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Another GOP Biden ‘informant.’ Another indictment and link to Russia.

correction

A previous version of this article said the government accused Alexander Smirnov of having extensive ties to Russian intelligence. The government said Smirnov had “extensive foreign ties, including, most troublingly and by his own account, contact with foreign intelligence services, including Russian intelligence agencies, and has had such contacts recently.” The article has been corrected.

In one way, it’s shocking that a key person in the GOP’s efforts to dig up dirt on the Bidens has been indicted and tells prosecutors he has extensive ties to Russian intelligence.

In another way, it’s altogether familiar.

This isn’t even the first time we’ve learned that a person has been indicted after the GOP cited his claims. Nor is it the first time a person has been linked to Russian intelligence after the GOP leaned on their version of events.

The cast of characters Republicans have sought out to substantiate President Biden’s purported corruption over the years has come to include half a dozen convicted and accused criminals, as well as multiple people the U.S. government has linked to Russia, corruption and subverting American democracy.

The most recent example is Alexander Smirnov, whom the government said last week had invented the claim that Biden and his son Hunter took $5 million bribes. That allegation was promoted far and wide by Republicans, many of whom treated it as fact.

The government then said this week that Smirnov has “extensive foreign ties, including, most troublingly and by his own account, contact with foreign intelligence services, including Russian intelligence agencies, and has had such contacts recently.”

The news comes seven months after the indictment of another GOP source was unsealed. Republicans had conspiratorially suggested that a key witness who claimed to have damaging information about Hunter Biden had mysteriously gone missing. It turned out the witness was Gal Luft, who the government said had skipped bail after his indictment for alleged arms trafficking and foreign lobbying violations was handed down months earlier.

Days before the indictment was unsealed, House GOP impeachment leader Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) called Luft a “a very credible witness on Biden family corruption.” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said shortly before the unsealing that Luft had a “wealth of information” about the Bidens.

Smirnov and Luft are hardly the only ones who have faced criminal charges or other penalties — or whose credibility could otherwise be called into question.

Republicans in their impeachment push have hailed — and spun — the testimony of Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Devon Archer. Archer was sentenced in 2022 to a year in prison for defrauding a Native American tribe.

They have repeatedly referenced former Ukraine prosecutor general Viktor Shokin’s dubious claim that then-Vice President Biden had sought Shokin’s firing to protect the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, Burisma. (Now-House Speaker Mike Johnson [R-La.] even said last year that Shokin’s Fox News interview should be “the headline in every news outlet in America.”)

In fact, the evidence suggests Shokin was not really scrutinizing Burisma. And Shokin was widely decried by the West as being soft on corruption.

The Shokin allegation dates back to the earliest GOP efforts to dig up dirt on Biden during the 2020 election. Several figures who worked with then-Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani have since been accused of ties to Russia, interfering in the 2020 election and/or crimes.

A sampling:

Giuliani early in the 2020 election worked and met with Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach. In September 2020, the Treasury Department under President Donald Trump sanctioned Derkach while calling him an “active Russian agent for over a decade” who was “complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election.” The Justice Department indicted him in late 2022. (Derkach, like others in this post who aren’t on U.S. soil, has not faced trial.)The Treasury Department under Biden later sanctioned other Russia- and Derkach-linked Ukrainians who had worked with Giuliani and his associates. They, too, were accused of interfering in the 2020 election. One of them, Oleksandr Dubinsky, was recently charged by Ukraine’s government with treason for allegedly helping Russia in its war against Ukraine.Two other Giuliani associates who worked to investigate Biden, Soviet-born Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were indicted in 2019 for campaign finance violations involving Russian money. Fruman later pleaded guilty. Parnas was convicted and later pleaded guilty to fraud in a separate case.

Some of the above situations echoed the Trump campaign’s flirtations with Russian help in the 2016 election.

A bipartisan 2020 Senate Intelligence Committee report cited 2016 Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s sharing of information with Vladimir Putin-linked oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom it described as a “Russian intelligence officer.” It said the arrangement “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

Kilimnik was indicted alongside Manafort in 2018. Deripaska was sanctioned by Trump’s Treasury Department in 2018 and indicted in 2022.

Rooting out corruption sometimes involves dealing with unsavory characters. Some of the legal actions against Trump, for instance, have leaned on the testimony of his convicted former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.

But thus far, Republicans have very little actual evidence against the Bidens to show for their efforts. And when your most-touted claim is apparently falling apart in spectacular fashion, against the backdrop of the aforementioned, it sure risks looking like you’re desperate for anything to grab hold of — no matter where it comes from.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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