WASHINGTON — Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) can’t say for certain that Joe Biden once asked for a bribe, but he knows someone said it happened.
And if the FBI won’t declare the mysterious allegation true or false, Comer announced this week, then Republicans will seek to hold bureau Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress ― with Comer relentlessly promoting the bribery rumor anyway.
It’s the latest chapter in the House Oversight Committee chair’s quest for dirt on the president’s family. So far, the probe has found shell companies allegedly funneling foreign money to family members connected to Hunter Biden’s self-enrichment schemes, starting at the end of his father’s vice presidency and continuing while Joe Biden was out of office.
Comer has not shown a link to the president himself, a failure for which the Kentucky Republican has been skewered by New York Times stories and even Fox News. But Comer told HuffPost he considers the bribery allegation to be the thing that pulls the rest of his material together, and he said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has his back.
“The New York Times wants to say, ‘Well, there’s nothing there pertaining to Joe Biden,’” Comer said. “Here we have someone very credible who alleged that he solicited a bribe.”
Congressional Republicans this year have sought to tarnish the Justice Department’s image as it investigates former President Donald Trump and prosecutes his supporters for their involvement in the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Comer and his colleagues have cast the FBI’s refusal to cough up information on the bribery allegation as itself suspicious, potentially another example of the so-called deep state protecting the Bidens.
At issue is an FBI document, an FD-1023 form, that reflects a tip from a confidential source in June 2020, at the height of the presidential campaign. It relates to what Comer has called a “bribery scheme with a foreign national” when Biden was vice president — the sort of damaging allegation that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to produce in 2019, eventually resulting in Trump’s first impeachment.
Comer is already familiar with what the June 2020 tip says. Though he hasn’t seen the document itself, he’s reviewed “basically something pertaining to testimony,” he told HuffPost. But he wants the FBI to hand it over.
In its initial response to Comer earlier this month, the FBI said that disclosing the material could risk endangering a confidential source and compromising current or future investigations. And it suggested that an FD-1023 form by itself would lack the context Comer is looking for.
“An FD-1023 form documents information as told to a line FBI agent,” wrote Christopher Dunham, the FBI’s acting assistant director for congressional affairs. “Recording the information does not validate the information, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information known or developed by the FBI.”
Comer said all they have to do is redact the source’s name and complained that the FBI wouldn’t even confirm that the document existed.
“They won’t tell us whether or not they looked into it, whether or not they even have the form, much less what they determined or whether there’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.
Comer had initially asked the FBI for all FD-1023 forms from June 2020 that mention the name “Biden.” This week, in a follow-up letter to the bureau, he narrowed the search to documents that also include the terms “June 30th” and “five million,” which Comer explained is the amount of money “the foreign national allegedly paid to receive the desired policy outcome” from Biden ― as though the FBI were simply having a hard time finding the document.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said Comer is not actually trying to get to the bottom of the allegation, because his subpoena only asked for FD-1023 forms and attachments.
“Chair Comer did not subpoena information about the FBI’s investigation of it, or any response it had to it, or any further information about it,” he said Thursday. “It’s just that one sheet of paper.”
Raskin told HuffPost that he himself didn’t know anything about the substance of the allegation and that Democratic committee staffers had been shut out of the Republican members’ probe.
“It’s somebody introducing on an unverified, uncorroborated basis, a suggestion of subjective information about a tip,” he said. “That’s all it is.”
Republicans learned about the form from a whistleblower, one of several whose allegations have been highlighted on Capitol Hill recently. Oversight Committee member Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said this week that the whistleblower who told Republicans about the form is highly credible and “fears for their life.” But Comer said the FD-1023 whistleblower is not the same one connected to an informant whom Comer claimed had gone missing earlier this month.
Some of the whistleblowers have turned out to be less compelling than initially advertised. One former FBI agent alleging corruption in the Justice Department was someone who didn’t think the FBI should go after Jan. 6 rioters and basically refused to do his job. Another allegedly obstructed a Jan. 6 investigation because he believed a conspiracy theory that the Capitol riot had been orchestrated by the government.
And Comer has been a bit grandiose about his work. Before releasing a summary of the Oversight Committee’s preliminary findings from its investigation of shell companies connected to Hunter Biden and others in his family, Comer proclaimed the material would bring about “Judgment Day” for the White House. But after the report came out, Fox News host Steve Doocy complained that Comer had provided “no evidence that Joe Biden did anything illegally.”
Still, Comer suggested this week that with the bribery allegation, he’s implicated Biden in criminal activity when he served as vice president.
“The vice president set up his family to profit from influence-peddling,” Comer said on Fox Business in an interview about the FBI subpoena. “At that point his political career was more than likely over, so he was trying to make money. And unfortunately he did it while he was in office, and he did it in a way through those shell companies that’s very illegal.”