Sens. Johnson, Grassley Call on FBI to Explain Interference in Hunter Biden Investigation

Senator Ron Johnson
Contact Your Elected Officials

OSHKOSH – On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), ranking member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Bradley Benavides and FBI Intelligence Analyst in Charge of the Washington Field Office Intelligence Division Nikki Floris requesting their appearance for a transcribed interview to explain the FBI’s interference in the senators’ Hunter Biden investigation.

On August 6, 2020, Ms. Floris and Mr. Benavides provided Sens. Johnson and Grassley with an unnecessary briefing on behalf of the FBI and Intelligence Community on matters purportedly related to the senators’ investigation into Hunter Biden. The briefing led to a leak that falsely labeled the investigation as advancing Russian disinformation.

The senators wrote, “FBI officials initiated a scheme to downplay derogatory information on Hunter Biden for the purpose of shutting down investigative activity relating to his potential criminal exposure by labeling it ‘disinformation’” and “whistleblowers have also alleged that local FBI leadership instructed employees not to look at the Hunter Biden laptop immediately after the FBI had obtained it.”

Sens. Johnson and Grassley have previously requested additional records related to the briefing, but have not received a sufficient response from FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI has consistently failed to respond in full to each request and failed to provide those critical records which casts further doubt on the true purpose for the briefing,” said the senators.

Read the senators’ September 2020 report here and November 2020 supplemental report here.

Read more about the letter in Fox News and Washington Examiner.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

August 25, 2022

Ms. Nikki Floris
Intelligence Analyst in Charge
Intelligence Division, Washington Field Office
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Mr. Bradley Benavides
Deputy Assistant Director
Counterintelligence Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation                                                                                

Dear Ms. Floris and Mr. Benavides:

On August 6, 2020, as we were finishing our September 23, 2020, report on Hunter Biden’s financial connections to foreign governments and questionable foreign nationals, you provided a briefing to us on behalf of the FBI and Intelligence Community.[1]  As we have publicly and privately stated to you and Director Wray since that briefing, the briefing was unnecessary and was only done because of pressure from our Democratic colleagues, including Democratic Leadership, to falsely attack our Biden investigation as advancing Russian disinformation.[2] 

For example, on July 13, 2020, then-Minority Leader Schumer, Senator Warner, Speaker Pelosi and Representative Schiff sent a letter, with a classified attachment, to the FBI to express a purported belief that Congress was the subject of a foreign disinformation campaign.[3]  The classified attachment included unclassified elements that, among other things, attempted – and failed – to tie our investigation into the Biden family’s financial deals to foreign disinformation.  Those elements were then leaked to the press.[4]  As you are undoubtedly aware, we’ve successfully refuted those false allegations and, most recently, we’ve made public a series of authentic bank records relating to the Biden family’s connections to the communist Chinese government, which Democrats had previously tried – and failed – to claim advanced Russian disinformation.[5] 

In addition, on July 16, 2020, then-Ranking Member Peters and then-Ranking Member Wyden wrote to us requesting a briefing from the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force on matters purportedly relating to our investigation.[6]  On July 28, 2020, we responded to them and reminded them that in March 2020, the FBI and relevant members of the Intelligence Community had already briefed our committees and provided assurances that there was no reason that our committees should not continue their investigation.[7]  Nonetheless, the FBI succumbed to the Democratic pressure and provided the infamous August 6, 2020, briefing. 

