58A-PG-3250958: Curiosities about the Alexander Smirnov Case

I wanted to flag two details of the Alexander Smirnov case — the FBI informant arrested upon arriving in Las Vegas last week on charges he made up a false claim that Mykola Zlochevsky had bribed Joe Biden.

First, the indictment repeatedly includes the assessment case number.

As part of that process, FBI Pittsburgh opened an assessment, 58A-PG-3250958, and in the course of that assessment identified the 2017 1023 in FBI holdings and shared it with USAO WDPA. USAO WDPA then asked FBI Pittsburgh to reach out to the Handler to ask for any further information about the reference in his 2017 1023 that stated, “During this call, there was a brief, non-relevant discussion about former [Public Official 1]’s son, [Businessperson 1], who is currently on the Board of Directors for Burisma Holdings [No Further Information]”.

[snip]

By August 2020, FBI Pittsburgh concluded that all reasonable steps had been completed regarding the Defendant’s allegations and that their assessment, 58A-PG-3250958, should be closed. On August 12, 2020, FBI Pittsburgh was informed that the then-FBI Deputy Director and then-Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States concurred that it should be closed. [my emphasis]

In my experience, it is exceedingly unusual to include case file numbers in public documents. One big exception to that rule — the Crossfire Hurricane-related case filings — is instructive: Trump had those case numbers released as part of his effort to burn the investigation.

This case number — 58A — marks this as a bribery assessment.

That makes Bill Barr’s project sketchier than it already was. Here’s how Chuck Grassley described the genesis of this lead:

Although investigative activity was scuttled by the FBI in 2020, the origins of additional activity relate back to years earlier. For example, in December 2019, the FBI Washington Field Office closed a “205B” Kleptocracy case, 205B-[redacted] Serial 7, into Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of Burisma, which was opened in January 2016 by a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act FBI squad based out of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. This Foreign Corrupt Practices Act squad included agents from FBI HQ. In February 2020, a meeting took place at the FBI Pittsburgh Field Office with FBI HQ elements. That meeting involved discussion about investigative matters relating to the Hunter Biden investigation and related inquiries, which most likely would’ve included the case against Zlochevsky. Then, in March 2020 and at the request of the Justice Department, a “Guardian” Assessment was opened out of the Pittsburgh Field Office to analyze information provided by Rudy Giuliani.

So during Trump’s impeachment for extorting a bribery investigation, Bill Barr’s DOJ shut down a kleptocracy investigation of Mykola Zlochevsky, then, weeks later, opened up a back channel for Rudy Giuliani that led to an assessment of whether Mykola Zlochevsky had bribed Joe Biden.

Close a corruption investigation into Zlochevsky, then open a corruption investigation into an make-believe bribe Zlochevsky made to Joe Biden.

Somehow Scott Brady’s team found a passing notice about Hunter Biden in a 2017 informant report from Smirnov — he offered conflicting explanations of how he found this FD-1023 in his House Judiciary Committee interview — which led to the interview where Pittsburgh’s FBI allowed Smirnov to make allegations about Zlochevsky claiming to have bribed Biden that should have easily been debunked.

And then, after the assessment had been shut down, days after Trump yelled at Bill Barr about the Hunter Biden investigation, David Weiss’ team was ordered, by Richard Donoghue (who had concurred in closing the assessment), to accept a briefing on it. Barr’s story and the indictment conflict about whether Weiss should have investigated in 2020, which would have led him to discover these lies then, or was only asked to investigate further after Republicans (and Bill Barr!) had made a stink about the informant report again.

Meanwhile, it seems to have escaped notice that Weiss’ team is seeking to detain Smirnov pretrial.

It is almost unheard of to seek detention for a false statements case. Even assuming Weiss argues that Smirnov is a flight risk, people usually aren’t detained on such charges.

So detention may be more about the other claims Smirnov made to investigators last September: That he had (faked) recordings of Hunter Biden from a hotel in Kyiv, and that he had been working with some Russians since May 2023 to end the Ukraine war, a plan that had some tie to the 2024 election.

51. The Defendant also shared a new story with investigators. He wanted them to look into whether Businessperson 1 was recorded in a hotel in Kiev called the Premier Palace. The Defendant told investigators that the entire Premier Palace Hotel is “wired” and under the control of the Russians. The Defendant claimed that Businessperson 1 went to the hotel many times and that he had seen video footage of Businessperson 1 entering the Premier Palace Hotel.

52. The Defendant suggested that investigators check to see if Businessperson 1 made telephone calls from the Premier Palace Hotel since those calls would have been recorded by the Russians. The Defendant claimed to have obtained this information a month earlier by calling a high-level official in a foreign country. The Defendant also claimed to have learned this information from four different Russian officials.

