May 4, 2023 - Politics & Policy

What we know about the GOP's big, vague claims about Biden "bribery"

James Comer

House Oversight Chair James Comer. Photo: Anna Rose Layden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans' new claims of an "alleged criminal scheme" involving Joe Biden have unleashed a frenzy of headlines in conservative media, setting off impeachment speculation even before any evidence has been produced.

Why it matters: The GOP's "Biden bribery" playbook is not new — it was a central theme of the 2020 election, and even led to former President Trump's first impeachment after he pressured Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against Biden and his son.

  • But with Republicans now wielding power over the House agenda, the latest gambit could mark the start of a major escalation.
  • “Given the severity of these allegations, we need to know if the FBI followed up on this lead or if they sought to conceal it and prevent further investigation. That starts by getting the record,” a House Oversight Committee spokesperson told Axios.

What we know: House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday subpoenaed the FBI for a June 2020 form called an FD-1023, which is used to memorialize interviews with sources and often includes unverified information.

  • According to a whistleblower, the FD-1023 "describes an alleged criminal scheme involving” Biden and a “foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions” while he was vice president.
  • The identity of the whistleblower and the foreign country allegedly involved have not been disclosed. Nor have any other details, including the year.

The big picture: The subpoena is also intended to uncover whether the FBI and Justice Department appropriately investigated any such allegation of bribery made by a source, according to the letter sent by Grassley and Comer.

  • This builds on broader accusations from Republicans of an FBI bias against conservatives.

Zoom in: During the past 24 hours, the information vacuum has been filled by dozens of Republicans alleging criminality and vowing to uncover whether Biden is "compromised" by a foreign power.

  • The White House has accused Republicans of "trafficking in innuendo" and failing to provide evidence for years of corruption allegations against Biden.
  • Some right-wing members of Congress have gone well beyond the known facts.
  • "Thanks to a courageous whistleblower, we now have evidence tying Joe Biden himself directly to a pay-for-play crime scheme with foreign nationals," Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted.

Reality check: That is not the case, as even Grassley has acknowledged: "It is a very serious allegation. I wish I could say that I knew it was true or untrue," the senator told Newsmax on Thursday.

Between the lines: White House officials and the Oversight Committee's top Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), have raised concerns about the timing of the alleged FBI source interview.

  • In June 2020, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associates were seeking to revive debunked claims alleging Biden pressured Ukraine in 2016 to fire a prosecutor investigating his son, Hunter Biden, over his role on the board of the energy company Burisma.
  • The FBI later assessed that Russia was promoting disinformation campaigns aimed at denigrating Biden in an effort to interfere in the 2020 election, including via a Russian agent who worked with Giuliani.
  • Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) released a report in September 2020 alleging that Hunter Biden had "cashed in" on his father's name to secure foreign business deals. But the investigation uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing by the future president.

The bottom line: Republicans have been searching for a Biden bribery bombshell since 2019. So far, nothing has stuck.

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