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- On June 8, a grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump on 37 counts related to his possession of classified documents after leaving office. Trump has floated a theory without evidence that the indictment was timed to distract from allegations about a Biden bribery scheme.
- On the same day, Trump ally U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., shared information she said she read in an FBI form about a bribery allegation involving Biden, then vice president, his son Hunter, and a Ukrainian energy executive.
- The FBI filled out the form, known as an FD-1023, in June 2020 after hearing allegations from an informant. The FBI has said such forms contain unverified information. Multiple news outlets reported in early June that law enforcement couldn’t substantiate the allegations.
Days after former President Donald Trump was indicted on federal charges that he mishandled classified documents, he told supporters that the timing was intentional.
"It is also no coincidence that these charges against me came down the very same day evidence revealed Joe Biden took a $5 million bribe from Ukraine," he said June 13 in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump made similar remarks at the North Carolina Republican Party convention days earlier, calling the bribery evidence "explosive."
What is Trump talking about?
On June 8, a grand jury indicted Trump on 37 counts related to his possession of classified documents after leaving office. The same day, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a Trump ally, called a press conference after viewing a redacted FBI document with allegations about Biden and his son Hunter.
Greene told reporters that the form contained an informant’s account of a bribery paid by an executive of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, to then-Vice President Biden and Hunter.
"This was definitely illegal for a vice president of the United States and their family members," Greene said.
Trump’s suggestion that the indictment was filed to overshadow the details of Biden corruption allegations ignores key facts — namely that claims of a Biden bribe have circulated for three years and are based on an unverified account. Also, multiple national news outlets reported in early June that these allegations were vetted by the FBI in 2020 and the Justice Department declined to proceed.
Let’s review what we know.
To understand the roots of the bribery allegation requires a refresher on Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine, which has drawn scrutiny and questions.
Hunter Biden joined Burisma’s board in 2014 when then-Vice President Biden was publicly representing U.S. policy on the country. Hunter left in 2019 when his father launched his presidential campaign.
The oligarch behind the company, Mykola Zlochevsky, faced investigations for money laundering and tax evasion. (Zlochevsky and the company denied the allegations.)
In her June 8 press conference, Greene said Zlochevsky told the FBI informant that "he paid $5 million to one Biden and he paid $5 million to another Biden" to remove Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin and end an investigation into Burisma. The elder Biden had called Shokin "corrupt," which was a widely held view, and wanted him removed due to concerns Shokin was ineffective in pursuing corruption.
Hours after Greene’s press conference, the New York Post and Fox News reported about the bribery allegations. Both news reports are based on a document the FBI filled out in June 2020 documenting the informant’s account to the FBI.
Fox explained that a source, whom it didn’t name, described the contents of the form, called an FD-1023. Fox News said it had not seen the document. The New York Post’s information about the form came from lawmakers, including Greene, who said they had viewed it.
The FD-1023 form is used by agents to record unverified reporting from confidential human sources.
By the time news of Trump’s indictment broke, coverage of the FBI form and bribery allegation had been circulating for about five weeks. On May 3, U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the chair of the House oversight committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced they subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray to release the document.
Christopher Dunham, an FBI official, responded to Comer’s subpoena in a May 10 letter that further emphasized the nature of the unverified report.
"Recording the information," Dunham wrote, "does not validate the information, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information known or developed by the FBI."
On June 5, Comer and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, spent more than an hour being briefed by the FBI and reviewing the redacted form.
They then released separate statements.
Comer said that FBI officials said several times that information in the form is "currently being used in an ongoing investigation" and that the confidential source is a "trusted, highly credible" informant used by the FBI for years.
Raskin said the informant described to the FBI conversations he’d had with "individuals in Ukraine."
"The source, who has been described as highly credible by the FBI, told the FBI he could not provide any opinion on the underlying veracity of the information provided by these Ukrainian individuals" Raskin said.
After Comer threatened to hold Wray in contempt, the FBI on June 7 agreed to let all members of the oversight committee see a redacted version of the document. Members viewed the document in the days that followed.
It’s not clear. Grassley said June 12 in a Senate speech that the form indicates that there are recordings of Joe and Hunter Biden. But the Republicans have couched their comments, indicating that the existence of the tapes is not verified.
Grassley said that the the person who allegedly bribed the Bidens "allegedly has audio recordings" of his conversations with the Bidens.
He said the person, a foreign national, possesses 15 audio recordings of phone calls between him and Hunter Biden and two of phone calls between him and then-Vice President Biden.
Asked by Newsmax about the recordings June 13, Comer said, "We don’t know if they are legit or not."
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in a June 14 podcast interview with conservative host Vicki McKenna, said people should take the allegations of recordings of the Bidens "with a grain of salt." He said it could be coming from a "very corrupt oligarch who could be making this stuff up."
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, also urged caution about the tapes.
"We don't know for sure if these tapes exist," Jordan said June 14 in an interview with conservative political analyst Chris Salcedo. "If they do, and they say what Senator Grassley has said that he thinks they're going to say, then I think it's a different animal."
Fox News’ Sean Hannity asked Comer June 15 if he had any contact with the Burisma owner.
