are to go to the National Archives. It’s not like we’re talking about Valentine’s Day gifts from Melania and Ivanka.

This report is a political stunt intended to whip up the Republican base with days to go before the election. It’s more than that, though. If Republicans get control of the House and Jordan is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, “This report is a road map of where [Jordan] will go,” a Republican staffer told Axios. It’s a message about how Republicans will govern—through inflated claims about things as basic as how many pages a report has, baseless accusations, and insistence that any attempt to put limits on Republican wrongdoing is illegitimate.

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How should we be reading the 2022 polls, in light of shifting margins and past misses? In this episode of The Downballot, Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen joins us to explain how his firm weights polls to reflect the likely electorate; why Democratic leads in most surveys this year should be treated as smaller than they appear because undecided voters lean heavily anti-Biden; and the surprisingly potent impact abortion has had on moving the needle with voters despite our deep polarization.

Kash Patel given ‘limited immunity’ after repeatedly using 5th Amendment to evade testimony

Kashyap Patel, former aide to Devin Nunes turned one of Donald Trump’s closest advisors, has been granted limited immunity to secure his testimony before the grand jury investigating the theft of classified documents and their illegal retention at Mar-a-Lago.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in an earlier appearance before the grand jury, Patel repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment, making it impossible to gain meaningful information. Attorneys for the Department of Justice attempted to get the presiding judge to force Patel to provide information relevant to the investigation, and argued that none of the questions they were asking were directed at surfacing any criminal action by Patel, but the judge ruled that Patel could not be made to testify without immunity on the basis of possible future action. Now Patel will get that immunity and will make a second appearance before the grand jury.

When headlines announce that someone will testify on a grant of immunity, it is generally taken to mean that some kind of deal has been reached. That is not the case here. Patel does not want to testify. He remains a hostile witness. He’s just not being given any choice. And the fact that the DOJ is willing to give him immunity to hear what he has to say shows that this investigation has just one real target.

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Patel is the only person who claims to be a witness to Trump declassifying the documents found at Mar-a-Lago. Speaking to Breitbart News, Patel said, “I was there with President Trump when he said, ‘We are declassifying this information.’”

It’s a fair bet that this unique claim was one of the first things that Patel was asked about when he was brought before the grand jury. And one of the first issues was he pulled out the Fifth Amendment. Now he will be facing that question again, and will have nowhere to hide. It’s a good bet that his answer will not match what he told Breitbart.

That is, if Patel chooses to answer at all. The fact that he declared he didn’t have to testify under the protection provided by the Fifth Amendment is interesting just in itself. Because it means that Patel did not try to slip testimony on the basis of executive privilege.

That could mean that the questions Patel was being asked all concerned issues that arose after Trump left office. Or it might mean that Patel was saving that executive privilege claim in his other pocket, for just this occasion.

Patel first gained the favor of Donald Trump by helping former congressman Nunes write a memo that put FBI sources and methods at risk in an effort to undercut the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Patel became a frequent visitor to the White House and joined Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine in attempting to find dirt on Hunter Biden. As his “Ukraine whisperer,” Trump made Patel an aide to the National Security Council. Trump considered Patel his Ukraine expert during the efforts to blackmail the Ukrainian government that led to Trump’s first impeachment.

Patel next helped get Sec. of Defense Mark Esper fired by declaring Esper’s refusal to send the army against Black Lives Matter protesters “disloyal” to Trump. Trump rewarded Patel’s own loyalty by making him chief of staff to the new Secretary of Defense. Patel was reportedly Trump’s pick to head the CIA—a sharp rise from a congressional aide in just three years—when a little matter of getting tossed from the office got in the way. 

During his time in Washington, Patel developed a well-earned reputation as a man who would cut any corner, and stab any back, to get closer to Trump. As a Pentagon official told The Washington Post last year, Patel was simply “a direct threat to lawful government.” 

He also wrote the “worst children’s book of all time,” in which he is the heroic defender of good king Donald.

More recently, Patel has been in the news as one of Trump’s chief spokesmen on the classified documents that the FBI removed from Mar-a-Lago following a warranted search. Unsurprisingly, Patel has been the leader of the “Trump declassified them all, so he did nothing wrong” choir.

However, no matter how many times Trump has made that claim in public, he hasn’t done so in court. He hasn’t done it, because he knows that it’s a lie. As a quick check of just one recent and relevant case shows… “declassification, even by the President, must follow established procedures.” Declassification of highly compartmentalized documents regarding the nuclear capacity of another nation must follow lengthy and detailed steps leading to declassification, none of which involves Trump “just thinking about it.” 

The immunity grant for Patel took effect on Wednesday, signaling that his testimony before the jury has either already happened, or will happen soon. As with all grand jury testimony, it’s unlikely that any of it will be made public. However, should that jury issue indictments, Patel is likely to be given the opportunity for an encore.

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Durham investigation ends after three years of searching, $40 million spent, and nothing found

On May 13, 2019, then-Attorney General Bill Barr let it be known that at Donald Trump’s “request,” he was conducting an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. To conduct this investigation, Barr appointed his very own special prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Durham. For the next three-and-a-half years, Republicans made confident predictions that “Bull” Durham was going to be the man to finally “lock ‘er up.” Surely Durham, unleashed with no deadline, budgetary limit, or constraint on where he looked, would prove conclusively that every conspiracy theory pushed by Trump was true.

