By Annie Grayer and Sara Murray, CNN
(CNN) — Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa claimed on the Senate floor earlier this week that the foreign national who allegedly bribed then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter has 17 audio recordings of their conversations but questioned whether those tapes even existed in an interview with CNN days later.
“I don’t even know where they are. I just know they exist, because of what the report says. Now, maybe they don’t exist. But how will I know until the FBI tells us, are they showing us their work?” Grassley said Thursday.
And Grassley is not the only Republican questioning the validity of the supposed tapes.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer of Kentucky, who is overseeing the GOP investigation into the Biden family business dealings and has been quick to make the alleged bribery scheme a focus of his work, admitted to not knowing whether the tapes were legitimate.
“We don’t know if they’re legit or not, but we know that the foreign national claims he has them,” Comer said of the alleged recordings during a Tuesday interview on Newsmax.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, who also serves on the Oversight panel and has made the Department of Justice and FBI a target of his investigative efforts, told CNN of the tapes, “I have no reason to doubt anything Senator Grassley says, but I don’t know if they exist or not.”
And Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who led his own investigation into the Biden family in 2020 and has long peddled the notion of wrongdoing, said in a separate Newsmax interview, “I’m not even aware that we verified those recordings exist.”
The tapes are the latest unverified allegations Republicans have raised as they’ve launched investigations into the Biden family’s business dealings as well as the work of the FBI. While Republicans have used their subpoena power to go after the Biden family’s foreign business dealings, they have still not established a direct link to President Biden.
Grassley first raised the existence of audio recordings after the FBI document that memorializes these allegations redacted them in the version shown to House Oversight Committee members.
Prior to the full committee viewing the redacted document, Comer and the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, had viewed a version of the document that included mention of the recordings, according to two sources familiar with their briefing.
In a statement to CNN the chairman said, “The FBI’s Biden bribery record contains several investigative leads, but it is unclear what, if anything, the FBI has done to verify these allegations.”
The FBI document at the heart of this debate, known as an FD-1023, summarizes multiple conversations a trusted FBI informant had with a foreign national alleging that an executive with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma offered both Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden bribes of $5 million.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump to serve during his administration, said when these bribery allegations came to light he tapped Pittsburgh US Attorney Scott Brady to look into the 1023 form and other claims. Barr has described this effort as a “screening, clearing house function” and said once the information was checked out the allegations were passed on to Delaware US Attorney David Weiss, who is overseeing an ongoing criminal investigation into Hunter Biden. Investigators were unable to corroborate the claims in the 1023.
“That information was checked out, and it was determined that it was not likely to have been disinformation. It doesn’t say whether it’s true or not, but there was no sign there was disinformation. And so it was provided to the ongoing investigation in Delaware to follow up on and check out,” Barr said on Fox last week.
Acting assistant director for the FBI’s office of congressional affairs Christopher Dunham has explained in previous correspondence with Congress that an FD-1023 form is “used by FBI agents to record unverified reporting from a confidential human source,” and noted that there are strict Justice Department guidelines about when that information can be provided outside of the FBI.
Comer subpoenaed the document last month, and House Republicans have railed against the FBI for continuing to keep an unclassified document under close hold.
“Congress still lacks a full and complete picture with respect to what that document really says. That’s why it’s important that the document be made public without unnecessary redactions for the American people to see,” Grassley said on the floor earlier this week.
House Republicans were poised to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress earlier this month for his refusal to turn over the document, but a last-minute deal between Comer and Wray that included allowing the full committee to view the form halted the contempt proceedings. They are still publicly clamoring for the FBI to provide more detail about what steps were taken to investigate the claims in the document.
Democrats meanwhile continue to dismiss the allegations. The White House continues to frame Republicans’ investigative efforts as politically motivated. White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement to CNN, “Everything in their so-called investigation seems to be mysteriously missing: informants, audio tapes, and most importantly of all – any credible evidence.”
Raskin, who has painted the allegations as secondhand, told CNN, “It was thoroughly checked out by the Trump Justice Department, and they couldn’t find anything there. And if anybody would have an incentive to find something there it would have been the Trump Justice Department.”
Another Democrat on the panel, Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Florida, accused Republicans of having alternative motives for surfacing the allegations in the first place.
“What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to muddy the water because Trump is in so much trouble. They got to distract from that and pretend like, you know Joe Biden, which they say he’s sleepy and boring, is now somehow Tony Soprano,” he said.
But Republicans who viewed the version of the FD-1023 form that redacted mention of the audio recordings are continuing to raise questions.
One of those members, GOP Rep. Russell Fry of South Carolina, told CNN, “My assumption was that if they were going to redact things in that document that it would have been names and places and not actual corroborating evidence. So I think it’s unfortunate that the FBI decided to do that. And I look forward to seeing hopefully an unredacted copy of that 1023.”
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CNN’s Manu Raju and Nicky Robertson contributed to this report.