House Oversight Committee Republicans were admonished by the FBI several times ahead of taking the action the bureau warned against — publicly releasing unverified information gained through a confidential informant.
The tip from the source — memorialized in an FD-1023 form — was never corroborated by the FBI, but it was nonetheless put into the public sphere Thursday as Republicans released what they see as central evidence into whether then-Vice President Biden accepted a bribe.
The release comes after committee members were told “the FBI expressly does not consent to the materials’ public disclosure or further dissemination” and that “the contents of the materials should not be discussed or shared in any form with anyone beyond Members and staff,” according to a disclaimer obtained by The Hill presented to lawmakers before viewing the form.
In the form, the source relays conversations with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where Hunter Biden once served on the board.
While Zlochevsky told the informant he paid money to both Bidens, he later purportedly refuted that claim in information provided to Congress during former President Trump’s first impeachment. The White House has also denied in full any claims of wrongdoing.
The release of the information has infuriated the FBI, which hesitated to share the document over concerns it would be improperly handled and risk compromising their source.
“Throughout the FBI’s engagements with Congress, we have been guided by our obligation to protect the physical safety of confidential human sources and the integrity of sensitive investigations. We have repeatedly explained to Congress, in correspondence and in briefings, how critical it is to keep this source information confidential,” the FBI said in a Thursday statement.
“The safeguards the FBI placed on the production of this information are necessary to protect the safety of confidential sources and the integrity of sensitive investigations,” the statement said. “Today’s release of the 1023 — at a minimum — unnecessarily risks the safety of a confidential source.”
The bureau was more explicit in its private correspondence with House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), obtained by The Hill on Thursday.
A June 9 letter to Comer came the day after the full committee was permitted to review the document in the Capitol’s sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF), saying members ignored explicit instructions by FBI briefers.
“The Committee and its Members were specifically told that ‘wider distribution could pose a risk of physical harm to FBI sources or others.’ The full text of this admonishment is included below for your reference. We are concerned that Members disregarded the Committee’s agreement that information from the document should not be further disclosed. Several Committee Members publicized specific details regarding their recollection of confidential source reporting purportedly referenced in the document,” the bureau wrote in the letter.
“In addition, we are concerned that several Members insisted upon taking notes during the in camera review—even after being reminded of the restriction on notetaking by FBI employees present.”
Concerns over how the information would be handled were clear from two May letters from the FBI as the bureau wrangled with lawmakers on how to comply with a subpoena for the document.
Both stressed the need to protect confidential sources — something they also note is key for the ability of the FBI to continue to get information.
The agreement to allow Comer to review, but not take, the document came as he threatened to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress.
Comer on Thursday defended the release, calling the information part of the FBI’s “record.”
“In the FBI’s record, the Burisma executive claims that he didn’t pay the ‘big guy’ directly but that he used several bank accounts to conceal the money. That sounds an awful lot like how the Bidens conduct business: using multiple bank accounts to hide the source and total amount of the money,” he said in a statement.
But Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, blasted Republicans for releasing the unverified tip with little other context.
“Releasing this document in isolation from explanatory context is another transparently desperate attempt by Committee Republicans to revive the aging and debunked Giuliani-framed conspiracy theories and to distract from their continuing failure to produce any actual evidence of wrongdoing by the President — even at the cost of endangering the safety of FBI sources,” he said in a statement.
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