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Ex-FBI source charged with Biden lies is tied to Russian intelligence, prosecutors say

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building is seen on June 9, 2023, in Washington.
Alex Brandon
The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building is seen on June 9, 2023, in Washington.

The former FBI informant charged with fabricating claims about a bribery scheme involving Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company has "extensive" contacts with Russian intelligence agencies, according to the Justice Department.

Federal prosecutors also say in a new court filing that Alexander Smirnov admitted to authorities after he was arrested that "officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story" about President Biden's son, Hunter Biden.

Smirnov, a longtime FBI informant, was arrested last week and charged with making false statements and creating a false and fictitious record.

He appeared in federal court in Nevada on Tuesday for his detention hearing. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Albregts heard arguments from both sides, and then ordered that Smirnov be released on a personal recognizance bond.

That ruling went against the government, which had asked the court to keep Smirnov in custody.

In their detention memo, prosecutors pointed to what they called four "indisputable facts" that favored detention.

Smirnov, they said, "claims to have contacts with multiple foreign intelligence agencies" and had planned to leave the U.S. for months just two days after he was arrested, to meet with Russian intelligence officials, among others.

Prosecutors argued that his foreign intelligence contacts could resettle him if he were to flee the U.S. now.

Prosecutors also said that Smirnov, 43, has access to $6 million in "liquid funds," which he did not disclose to Pretrial Services. Instead, he told them that he had only $1,500 in cash on hand and $5,000 in a personal checking account, according to the government.

Prosecutors also noted that Smirnov is a dual U.S. and Israeli citizen. While Smirnov has volunteered to turn over his Israeli passport, prosecutors say he could get a new passport at any time at an Israeli Consulate.

But much of the government's detention memo focuses on Smirnov's alleged contacts with Russia's government and intelligence services.

Prosecutors said Smirnov reported his contacts to his FBI handler. Smirnov described one of his contacts, named only as Russian Official 1, as someone "who controls groups that are engaged in overseas assassination efforts." Another contact is described as a high-ranking Russian foreign intelligence service officer.

"Smirnov's contacts with Russian officials who are affiliated with Russian intelligence services are not benign," prosecutors said.

The government said that in September 2023, Smirnov "pushed" another story about President Biden and Hunter Biden that the FBI knew to be false.

"Thus, Smirnov's efforts to spread misinformation about a candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States continues," prosecutors said. "He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November."

In his detention memo, Smirnov's attorneys argued that the FBI had known of Smirnov's alleged conduct for years, "yet took no steps to end his cooperation, seize his passports, or prosecute him for anything."

They also pushed back against the notion that he was a flight risk, noting what they called the government's "prior, nonchalant assessment of that very same risk."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.

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