Republicans remove mention of FBI informant from letters requesting interview in impeachment inquiry

House Republicans removed a reference to an FBI informant in a letter to a possible witness in their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

The interview request letters have generally outlined the reasons for the investigation, including information regarding a supposed source speaking to a Ukrainian gas company executive claiming to have bribed Mr Biden.

The informant, Alexander Smirnov, made up the claim, the Department of Justice said last week.

Republicans now appear to be crossing out anything relating to him in their messages regarding their inquiry.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep Jim Jordan and Oversight Chair James Comer included the information regarding Mr Smirnov in a letter on Tuesday requesting an interview with former State Department official Amos Hochstein.

But only about an hour later, the same letter was sent out but with the section about Mr Smirnov removed, a Democratic House staffer told HuffPost.

Last week, Special Counsel David Weiss charged the former FBI informant with lying about Mr Biden and his son’s business dealings with Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company.

Following his arrest, Mr Smirnov said that he was handed the false information about Hunter Biden by Russian intelligence, prosecutors said in a Tuesday court filing.

A staffer working on the impeachment told HuffPost that the letter was written before the indictment of Mr Smirnov.

The inaccurate information backed up the top allegation pushed by Republicans – that as vice president, Mr Biden worked for the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect Burisma, which had Hunter Biden on its board.

But a number of State Department officials, including Mr Hochstein, have on several occasions debunked the version of events pushed by Republicans, with Mr Hochstein saying during testimony in 2019 and 2020 that there was widespread agreement in the State Department about removing the prosecutor. This included sentiments among European allies amid allegations that the prosecutor was corrupt.

Republicans released an FBI document last year in which Mr Smirnov mentions speaking to Burisma executive Mykola Zlochevsky regarding $5m bribes each offered to Hunter and Joe Biden.

“According to this confidential human source, who has been described as ‘highly credible,’ Burisma executives hired Hunter Biden to ‘protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,’” the Republicans initially wrote in their letters, according to HuffPost.

Mr Smirnov told the FBI that the executive had said that he used secret channels to send the funds and that investigators would have to spend years figuring it out.

Despite going through thousands of pages of Biden family bank records, Republicans have been unable to find any record of the payments.

Ahead of a closed-door interview with the president’s brother James Biden on Wednesday, Mr Jordan said the Smirnov indictment “doesn't change the fundamental facts”.

“Hunter Biden gets put on the board of Burisma. He's not qualified to be on the board. He gets put on that board and gets paid a million dollars a year. Second, as I said, he's not qualified to be on the board. He said so himself,” he added. “Third: In Dubai, on December 4 2015, the executives at Burisma ... specifically asked Hunter Biden, ‘can you weigh in with DC and help us with the pressure we are facing from the Prosecutor General in Ukraine?’”

“Hunter Biden makes a call. Devon Archer told us he made a call to his dad to Joe Biden. And then three days later, Joe Biden goes to Ukraine and conditions the release of American tax money on the firing of the prosecutor applying the pressure to the company that Hunter Biden sat on the board of. Those facts – they don't change,” he claimed.

Republicans leading the probe are fighting against increasing dissatisfaction within their own party over the investigation, with many concerned that it might backfire in an election year and lose them their narrow House majority.

Following negotiations that came close to falling apart, the president’s son Hunter Biden is also expected to appear for a closed-door interview next week.

A decision on whether to move forward with articles of impeachment is expected after the interviews with James and Hunter Biden, according to CNN.

House Speaker Mike Johnson may have to give his approval to the impeachment, despite having initially failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas following three Republican defections. House Republicans subsequently managed to impeach the secretary by a one-vote margin.

Since December, Republicans have spoken to eight people who worked with the Bidens.

But, despite their efforts to unearth wrongdoing, hundreds of pages of testimony and hours of interviews have failed to result in any evidence that the president took part in, or drew any benefit from, the business schemes.

Several sceptical House Republicans have said that Mr Biden’s conduct does not reach the level of high crimes or misdemeanours required to impeach him.