But after more than three years and more than $40 million spent, Durham managed to produce just a single charge: accusing Democratic-linked attorney Michael Sussmann of lying to the FBI for not revealing secondhand connections to Hillary Clinton’s campaign when talking to them about Donald Trump’s Russia dealings. In May, a jury found Sussman not guilty of the ridiculous charge.

Now The New York Times reports that the grand jury seated in connection with Durham’s investigation has been allowed to expire. Several members of Durham’s team have already left, and those who remain are now working to complete “a final report.” A report that shows they found absolutely nothing.

Durham had a solid background as a man who would twist any law to assist the Republican cause, such as when he decided there was absolutely nothing wrong with the kidnapping and torture the Bush administration practiced before and during the invasion of Iraq. The U.S. attorney signed on to help to create a false narrative about the Russia investigation, rewriting the order of events and insisting that there was no cause to involve the Department of Justice or the FBI. He even accompanied Barr overseas as they tried to talk U.S. allies into lying about intelligence sources.

In the runup to the 2020 election, Republicans regularly played on the idea that Durham was going to provide them with an “October surprise” by reversing the Russia narrative, absolving Trump of the crimes he committed in his first impeachment, and just generally stomping on Democratic faces. That lust for a coming bombshell grew even greater when Durham let it be known that his investigation had “evolved into a criminal investigation” and that a grand jury had been seated. Surely all those “lock ‘er up” chants were about to be fulfilled.

But before that bombshell could arrive, Durham’s lead investigator left the team, there were indications that Durham’s investigation was coming up dry, and sad news that his report “was unlikely to be ready in time for the election.”

There would be no report. Not in time for the election. Not in the next two years.

In fact, by September 2020 Durham seemed to have already lost the thread of what he was supposed to be investigating and was instead taking a deep look at the Clinton Foundation, apparently checking into Q-anon conspiracy theories about “deep state” connections. He found absolutely nothing. By that point, his investigation had already been underway for 16 months, a time period in which Robert Mueller’s investigation issued 31 indictments, accepted five guilty pleas, filed 190 charges, and successfully prosecuted four cases resulting in prison sentences. 

Even though Durham had nothing to show for nearly two years of searching, Barr, supposedly oh-so-upset over Trump’s lies about the election, gave Trump a parting gift before he left the White House: He changed Durham’s status to that of special counsel, expanding his reach still further, and gave him forever to dig up anything he could. 

For MAGA Americans, the Durham investigation was an answer to prayer. They had a prosecutor who could go anywhere, subpoena anyone, and investigate anything in order to find all those pizza tunnels and lizard men hiding at the bottom of the deep state. It all made for a super tasty bit of revenge fantasy. Just as their Q-notes insisted that Trump was always about to return from Mar-a-Lago and reveal that he had really been in charge all along, John Durham was always about to come smashing through the doors at Democratic Party HQ with a fist full of arrest warrants.

After all, the memes were unstoppable!

Some Durham meme the QAnon and MAGAe loved, for your amusement. pic.twitter.com/uRSE9U52pf

— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) September 14, 2022

Now it seems there finally is going to be a Durham report. And like everything else Durham is done, it’s going to be a pointless exercise in finger-pointing unsupported by evidence and good for nothing but boosting his chances of being a “legal commentator” on Fox News.

Durham’s investigation is coming to an end without ever laying a single charge against Hillary Clinton or anyone with more than a passing connection to her campaign. It’s coming to an end without finding anything like a conspiracy to use the FBI against Trump. It’s coming to an end … and that’s about the only good thing that can be said about it.

This is exactly the conclusion that everyone should have expected on day one. John Durham was hired as a professional witch hunter, and there simply are no witches to find. Everything about the FBI’s investigation into Trump was already well known. There were no secrets. No conspiracy.

That didn’t stop Durham from making that claim in court when prosecuting Sussman. The verdict shows exactly what the jury thought of his unsupported statements.

A month before Barr revealed that Durham’s report wasn’t yet baked, the Senate Intelligence Committee, then led by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, issued its own final report on the Trump campaign’s connection with Russia. That report found more than 100 contacts between Trump’s team and Russian agents. It found that Trump’s campaign directly collaborated with Russia on multiple occasions and in various ways to alter the outcome of a U.S. election. It found that multiple members of Trump’s campaign lied to investigators about these connections. It found that the coordination of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

Those are the facts of what happened. Durham was never going to find anything that made this any less true. What Durham needs to report is all the conspiracy theories he investigated and found to be false.

But don’t worry. Just because Durham’s investigation is ending without a single conviction to stand on, that doesn’t mean right-wing media is going to stop claiming he found something huge. They’re certainly not stopping today. In fact, the Durham investigation is likely to go on endlessly in the MAGA mind. If Donald Trump can be secret president, running the country from Mar-a-Lago while Biden wonders why his red button does nothing, then surely John Durham can keep on investigating forever. No grand jury? Who needs one. Durham will be always about to come through Democratic doors, laser grenade and electro-whip of justice in hand.

He’ll always be just one rabbit hole away,

Fox News has endlessly touted the Durham investigation. It is ending with a whimper. https://t.co/OtIqNtXhqo pic.twitter.com/5vJFWeI2B5

— Media Matters (@mmfa) September 14, 2022

The last sad cry for help ...

Trump blasts Bill Barr and begs for Durham to do something pic.twitter.com/HsETNRM91T

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 4, 2022