53. The Defendant told investigators that the four different Russian officials are all top officials and two are the heads of the entities they represent. These Russians said that conversations with Ukrainians about ending the war will include the next U.S. election. The Defendant told investigators he is involved in negotiations over ending the war and had been for the previous four months. According to the Defendant, the Russians want Ukraine to assist in influencing the U.S. election, and the Defendant thinks the tapes of Businessperson 1 at the Premier Palace Hotel is all they have. The Defendant told investigators he wants them to ask Businessperson 1 how many times he visited and what he did while at the Premier Palace Hotel. [my emphasis]

That is, seemingly of the belief that the FBI would be amenable to this plan, Smirnov claimed to be involved in an information operation for the third straight election.

Remember, the indictment ties Smirnov to the Andri Derkach influence operation in 2020 by tying the genesis of Smirnov’s 2020 bribery claims to this article, reporting on probably fabricated tapes between Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko.

A Ukrainian lawmaker who met with Rudolph W. Giuliani late last year released recordings of private phone calls several years ago between Vice President Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko, then Ukraine’s president, in a new broadside against the presumptive Democratic nominee for U.S. president that has raised questions about foreign interference in the 2020 election.

The recordings played at the news conference Tuesday shed relatively little new light on Biden’s actions in Ukraine, which were at the center of President Trump’s impeachment last year. They show that Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2015. But Derkach used the new clips to make an array of accusations not proven by the tapes.

Smirnov even claimed to have met with Poroshenko and Viktor Shokin in 2016.

One of the two AUSAs on this case, Sean Mulryne, is a Public Integrity prosecutor who has worked FARA cases (including that of Elliott Broidy-related Nickie Lum Davis, who was represented by Abbe Lowell).

There may be — likely is! — more to this case than a simple false statement. But that’s another reason why David Weiss has no business overseeing a case in which he is a direct witness.

image_print
43 replies
  1. EW Moderation Team says:

    A reminder to all new and existing community members participating in comments:

    — We have been moving to a new minimum standard to support community security over the last year. Usernames should be unique and a minimum of a minimum of 8 letters.

    — We do not require a valid, working email, but you must use the same email address each time you publish a comment here. **Single use disposable email addresses do not meet this standard.**

    — If you have been commenting here but have less than 1000 comments published and been participating less than 10 years as of October 2022, you must update your username to match the new standard.

    Thank you.

  2. boloboffin says:

    Seems like “phone calls from Businessman 1 at the Premier Palace Hotel” would be a prime area for deep fake audios. The important thing there is not whether they are true and result in charges, but that the public hear, say, Hunter Biden’s voice negotiating with the voices of Ukrainian officials to prolong the Ukrainian war to keep American money flowing to Ukraine and into corrupt military schemes that would eventually kick back to Joe Biden. For example.

    • Error Prone says:

      Paragraph 51, ” The Defendant told investigators that the entire Premier Palace Hotel is “wired” and under the control of the Russians.” Plus, paragraph 52, ” The Defendant suggested that investigators check to see if Businessperson 1 made telephone calls from the Premier Palace Hotel since those calls would have been recorded by the Russians.” No time frame mentioned in the indictment?

      With Joe Biden the Obama administration’s lead person on Ukraine matters, it is mind boggling to suggest the intelligence community would have not warned him of a security situation.

      Thus it would be mind boggling for HB to have specifically gone to a Russian listening post to make incriminating calls.

      The report of audio fake calls sounding in Joe Biden’s voice to tell voters in NH to not vote suggests voice signal processing at this time is advanced to where even amateurs can do fake voice “conversations.” (Which also apparently can be debunked as fake by sophisticated counter signal processing, as with the fake campaign calls.) Anything surfacing of HB compromising calls from a Russian listening post should be met with extreme skepticism.

      Open for guessing, if HB in giving testimony responsive to House committee subpoena is questioned about phone calls from that place, would Lowell be expected to promptly put it somehow into pretrial motions?

      • Error Prone says:

        How can detention be distinguished from protective custody, by the outside observer?

        After the fact we can guess, as with whether Epstein was under protective custody, but unless untoward events happen, what’s the tip-off?

          • jecojeco says:

            My initial thought was detention to muzzle him.

            Second thought is that Smirnov should stay back high rise windows.

            Third thought is that he should avoid legal assistance provided by trump PACs etc.

            With all this drip, drip, drip about Barr’s DOJ, Pitts office , Weiss, the Baltimore Biden Haters Club etc I don’t understand why Weaponization of DOJ is treated as a future event for trump Revenge ’24 when it obviously was past tense for trump ’16 smear campaign for potential ’20 Dem cnadidates. It even continued during the Biden admin with Garland providing GOP Gangstas Weiss & Hur with freshly loaded weapons. I’ll probably get yelled at for saying this but I keep thinking “whose side is Garland on”, how could he possibly this naiive? Not to mention his slow walking of federal legal actions against trump.

