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Alexander Smirnov, charged with lying about Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, ordered jailed pending trial

A federal judge on Monday ordered Alexander Smirnov, a former FBI informant charged with fabricating a bribery scheme involving Hunter Biden and his father, President Joe Biden, to be jailed while awaiting trial because of concern he could flee the country.

Smirnov's accusation that Hunter Biden was involved in a bribery scheme through a Ukrainian energy company and that it benefited his father was at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry against the president.

U.S. District Judge Otis Wright’s detention order in Los Angeles came after Smirnov was arrested Feb. 14 at the Las Vegas airport, released without bond by a federal magistrate judge, then rearrested Thursday under an order from Wright.

Smirnov has access to $6 million, has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel, and has contacts in foreign intelligence agencies who could resettle him in another country, according to Justice Department special counsel David Weiss, who asked to have him jailed pending trial.

But Smirnov's lawyers, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, argued he lives in Las Vegas and restrictions could be placed on him to remain free pending trial. Smirnov could post a bond, have restrictions placed on his finances and remain under house arrest, the lawyers proposed.

Smirnov also could sign a waiver of extradition to prevent his fighting a return to the U.S. for trial if he moved to another country he couldn't, his lawyers said. An official with the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles said the country would honor a request from the judge to not issue Smirnov another passport, the lawyers said.

But Wright decided to continue Smirnov's detention pending trial.

“There is nothing garden variety about this case,” Wright said before announcing his decision. “I have not changed my mind. This man will be remanded pending trial.”

Smirnov, who was escorted into the courtroom wearing an off-white jail jumpsuit and black-rimmed glasses, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has no criminal history and strong ties to the United States, according to his lawyers.

“He intends to vigorously defend these allegations, having never been in trouble his entire life,” Chesnoff said.

Alexander Smirnov, second from right, leaves the courthouse on Feb. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. Smirnov, a former FBI informant charged with lying about a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden’s family, was scheduled to appear in a California federal court on Feb. 26, as a judge considers whether he must remain behind bars while he awaits trial. Special counsel David Weiss’ office is pressing Judge Otis Wright II to keep Smirnov in jail, arguing the man who claims to have ties to Russian intelligence is likely to flee the country.

What are the charges against Smirnov?

Smirnov, 43, was charged with two counts of making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record for information he fed the FBI. His lawyers say he could be sentenced to 15 to 21 months in prison if convicted, under federal guidelines.

Smirnov first made the allegations in 2020, when Joe Biden was a presidential candidate. He is charged with falsely claiming to the FBI that executives of Ukrainian energy firm Burisma told him in 2015 and 2016 that the company hired Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems." Hunter Biden was a Burisma board member.

Prosecutors say Smirnov also lied about Burisma executives telling him they paid $5 million apiece to then-Vice President Joe Biden and Hunter Biden so that Hunter "will take care of all those issues through his dad."

Prosecutors said in court documents Tuesday that Smirnov “had contact with foreign intelligence services, including Russian intelligence agencies."

The U.S. intelligence community determined Russia interfered in the 2016 election in favor of former President Donald Trump against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, on Dec. 13, 2023. Alexander Smirnov, a former FBI informant charged with lying about a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden’s family, was scheduled to appear in a California federal court on Feb. 26, as a judge considers whether he must remain behind bars while he awaits trial. Special counsel David Weiss’ office is pressing Judge Otis Wright II to keep Smirnov in jail, arguing the man who claims to have ties to Russian intelligence is likely to flee the country.

How did Smirnov's allegations contribute to the impeachment inquiry?

Smirnov's allegations were at the heart of House Republican impeachment inquiry against the president but have since been removed from the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s list of highlights in the investigation.

House Democrats said the charges demonstrated the impeachment inquiry was baseless and the result of Russian disinformation.

Hunter Biden is scheduled to give a deposition Wednesday about his business to the House Oversight and Judiciary committees. Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and the White House have denied bribery allegations repeatedly and said the president didn't benefit from his son's business deals.

"There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was involved in my business because it did not happen," Hunter Biden said in December while defying a House subpoena for closed-door testimony.

Former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, center, leaves the courthouse on Feb. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. Prosecutors say that Smirnov, who is charged with making up a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company, had contacts with Russian intelligence-affiliated officials.
Former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, center, leaves the courthouse on Feb. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. Prosecutors say that Smirnov, who is charged with making up a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company, had contacts with Russian intelligence-affiliated officials.

How was Smirnov arrested?

Smirnov was initially arrested Wednesday and charged with making false statements and falsifying records. U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts in Las Vegas ordered him released while awaiting trial and to wear a GPS monitoring device.

But U.S. marshals arrested Smirnov again Thursday in Las Vegas, a day after Weiss asked Wright in Los Angeles to detain him as a flight risk. Wright said in a written order Thursday that Smirnov's lawyers' efforts to get him released were “likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States.”

Smirnov's lawyers filed an emergency request with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that Wright didn't have the authority to order his arrest. Smirnov’s lawyers also argued Wright issued “biased and prejudicial statements” insinuating the lawyers were acting improperly.

But the appeals court denied the request on Sunday, refusing to block Monday’s hearing or assign the case to a different judge.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alexander Smirnov, charged with lying about Bidens, jailed until trial