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SAUNDERS: Special counsel charges Hunter Biden — and his informant

WASHINGTON — The first question isn’t why special counsel David C. Weiss charged longtime informant Alexander Smirnov with making false claims about President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The question is, why now?

In 2024, an election year.

On Thursday, Weiss unsealed a 37-page indictment that charged Smirnov with making “a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement” in June 2020 to an FBI agent about the Bidens seeking $5 million each from a Ukrainian energy concern, Burisma. A second count involves making a false entry on an FBI form.

The revelation gave oxygen to the legal defense team representing the president’s son.

Smirnov, who should be presumed innocent, was arrested at Harry Reid International Airport on Wednesday and has a hearing Tuesday before Magistrate Daniel Albregts in Las Vegas.

In March 2017, according to the indictment, Smirnov told his FBI handler about a call with a Burisma official and mentioned that Hunter Biden was a Burisma board member.

It wasn’t until June 2020 that Smirnov reported two additional, earlier meetings that ostensibly occurred in 2015 and 2016. Travel records suggested they didn’t happen, Weiss asserted. Hence these charges against a small-change witness.

It’s “really hard for prosecutors to charge perjury,” University of Virginia law professor Saikrishna Prakash told me.

While pundits say the Smirnov charges make House Republicans look bad, the FBI looks worse. Smirnov had been a “confidential human source” involved in cases going back to Oct. 1, 2010, and, the indictment noted, he was “authorized to engage in criminal activity as part of an on-going criminal investigation.” I want to learn more about that.

Smirnov was feeding the feds so much dirt that he was admonished that he had to provide “truthful information” at least 20 times, according to the indictment.

In short, Smirnov worked as a “snitch.” Snitches have a reputation for playing law enforcement to their advantage, while law enforcement has a reputation for looking the other way. I have trouble believing that any FBI agent would consider going after a vice president’s son based on the word of a career informant. Indeed, the FBI didn’t find the accusations credible. Hence the lack of action, until now.

To the average voter, the real scandal is that Burisma recruited Biden to serve on its board for a position that, according to The New York Times, paid him more than $800,000 in 2013 and more than $1.2 million in 2014, while his father was vice president and Ukraine was part of the veep’s portfolio.

At the time, The New York Times reported, Hunter Biden “was a Yale-educated lawyer who had served on the boards of Amtrak and a number of nonprofit organizations and think tanks, but lacked any experience in Ukraine and just months earlier had been discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine.” And still he earned that kind of money.

Weiss also has charged Hunter Biden with making false statements — for lying about his drug use while he possessed a gun. Weiss clearly takes perjury seriously. It’s downright refreshing.

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on X.

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