PolitiFact FL: FBI director didn’t confirm Joe Biden bribery investigation
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An Instagram video alleged that FBI Director Christopher Wray seemingly admitted by accident that President Joe Biden is under criminal investigation in Delaware. The post tied it to unsubstantiated bribery allegations made against the president and his son by a Ukrainian.
"BREAKING: FBI director Wray confirms Joe Biden is under criminal investigation for Ukrainian bribes by the U.S. attorney in Delaware then tries to backpedal after realizing what he disclosed. How is this not front-page news?" read text atop a video shared Aug. 3 on Instagram.
The video is of Wray, whose eyes appeared to be altered, testifying July 12 before the House Judiciary Committee. It shows the FBI director responding to a question from Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wis., about Joe Biden and whether Biden took payments from Burisma or other foreign companies.
It would likely be front-page news if Wray had said the president was under investigation. But a closer look at the exchange shows that’s not what he said.
Here’s the exchange between Tiffany and Wray in the committee’s video:
Tiffany: Did Joe Biden take payments from Burisma or any other foreign companies as vice president, president or private citizen Biden?
Wray: As you may know, there is an ongoing investigation being led by the U.S. attorney in Delaware, Mr. (David) Weiss, appointed by President (Donald) Trump in the last administration that our Baltimore field office is working with, and I would refer you to him as to what, if anything can be said.
Tiffany: So the president is under … he is under investigation?
Wray: I’m not going to confirm or speak to who is or isn’t under investigation for what. I’m simply going to tell you. …
Tiffany: So, he’s not under investigation?
Wray: I didn’t say that, either. By long-standing department policy and practice, I’m not going to be confirming or denying who is or isn’t under investigation or for what.
What's the ongoing investigation?
David Weiss, the U.S. district attorney in Delaware, has been overseeing a criminal investigation of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, since 2018. That inquiry resulted in a plea deal in which Hunter Biden would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of failing to pay $100,000 in taxes in 2017 and again in 2018. It also included a pre-trial diversion agreement on a separate gun charge of possessing a firearm as a drug user.
The plea deal was put on hold by a judge in a July 26 hearing after she raised questions about its terms. Hunter Biden then pleaded not guilty, and the two sides were given 30 days from the hearing to revisit the arrangement.
Even if the plea agreement had been approved, that wouldn’t mean Weiss’ investigation into Hunter Biden was over. A June 20 press release from Weiss’ office, when the plea deal was announced, also said the "investigation is ongoing."
When Judge Maryellen Noreika asked Leo Wise, one of the case’s prosecutors, whether there was an "ongoing investigation," he replied, "There is," according to a hearing transcript Politico obtained, and news reports about the hearing.
Wise provided no details about the investigation. It’s unclear what remains under investigation, but neither the court transcript nor the news coverage about the hearing mentions Joe Biden or payments and bribes from Ukraine.
Congressional Republicans, with multiple investigations into Hunter Biden, have long tried without success to tie the president to his son’s business dealings, including an unsubstantiated bribery allegation.
Devon Archer, a former business partner of Hunter Biden, testified July 31 to the House Oversight Committee and said Joe Biden was put on speakerphone by his son about 20 times over a 10-year period while Hunter Biden was with business partners. He also said that Joe Biden met twice over dinner with Hunter and his business partners. Archer said he never heard the president discuss his son’s business in any of the calls or dinners.
Archer also rebutted an unsubstantiated allegation that Joe and Hunter Biden were each paid $5 million bribes from a Burisma executive while Hunter Biden sat on the Ukrainian energy company’s board.
The allegation was made in a 2020 FD-1023 form, which FBI agents use to record unverified reporting from confidential human sources. An informant said that Mykola Zlochevsky, a Burisma executive who was under investigation for money laundering and tax evasion, paid a $5 million bribe each to Joe and Hunter Biden to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin and end the investigation. That form was released Sept. 23, 2020, by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
Christopher Dunham, an FBI official, told House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., in a May 10 letter that an allegation recorded in a 1023 form does not mean it has been verified.
"Recording the information does not validate the information, establish its credibility, or weigh it against other information known or developed by the FBI," he wrote. "The mere existence of such a document would establish little beyond the fact that a confidential human source provided information and the FBI recorded it."
The FBI hasn’t commented publicly on whether it is still investigating the bribe allegation, but several national news reports have said the matter was determined to be unsubstantiated and closed. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said in a June 7 statement that the FBI said in a closed-door meeting that the matter was closed by the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump, although former Attorney General William Barr disputed that account.
An Instagram post claimed that Wray confirmed that President Joe Biden was under criminal investigation for taking Ukrainian bribes.
Wray did not confirm that. He referred a legislator who asked about foreign payments to the U.S. district attorney in Delaware, where he said there is a continuing investigation. He didn’t say who was being investigated. The U.S. district attorney’s office in Delaware has been investigating Hunter Biden’s tax dealings since 2018. There has been no public indication that Joe Biden is also being investigated.
After a follow-up question, Wray said as part of a long-standing agency practice, he would neither confirm nor deny who is under investigation or for what. We rate the claim False.
- Instagram post, Aug. 3, 2023 (live, archived)
- House Judiciary Committee, Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, July 12, 2023
- United States Attorney’s Office, District of Delaware, Tax and Firearm Charges Filed Against Robert Hunter Biden, June 20, 2023
- United States Attorney’s Office, District of Delaware, Hunter Biden Case Letter from Weiss, June 20, 2023
- Politico, Read the proposed Hunter Biden plea agreement, July 26, 2023
- Christopher Dunham, FBI acting Assistant Director Office of Congressional Affairs Letter to James Comey, May 10, 2023
- PolitiFact, Trump and some in GOP are promoting a Biden bribery allegation. It is from 2020 and unverified., June 16, 2023
- PolitiFact, Transcript of Devon Archer testimony doesn’t back key claims about Joe and Hunter Biden, Aug. 4, 2023
- The Associated Press, Hunter Biden’s plea deal on hold after federal judge raises concerns over the terms of the agreement, July 26, 2023
- Washington Post, FBI had reviewed, closed inquiry into Biden claims at center of Hill fight, June 5, 2023
- Washington Post, Judge pumps the brakes on Hunter Biden’s guilty plea, July 26, 2023
- The New York Times, Republicans, Escalating Attacks on F.B.I., Vow to Hold Director in Contempt, June 5, 2023
- The New York Times, How Hunter Biden’s Judge Came to Have Doubts on the Deal, July 26, 2023
- House Oversight Committee Democrats, Ranking Member Raskin’s Statement on the Facts Following FBI Briefing and In-Person Document Review, June 7, 2023
- Politico, Former Attorney General Bill Barr is contradicting a key Democratic point about the FBI form detailing Biden family-related allegations that House Republicans pushed for access to., June 9, 2023