The month before Joe Biden’s inauguration, FBI sources collaborated with The New York Times’ Russia-collusion hoaxer Adam Goldman to falsely portray the investigation into Hunter Biden as a big ole nothingburger. Americans just didn’t know it at the time. However, revisiting Goldman’s article now, in light of recent whistleblower revelations and statements by former Attorney General William Barr, reveals this reality — and more.
On Dec. 11, 2020, The New York Times published Goldman’s piece, “Material from Giuliani Spurred a Separate Justice Dept. Pursuit of Hunter Biden.” Along with Katie Benner and Ben Protess, who shared the byline, Goldman recounted supposed details of the investigation into Hunter Biden, saying their reporting was “based on interviews with five current and former law enforcement officials and others with knowledge of F.B.I. interactions with the Justice Department.”
The article was replete with falsehoods and deceptive narratives, all designed to create the appearance that the investigation into the son of the soon-to-be president was politically motivated and lacking in merit. The piece was transparently timed to hit within days of Hunter Biden announcing Delaware prosecutors were investigating him for tax crimes.
Goldman’s article didn’t focus on the tax evasion investigation, however, but instead targeted the then-U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott Brady, whom Barr had tasked with screening any new material related to Ukraine. As we now know, and as the agents involved in the investigation out of Pittsburgh and FBI headquarters knew then, the material Brady screened included an FD-1023 form from early 2017 memorializing a confidential human source’s (CHS) reporting that somehow connected to Hunter Biden or Ukraine.
The FBI then re-interviewed the CHS on June 30, 2020, and that FD-1023 recorded the CHS’s claim that the Ukrainian owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, had told the CHS that Burisma had paid bribes of $5 million each to both Hunter Biden and Joe Biden in exchange for achieving favorable policy decisions.
When the Times article ran, the public did not know anything about the CHS, the FD-1023, or the CHS’s claims against the Bidens. Thus the FBI sources and Goldman pushed the now-ironic narrative that Brady improperly pushed the FBI “to take aggressive steps,” including by interviewing several individuals — ironic given that it was only because the FBI re-interviewed the CHS that we know about Zlochevsky’s damning allegations.
The Times again dissembled, claiming “a former law enforcement official said that Mr. Brady had wanted the F.B.I. to question people mentioned in Mr. Giuliani’s materials.” However, those same people were likely also mentioned in the FD-1023, and the FBI source surely knew that fact when pushing this narrative.
The former Attorney General rejected claims attributed to unnamed sources that the FD-1023 originated from the material Giuliani provided. A source familiar with the investigation likewise confirmed to The Federalist that the FD-1023 was unconnected to Giuliani.
Yet in December 2020, based on the five sources familiar with the investigation, the Times framed Brady as a personal conduit for Giuliani and all the evidence Brady reviewed as material from the former New York City mayor on behalf of then-President Trump. Simultaneously, Goldman presented Giuliani’s material as unreliable, writings, “federal law enforcement officials also feared that Mr. Giuliani was submitting questionable information to the Justice Department to make it seem more credible than it really was.”
We now know this narrative is false and that Brady served as a clearinghouse for new intel related to Ukraine and not just Giuliani’s materials. The material Brady screened included the FD-1023’s detailed summary of the alleged Biden bribes. One must wonder if the sources planted this narrative with the pliable press, not merely to mislead the public but also to ensure the Delaware team believed everything coming from Brady was related to Giuliani.
The Times also misrepresented the screening process Barr established, with Goldman framing Brady as conducting a separate investigation or an “inquiry” into Hunter Biden, as opposed to being a clearinghouse for material from Ukraine. For instance, Goldman wrote that “investigators considered Mr. Barr’s decision to empower Mr. Brady as highly unusual because prosecutors in Delaware had already been scrutinizing Hunter Biden for more than a year.” The article also noted, “Brady has not brought any criminal charges.”
But as Barr explained earlier this week, he created the intake process in Pittsburgh to prevent misinformation from tainting the various investigations underway at different U.S. attorneys’ offices throughout the country. Because there were already predicated investigations elsewhere, Brady’s assessment was not a normal assessment, Barr explained. Rather than open a preliminary or full investigation based on the FD-1023, Brady’s job was to assess if the material was misinformation.
In the case of the FD-1023, there was no basis to believe the CHS’s reporting was misinformation, so “it was sent to Delaware for further investigation.”
Ironically, while for the last week Democrats have said the FBI claimed Brady’s office closed the assessment into the FD-1023, the unnamed FBI sources told the Times the opposite. In fact, the FBI and the Times bemoaned Brady’s recommendation that Delaware investigate the material. Here’s how Goldman put it then:
At one point, Mr. Brady made clear that he wanted the U.S. attorney in Delaware, David C. Weiss, to continue his investigation, even though Mr. Brady is not authorized to direct other federal prosecutors’ offices.
Of course, Brady wasn’t able to direct other offices, but Barr was. And, apparently based on Brady’s recommendations, Barr sent the material to Delaware for further investigation
While the Times’ sources almost certainly knew the FD-1023, which implicated both Hunter and Joe Biden, was passed to Delaware for investigation, they nonetheless maintained “the president-elect is not under investigation.” The sources likewise told Goldman that in 2018, “the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney’s office in Wilmington, Delaware, quietly began investigating whether Hunter Biden had violated money laundering laws, before concluding that inquiry was not going to lead to charges.”
But even if the Delaware investigators had at one time determined the “money laundering” part of the Biden case “was not going to lead to charges,” the FD-1023 report from June 30, 2020, should have restarted that angle of the investigation. However, less than six months later, sources felt confident to tell The Times the money laundering investigation had turned up nothing.
It is almost as if the FBI’s sources knew the FD-1023 would not be investigated.
Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time.
As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.
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