With respect to the substance of the briefing, it consisted primarily of information that we already knew and information unconnected to our Biden investigation.  We made clear to you at the briefing that it was not relevant to the substance of our work.  In response, you stated that the FBI is not attempting to “quash, curtail, or interfere” in the investigation in any way.[8]  We also made clear our concern that the briefing would be subject to a leak that would shed a false light on the focus of our investigation.  Indeed, on May 1, 2021, the Washington Post did exactly that and so did the other inaccurate media articles during the course of our investigation which falsely labeled our investigation as advancing Russian disinformation.[9]  Moreover, whistleblowers have recently alleged that in August 2020, the same month you provided the briefing to us, FBI officials initiated a scheme to downplay derogatory information on Hunter Biden for the purpose of shutting down investigative activity relating to his potential criminal exposure by labeling it “disinformation.”[10]  Whistleblowers have also alleged that local FBI leadership instructed employees not to look at the Hunter Biden laptop immediately after the FBI had obtained it.[11]

At the briefing as well as after, we requested relevant records relating to what happened at the briefing, including the 302 or similar summary, the intelligence basis for the briefing and the personnel involved in making the decision to brief us.  On August 12, 2020; May 3, 2021; July 25, 2022; and August 11, 2022, those requests were made.[12]  The FBI has consistently failed to respond in full to each request and failed to provide those critical records which casts further doubt on the true purpose for the briefing.

Simply put, the unnecessary FBI briefing provided the Democrats and liberal media the vehicle to spread their false narrative that our work advanced Russian disinformation.  Although you stated that the FBI didn’t intend to “interfere” in our investigation, the practical effect of such an unnecessary briefing and the subsequent leaks relating to it created interference, which frustrated and obstructed congressional oversight efforts. 

The FBI answers to Congress and the American people; therefore, we request that you appear before us for a transcribed interview on these and related matters no later than September 8, 2022.  In addition, at the time of our initial request in August 2020, all records relating to the briefing should have been preserved.[13]  This letter reiterates that request.

Sincerely,

###


[1] Chairman Charles Grassley, S. Comm. on Fin., and Chairman Ron Johnson, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff. Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on U.S. Government Policy and Related Concerns, (Sept. 23, 2020) https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/HSGAC%20-%20Finance%20Joint%20Report%202020.09.23.pdf.

[2] Letter from Chairman Charles Grassley, S. Comm. on Fin., and Chairman Ron Johnson, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff., to Ranking Member Ron Wyden, S. Comm. on Fin., and Ranking Member Gary Peters, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff. (July 28, 2020); Press Release, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Sen. Ron Johnson, Denounce Democrat Disinformation Campaign In Response To Peters, Wyden, Democrat Leaders’ Letters (July 28, 2020), https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/johnson-grassley-denounce-democrat-disinformation-campaign-response-peters-wyden; Press Release, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Grassley (Again) Rejects Democrats’ Baseless Claims About Burisma Probe (Sept. 16, 2020),  https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-again-rejects-democrats-baseless-claims-about-burisma-probe; Floor Speech, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Grassley On The Ukraine Investigation (Sept. 29, 2020), https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-ukraine-investigation; Floor Speech, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Grassley On Democrats Spreading Disinformation To Protect President Biden (Mar. 18, 2021), https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-on-democrats-spreading-disinformation-to-protect-president-biden; Floor Speech, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, The Media Again Takes Liberal Disinformation Bait On Biden Family Oversight (May 11, 2021), https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/remarks/the-media-again-takes-liberal-disinformation-bait-on-biden-family-oversight; Letter from Sen. Charles E. Grassley, and Sen. Ron Johnson to Inspector General Horowitz (July 20, 2021), https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/grassley_johnson_to_justice_dept.inspectorgeneralaugust2020briefing.pdf;  

[3] Letter from Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Vice Chairman Mark Warner, S. Select Comm. on Intelligence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chairman Adam Schiff, H. Select Comm. on Intelligence, to Fed. Bureau of Investigation (July 13, 2020), https://intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/20200713_big_4_letter_to_fbi_director_wray_-_defensive_briefing_signed.pdf

[4] Natasha Bertrand, Andrew Desiderio, and Kyle Cheney, Democrats: Packets sent to Trump allies are Part of Foreign Plot to Damage Biden, POLITICO (July 23, 2020),  foreign-plot-to-damage-biden-380217; As the Ranking Members have repeatedly said, they and their staff have not received, relied upon, or solicited information from Derkach. 