Comer replied: "Unfortunately, nobody's had any contact with him for the last three years."
The FBI itself does not appear to have publicly commented on what actions it took following the completion of the form or whether it considers the matter now closed. The agency declined to comment to PolitiFact on this point.
However, national outlets, based on unnamed sources, reported during the first week of June that the statements in the form were reviewed by law enforcement in 2020 and could not be corroborated. White House spokespersons responding to Comer’s statements have pointed to multiple news stories that the Justice Department closed the matter, including June 5 articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times. Both newspapers reported that the FBI reviewed the allegations in 2020, when Trump was president, and found them not credible, and the Justice Department concluded that it did not require further investigation.
But Raskin and Barr are in dispute about this.
Raskin said that Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr and Scott Brady, a district attorney in Pittsburgh, assessed the allegations and closed the case in August 2020.
Raskin, in turn, disputed Barr’s account. He said that the assessment was closed by the FBI in August 2020 after determining the evidence didn’t meet the FBI’s standard to open an investigation.
"The FBI read an excerpt from the memorandum closing this assessment, which was signed off on by Mr. Brady and high-ranking officials in the Trump Justice Department," Raskin said.
Some people have suggested the allegation may be linked to information provided by Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer and Trump ally. But Democrats and Republicans disagree on this point.
Giuliani had been working with Ukrainians in 2018 and 2019 to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in advance of the 2020 election. Barr, as attorney general, had set up a Justice Department "intake process" to vet claims from Giuliani.
In comments June 5, Raskin characterized the bribery allegations as Republican efforts to recycle "stale and debunked conspiracy theories long peddled by Rudy Giuliani."
Oversight committee Republicans, meanwhile, disputed Democrats’ claims that the 1023 form was part of the documents Giuliani provided. The form "stands on its own" and "contains information from the FBI's confidential human source dating back to another FD-1023 generated in 2017," the committee wrote on its Twitter account.
Barr told "Fox News Sunday" on June 11 that the information in the form "did not come from Rudy Giuliani. It actually came from the FBI," he said.
Former federal prosecutors told us they don’t see evidence that the timing of this indictment was somehow spurred by a news report about three-year-old bribery allegations.
Federal prosecutors do have some control over scheduling when a grand jury convenes to consider an indictment. And because grand juries only generally hear evidence put forward by prosecutors, it’s not unusual to expect a decision to indict. The standard to indict is whether the jury feels there is "probable cause" a crime was committed — that’s far lower than the "preponderance of evidence" standard in a civil case.
Prosecutors often ask the grand jury for an indictment "without further delay, because each day that passes makes the evidence less compelling for a jury," said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan who is now a University of Michigan law professor.
But Daniel Richman, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is now a professor at Columbia Law, said it’s more likely that Biden critics promoted the unverified allegations against him to compete with the news of Trump’s indictment.
"In a high-profile investigation with national political repercussions, timing an indictment to be strategic intervention into larger public conversations is not only professionally inappropriate but a mug's game, given the random turns of those conversations," Richman said.
We asked the Trump campaign for its evidence that the timing of the indictment and the Biden allegations were connected and for Trump’s source. Spokesman Steven Cheung did not answer those questions, but reiterated the campaign’s charge that Biden is trying to "distract" from the bribe allegation.
A reporter June 8 asked Biden if he had a response to the bribery allegation.
"Where’s the money? I’m joking," Biden said. "It’s a bunch of malarkey."
Hunter Biden’s taxes and foreign business dealings have been under investigation by the Justice Department in Delaware since 2018.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers met with prosecutors in April to discuss the criminal investigation and possible charges, including tax evasion and a felony gun charge, according to multiple news reports based on unnamed sources.
Separately, the Republican-led House Committee on Oversight and Accountability has been investigating the Biden family’s business dealings.
In May, the committee released a 36-page memo of its findings, saying bank records show Biden family members, associates and their companies received more than $10 million from foreign companies during and after Joe Biden’s vice presidency. In the memo’s subject line, the committee described the Bidens’ business dealings as "influence peddling and business schemes."
But the records did not provide evidence implicating Joe Biden in a bribery or corruption scandal. None of the payments detailed in the memo were to Joe Biden. The records did not show that the president took any action because of his family’s business decisions, nor did they show Joe Biden knew about the payments at the time.
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New York Post, "Former AG Bill Barr rips ‘confused’ Rep. Jamie Raskin over scope of Biden bribe probe," June 8, 2023
New York Post, Biden dismisses ‘malarkey’ FBI tip claiming he played a role in Burisma bribe scheme: ‘Where’s the money?’ June 8, 2023
New York Post, "Comer says alleged Biden bribe was $5M, threatens FBI with contempt," May 25, 2023
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White House spokesperson Ian Sams, Memo about Comer allegations, June 7, 2023
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House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Twitter thread, June 6, 2023
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House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Democrats, Ranking Member Raskin’s statement on the facts following FBI briefing and in-person document review, June 7, 2023
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Sen. Ron Johnson interview on the Vicki McKenna show, June 14, 2023
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PolitiFact, "Rudy Giuliani's role in Ukraine's investigation of Joe Biden," Sept. 26, 2019
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