  3. Savage Librarian says:

    I wonder if Alexander Smirnov knows any of the Smirnovs who live or have lived in Troutdale, Oregon. One of them appears to be living in Naples, FL now.

  4. wetzel-rhymes-with says:

    I remember growing up hearing “Politics stops at the water’s edge”, and so the President speaks for the country, and our foreign policy is effective and has continuity over administrations. This was a big norm, but I don’t think we really understood why it became the norm in America, because I think you have to go back to the XYZ affair during John Adams to understand, and who remembers the XYZ affair? There is a quote by Santayana that those . . . So the French Minister urged Americans to vote against Adams’ reelection. Things spiraled out of control with both the French and some (who knows?) Democratic Republicans might have been getting French support. We had something called the Quasi War with the French Navy off the East Coast and in the Caribbean. The schooner RETALIATION got captured in 1798 and then got captured again in 1799. If history is repeating itself, maybe expect the GOP to resurrect the Alien and Sedition Acts to solve what has happened. There are disloyal elements in our country. I think there is a Law of Republican Crime. Every accusation is a confession, “Politics stops at the water’s edge,” but not in Russia. Nobody remembers the XYZ Affair because the norms that come out of it weren’t really about happens to foreign policy but what happens to domestic policy.

    • Greg Hunter says:

      I will continue to beat this drum about looking back at our history without considering the impact of the 17th Amendment had on the purchase of our government.

      The Progressive Era was anything but. Eugene V. Debs and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union were used to rapidly reorganize our Constitution in ways that eroded our resiliency against foreign influence and the so-called power of Impeachment.

      • P J Evans says:

        Politicians were bought long before the 17th Amendment. Ever hear of Boss Tweed? Smoke-filled rooms? The elections of the 1880s?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Oh, my, yes. It was a national pastime for big business. The state legislature in Albany was a poster child for corruption. It virtually had a fixed price menu for approving shipping, rail and other projects. Vanderbilt had it wired.

          Congress is another example. It was heavily bribed for decades by railroad owners during and after construction of the transcontinental railroads. Of California’s Big Four rail magnates (Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker ), Collis Huntington, moved to DC, to keep tabs on congressional movers and shakers, and to make sure the bribes flowed in the right amounts to the right people.

        • Greg Hunter says:

          Sure I have and the NYC gents took that lesson nationwide. Owning all state legislatures and the newspapers was costing too much money and they rightly figured buying the Senate would be so much easier with popular elections.

          Earl seems to confirm my premise with purchase of Congress. It had to be purchased to pass Prohibition. The industrialists did not want drunks working their machinery so instead of education they chose banning alcohol.

      • Just Some Guy says:

        “The Progressive Era was anything but. Eugene V. Debs and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union were used to rapidly reorganize our Constitution in ways that eroded our resiliency against foreign influence and the so-called power of Impeachment.”

        The Constitution was watered-down by… Eugene V. Debs? Okaaaay, sure.

        • Greg Hunter says:

          I always wondered where my middle name came from and while it came from my father, it was my grandfather that was a huge Democrat that gave it to him. I had not studied Debs until recently and while I admire his history, the passage of the 17th Amendment did not achieve the goals he had, but it did achieve the goals of the wealthy.

          Wealth allows time to think and then to place those ideas into action. So yes he was used or mistaken about the passage of that Amendment which diluted the Constitutional protections.

          Are you arguing that the popular election of Senators has improved the functioning of that body? I can guarantee there would be a lot more turnover in the Senate had the 17th not been passed.

          • Just Some Guy says:

            I’m not arguing anything. What I’m asking you is how, with citations please, Eugene V. Debs was “used to rapidly reorganize our Constitution in ways that eroded our resiliency against foreign influence and the so-called power of Impeachment.” Because so far you’ve offered zero credible evidence to corroborate your argument, and in particular I am not aware of any part Debs played in the passage of the 17th Amendment, nor do I think it a cogent argument to claim that direct election of Senators is somehow less progressive than their appointments by state legislatures.

    • Shadowalker says:

      I doubt they would want to resurrect the Alien and Sedition Act, since according to the Senate website that was an absolute disaster for the Federalists in the 1800 election, and was probably a major reason for their demise as a political party.

    • Harry Eagar says:

      While international relations go back as far as the XYZ Affair, politics stops at the water’s edge goes back only to 1945 and Senator Vandenburg’s readiness to make common cause with Truman’s growing anti-sovietism (and against the Wallace wing of the Democrats, who were pro-Soviet).

