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Hunter Biden says special counsel used Alexander Smirnov’s discredited bribery claims to derail his plea deal

<i>Kent Nishimura/Getty Images</i><br/>Hunter Biden departs a House Oversight Committee meeting at Capitol Hill on January 10
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images
Hunter Biden departs a House Oversight Committee meeting at Capitol Hill on January 10

By Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN

(CNN) — Hunter Biden’s lawyers accused special counsel David Weiss on Tuesday of using a since-discredited bribery allegation from an FBI informant to blow up his plea deal last year.

In a court filing Tuesday, attorneys for the president’s son asked a judge to force Weiss’ team to turn over additional information about the plea deal that went awry, and to provide materials about their discussions regarding a tip from by Alexander Smirnov, a 43-year-old former informant who was indicted for lying to the FBI about the Bidens’ alleged business dealings.

Smirnov appeared in a Nevada federal court Tuesday afternoon, where a judge ruled that he be released while he awaits trial. The release was granted with several conditions, including that Smirnov be subject to GPS monitoring and surrender his passports.

Weiss’ team wrote last week in Smirnov’s indictment that he falsely told his FBI handler in 2020 that President Joe Biden and his son each took $5 million in bribes from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The FBI investigated Smirnov’s allegations at the time, his indictment says, and recommended the probe into his claims be closed in August of that year.

Prosecutors continued their investigation of Smirnov’s claims into 2023, the indictment says.

“The discussion about the scope of the immunity agreement appears shaped by the prosecution’s investigation of the Smirnov allegations, which it began looking into just days before the July 26, 2023 hearing,” Hunter Biden’s lawyers alleged in their filing, referring to their client’s botched plea deal.

“It now seems clear that the Smirnov allegations infected this case,” they wrote, adding that prosecutors followed Smirnov down a “rabbit hole of lies” and “having taken Mr. Smirnov’s bait of grand, sensational charges, the Diversion Agreement that had just been entered into and Plea Agreement that was on the verge of being finalized suddenly became inconvenient for the prosecution, and it reversed course and repudiated those Agreements.”

Weiss was appointed special counsel several weeks after the July 26 plea hearing.

House Republicans have championed Smirnov’s uncorroborated bribery claims against the Bidens and used his tips to fuel their impeachment inquiry into the president.

During the plea hearing that fell apart in Delaware last summer, both sides tussled over the breadth of the immunity provisions, which only covered gun and tax matters. Prosecutors were asked directly if the Justice Department could still bring charges against Hunter Biden under the Foreign Agents Registration Act despite the deal.

“Yes,” lead prosecutor Leo Wise told the judge.

Hunter Biden’s attorney, Christopher Clark, said he disagreed with the prosecutor’s assertion.

“Then there is no deal,” Wise responded.

Despite efforts to amend the deal during the July hearing, the judge did not accept the agreement.

Weiss’ special counsel office indicted Hunter Biden in September on three charges related to an illegal purchase and possession of a gun while addicted to drugs. Weiss also indicted Hunter Biden in December on nine tax-related charges over an alleged scheme to not pay $1.4 million in taxes he owed from 2016 to 2019. He has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Tuesday’s filing from Hunter Biden’s attorney also accused prosecutors of failing to abide by their obligation to turn over discovery in the Delaware case, including over allegations that Hunter Biden’s alleged gun bag had cocaine on it.

Hunter Biden moves to dismiss tax charges against him

Hunter Biden’s attorneys also filed a smattering of motions to dismiss the tax charges against him in California, arguing that the special counsel was unlawfully appointed, the prosecution is selective and vindictive, and that his rights were violated by IRS whistleblowers.

Within the six motions to dismiss the case or certain charges in the indictment, his defense attorneys raised similar arguments they made in the gun case, including that the plea deal with prosecutors is still valid.

One new argument raised by Biden’s attorneys, unique to the tax case, is the claim that their client’s rights were violated when IRS agents involved in the initial investigation blew the whistle, claiming political interference in the case.

The whistleblowers’ actions, the attorneys wrote, violated federal rules and resulted in the plea deal being abandoned by prosecutors.

Hunter Biden’s attorneys said that whistleblowers disclosed confidential information to Congress and publicly disclosed parts of the investigation.

“The specific harm to Mr. Biden… also includes the extraordinary prejudice created by the publicity of the IRS agents’ misconduct which has led to virtually anyone in the country with a television, radio, newspaper subscription, or online news source already convicting Mr. Biden in the court of public opinion,” his attorneys wrote.

In a statement Tuesday, Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell said Weiss “has gone to extreme lengths to bring charges against Mr. Biden that would not have been filed against anyone else.”

“Prosecutors reneged on binding agreements, bowed to political pressure to bring unprecedented charges, overreached in their authority, ignored the rules and allowed their agents to run amok, and repeatedly misstated evidence to the court to defend their conduct,” Lowell added. “It is time to hold the special counsel accountable and dismiss these improper charges.”

The attorneys also argued that Weiss was not properly appointed to oversee investigations into Hunter Biden, as Justice Department regulations require the special counsel to be selected from outside the government and Weiss was previously serving as the US attorney for Delaware.

In response to a similar motion filed in the Delaware case, prosecutors have argued that it’s up to Attorney General Merrick Garland who to appoint as special counsel and that the department regulation cited “is not the exclusive, much less primary” source of the special counsel’s authority.

Prosecutors have also pushed back on claims that Weiss’ prosecution has been vindictive, arguing that Biden has not produced “clear evidence … to support his selective prosecution claim.”

The judge presiding over the case has scheduled a hearing for March 27 to hear the pretrial motions.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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