[5] Floor Speech, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Sen Ron Johnson Discuss Investigation into Biden Family Foreign Financial Entanglements – Part 1 (Mar. 28, 2022) https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/remarks/grassley-johnson-discuss-investigation-into-biden-family-foreign-financial-entanglements_-part-1see also Floor Speech, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Sen Ron Johnson Release Bank Records Tying Biden Family to CCP-Linked Individuals & Companies (Mar. 29, 2022), https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/remarks/grassley-johnson-release-bank-records-tying-biden-family-to-ccp-linked-individuals-and-companies; Floor Speech, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Sen. Ron Johnson, The Biden Family Investigation – Part III: James Biden (Apr. 5, 2022) https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/remarks/the-biden-family-investigation_part-iii-james-biden

[6] Letter from Ranking Member Ron Wyden, S. Comm. on Fin., and Ranking Member Gary Peters, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff., to Chairman Grassley, S. Comm. on Fin., and Chairman Ron Johnson, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff. (July 16, 2020), https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/200716_Letter_PetersWyden_IntelligenceBriefingRequest.pdf

[7] Letter from Chairman Charles Grassley, S. Comm. on Fin., and Chairman Ron Johnson, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff., to Ranking Member Ron Wyden, S. Comm. on Fin., and Ranking Member Gary Peters, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff. (July 28, 2020).

[8] S. Rep., Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on U.S. Government Policy and Related Concerns, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff. and S. Comm. on Fin., 116TH CONG. (2020) at 59, https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/HSGAC_Finance_Report_FINAL.pdf.

[9] Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris and Tom Hamburger, FBI was aware of prominent Americans, including Giuliani, were targeted by Russian influence operation, The Washington Post (May 1, 2021). https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/rudy-giuliani-fbi-warning-russia/2021/04/29/5db90f96-a84e-11eb-bca5-048b2759a489_story.html;  See Natasha Bertrand, Kyle Cheney, and Andrew Desiderio, Dem leaders demand FBI briefing on ‘foreign interference campaign’ targeting lawmakers, POLITICO (July 20, 2020), https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/20/democrats-fbi-briefing-foreign-interference-campaign-373134

[10] Press Release, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Whistleblowers’ Reports Reveal Double Standard In Pursuit of Politically Charged Investigations By Senior FBI, DOJ Officials (July 25, 2022). https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/whistleblowers-reports-reveal-double-standard-in-pursuit-of-politically-charged-investigations-by-senior-fbi-doj-officials.

[11] Letter from Sen. Ron Johnson, to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz (Aug. 23, 2022) https://www.ronjohnson.senate.gov/services/files/7CD44E16-BF0B-495E-8B87-900467F69E50.

[12] Letter from Chairman Charles Grassley, S. Comm. on Fin., to Attorney General Garland and Director Wray (Aug. 12, 2020) https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/grassley_to_justice_deptfbibriefing.pdf; Letter from Chairman Charles Grassley, S. Comm. on Fin., and Chairman Ron Johnson, S. Comm. on Homeland Sec. and Governmental Aff., to Director Wray and Director Avril Haines (May 3, 2021) https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/grassley_johnson_to_fbi_odni_-_briefing.pdf; Letter from Ranking Member Charles Grassley to Attorney General Garland and Director Wray (July 25, 2022) https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/grassley_to_justice_deptfbipoliticalbiasfollowup.pdf; Ranking Member Charles Grassley, Questions for the Record – FBI Oversight Hearing (Aug. 11, 2022) https://www.grassley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/fbi_oversight_hearing_questions_for_the_record_-_senator_grassley.pdf.

[13] “Records” include any written, recorded, or graphic material of any kind, including letters, memoranda, reports,

notes, electronic data (e-mails, email attachments, and any other electronically-created or stored information),

calendar entries, inter-office communications, meeting minutes, phone/voice mail or recordings/records of verbal

communications, and drafts (whether or not they resulted in final documents).  This definition applies to all requests for records in the questions for the record.

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