      Politics had not been stopping at the water’s edge for some years previously; that’s what America First v. preparedness was about in the 1939-40 elections.

  5. Error Prone says:

    He was met deplaning in LasVegas and coincidentally the indictment was filed. Has anyone seen reporting of where his flight originated? The suggestion is his flight activity was and has been known and tracked.

    • Shadowalker says:

      My understanding is they wait to file charges till the defendant is within jurisdiction, because the defendant could wait outside jurisdiction if they filed charges ahead of time. They will file charges for those outside of jurisdiction so they don’t run into SOL problems for the alleged offense, which would be paused till the defendant is within jurisdiction.

      • John Colvin says:

        Especially when there are potential statute of limitations issues, the DOJ often files indictments under seal, so that defendants do not know that they will be arrested and detained if they travel to the United States.

        • Shadowalker says:

          There are also speedy trial issues. A clock starts when they file the charges with the court, which the court can pause only if there are circumstances out of their control.

      • Error Prone says:

        My intention was to flag he was traveling, to somewhere and back, and when back he got snagged.

        What was his travel agenda? Not being reported.

        The complaint notes he falsified his travel. Do you doubt he was under some type of current travel surveillance? Had the recent travel affected the decision to prosecute now for a false statement, not later? All the media says is he got snagged deplaning in Vegas. Just curious if there is other relevant information.

            • Shadowalker says:

              Interesting. So they weren’t sitting on the indictment.

              I just noticed the following:

              “ 5. In addition, when the Defendant was authorized to engage in illegal activity for investigative purposes”

              WHAT????

              • emptywheel says:

                Yup! Another reason it is remarkable they’re prosecuting. Bc a whole lot of embarrassing dirt will come out.

                The FBI and other LE can authorize an informant to commit crimes as part of infiltrating a network. For example, they can buy or sell drugs with approval in an effort to prosecute the larger network.

                Here, I’m wondering if they’re burning someone who was dealing cryptocurrency to criminals.

        • Shadowalker says:

          Anytime they get an arrest warrant they usually know where the subject is, so yes, they were aware of his movements.

  6. SB317overthere says:

    I have no doubt Chuck Grassley releasing the FD-1023 in July 2023 directly led to the FBI re-interviewing Smirnov in Sept 2023 and his eventual arrest.
    Republicans are utter failures.

  7. VinnieGambone says:

    Sophisticated counter signal processing…
    hymm I’m gonna have to stock up on some of dat dere.

    At the very least, a tee shirt.

    So this will be a large component of the campaign, the needed instant piercing of fake AI messaging ?

    When do these decoders go on sale ?

    Can I get one for my love life ?

  8. VinnieGambone says:

    If there’s any gotcha it is self directed. I am addled by lack of band width to keep up with the deluge of new arrows being shot at us.

    We soon won’t be picking between people, we will be picking between which robot information operation got to us.

    Gizmos Galore.

    Great stage name.

    • Harry Eagar says:

      I cannot even keep up with Dr. Wheeler’s stakhanovite production level.

      The poiotical press was never really set up to patrol political fakery, and now that such patrolling requires scarce, expensive and difficult technical skill, the starved and shrunken political press will be no help at all.

      [Moderator’s note: your bursts of 4-6 comments inside 10-30 minutes will be throttled. If you feel a need to do rapid shitposting, get an account on a microblogging platform and do it there; this is not a microblog site. /~Rayne]

  9. WordsmithFL says:

    Thank you for this column. I hope the mainstream media start digging into who Alexander Smirnov is, possible connections to Trump World, and more importantly who put him up to telling these lies. It sounds like a Giuliani / Bannon / Stone scheme; we know Trump always projects onto others what he himself is doing, which is why he had Giuliani running around trying to create a fake Ukraine scandal. Trump himself tried to pressure Zelenskyy into saying Biden was being investigated for bribery. So having Smirnov falsely tell the FBI that there was evidence of Biden’s bribery fits in nicely with that Giuliani et al were doing at the time.

  10. Zinsky123 says:

    This fairy tale about Zlochevsky bribing Joe and Hunter Biden with $5 million each has been debunked over and over again but it keeps rising from the grave like Lazarus to haunt Democrats. You can never prove a negative – in other words, you can’t prove you didn’t do something you didn’t do. Democrats have allowed Trump and his minions to flip the narrative and they have to prove Joe Biden ‘didn’t do something illegal”. Nah – Republicans need to prove the affirmative – that a bribe was paid. Of course they will never be able to do that. You can’t move $10 million USD without leaving a trace – wire transfer records, large cash withdrawals, etc. Congressional fossil Charles Grassley needs to show some receipts or shut his lying, diseased old mouth.

Comments are closed.