Did the FBI put its thumb on the scale of the 2020 election by backing Joe Biden’s attempts to discredit allegations of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden? That’s what Chuck Grassley says he’s hearing from “highly credible” whistleblowers within the FBI — and he wants answers from FBI director Christopher Wray. CBS News’ Catherine Herridge got a copy of the letter, which has some very specific claims:
“Highly credible” whistleblowers have come forward to a senior Senate Republican alleging a widespread effort within the FBI to downplay or discredit negative information about President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, according to letters reviewed by CBS News.
“The information provided to my office involves concerns about the FBI’s receipt and use of derogatory information relating to Hunter Biden, and the FBI’s false portrayal of acquired evidence as disinformation,” GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland on July 25. “The volume and consistency of these allegations substantiate their credibility and necessitate this letter.”
Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the whistleblowers alleged that legitimate streams of information and intelligence about the president’s son were characterized as likely disinformation or prematurely shut down leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
Herridge points out some interesting mileposts along the Hunter Biden/media track in the weeks leading up to the election. It seems that someone — or a series of someones — didn’t want too much scrutiny of Hunter at that time, even though he had been under criminal investigation for some time before that:
Grassley cited a 2020 FBI intelligence assessment that was “used by an FBI headquarters team to improperly discredit negative Hunter Biden information as disinformation.” He continued, “Based on allegations, verified and verifiable derogatory information on Hunter Biden was falsely labeled as disinformation.”
In October 2020, one month before the election, “an avenue of derogatory Hunter Biden reporting was ordered closed” by a senior FBI agent at the bureau’s Washington Field office. An earlier letter from Grassley identified the agent as Timothy Thibault.
That led the Biden campaign to insist that any of this information came from a “disinformation” operation, likely from Russia. The media were only too happy to shut down those stories, even after the New York Post obtained the data from Hunter Biden’s laptop and reported on all of the evidence that pointed to criminal and/or corrupt activities. Whether it came from an FBI conclusion of disinformation or just a desire to rally around Donald Trump’s opponent, media outlets and social-media platforms quashed the story for months — only to find out much later that the Department of Justice confirmed that it was legit after all.
The letter gets even more specific in its allegations. There’s a reason why Grassley may be enthusiastic about getting to the bottom of this. He alleges that the FBI set him up to discredit the Senate Judiciary Committee’s review of Hunter’s conduct:
It is further alleged that in August 2020, FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten opened an assessment which was used by a FBI Headquarters (“FBI HQ”) team to improperly discredit negative Hunter Biden information as disinformation and caused investigative activity to cease. Based on allegations, verified and verifiable derogatory information on Hunter Biden was falsely labeled as disinformation. …
Importantly, it’s been alleged to my office that Auten’s assessment was opened in August 2020, which is the same month that Senator Johnson and I received an unsolicited and unnecessary briefing from the FBI that purportedly related to our Biden investigation and a briefing for which the contents were later leaked in order paint the investigation in a false light.
Grassley also wants to know whether this indicates a politicized rot at DoJ as well as the FBI:
The aforementioned allegations put a finer point on concerns that I have raised for many years about political considerations infecting the decision-making process at the Justice Department and FBI. If these allegations are true and accurate, the Justice Department and FBI are – and have been – institutionally corrupted to their very core to the point in which the United States Congress and the American people will have no confidence in the equal application of the law. Attorney General Garland and Director Wray, simply put, based on the allegations that I’ve received from numerous whistleblowers, you have systemic and existential problems within your agencies. You have an obligation to the country to take these allegations seriously, immediately investigate and take steps to institute fixes to these and other matters before you.
Grassley may not get an answer — yet. Republicans do not control the Senate and therefore do not control the floor or the committees. Wray can’t outright ignore Grassley, but he can put him off as long as chair Dick Durbin declines to take it up. However, the GOP may well take over in January and would make Wray’s life hell by subpoenaing him and everyone else mentioned in this memo to testify under oath and produce the records under threat of contempt. And even if Republicans don’t get the majority in the Senate, the House Judiciary Committee will no doubt take this up under Republican leadership in January.
It might be better for Wray to cooperate now with Durbin in charge rather than wait for the inevitable in January. Stay tuned.