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EDITORIAL: ‘Highly credible’ FBI source now a serial liar

Something smells rotten about the Alexander Smirnov caper.

Federal agents arrested Mr. Smirnoff, an FBI informant and Las Vegas resident, on Valentine’s Day after he deplaned at Harry Reid International Airport. He was accused of making false statements to investigators about President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Information in those statements is prominently featured in the House GOP’s effort to impeach the president.

After Mr. Smirnov spent eight days behind bars, a federal magistrate ordered his release. Two days later, however, in what The New York Times described as “a highly unusual and aggressive move,” U.S. marshals — acting on behalf of David Weiss, the special counsel running the Hunter Biden probe — arrested Mr. Smirnov again as he sat in the office of his Las Vegas attorney. A federal judge ruled Monday that he must remain in custody.

The government claims Mr. Smirnov made up allegations that Biden the elder and son each took a $5 million bribe from the owner of a Ukrainian energy company. Federal prosecutors want Mr. Smirnov detained because they argue he is a national security and flight risk.

Whether Mr. Smirnov lied or not remains to be seen. But he first dropped this bombshell on the FBI in 2020. When House Republicans learned of an internal FBI memo about the claims, they demanded more information. Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel picks it up from there.

“House Oversight Committee Republicans,” she wrote last week, “say the FBI told Congress their source had worked for the bureau since 2010, had been paid roughly $200,000 for information, and was deemed ‘highly credible.’ Ranking Oversight Democrat Jamie Raskin acknowledged the FBI’s briefing about credibility. Republicans say Director Christopher Wray also confirmed the FBI used Mr. Smirnov’s information in investigations until June 2023 (when the bribery claims went public).”

Has Mr. Smirnov been blowing smoke to the FBI for more than a decade while he collected thousands in cash from the agency? Or did he just start fibbing recently? In court filings, Mr. Weiss describes Mr. Smirnov as a serial liar. What happened to “highly credible”?

This is the same agency that took seriously the Steele dossier hoax, offered up by another trusted confidential informant. Recall that an inspector general report found the FBI deceived a secret court to advance that fruitless investigation.

All this, Ms. Strassel points out raises the question “of whether FBI sources are rightly beginning to worry that their worth depends solely on how politically useful the FBI views them on any given day.”

We’ll see how the Smirnov saga plays out. In the meantime, it would behoove the FBI and Mr. Weiss to be as transparent as possible regarding the government’s case, lest the stink continue to worsen.

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