For weeks now, Rep. James Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley have been attempting to force the FBI to hand them a document known as an FD-1023 form. Officials at the FBI have been very clear in explaining to Comer and Grassley that the form is “used by FBI agents to record unverified reporting from a confidential human source.” They are not made public because the claims are unverified, and it would be unfair to either the person being accused, or the accuser, to make the information public.
Anyone can make a complaint that ends up on an FD-1023. Anyone. They aren’t classified documents, but then, neither is testimony before a grand jury. Such information is rarely released to the public, explicitly because it contains unverified claims. They can even contain false claims made to hurt someone with absolutely no basis in fact. As Aldous Pennyfarthing reported on Thursday, we know that’s the case here. We know that the FD-1023 form being sought by Grassley and Comer is a product of Rudy Giuliani’s extended effort to smear President Joe Biden by soliciting false statements from a collection of scam artists, Russian agents, and sycophants who have admitted making false claims to curry favor with Giuliani and Donald Trump.
Everything Guiliani has claimed about Biden’s actions in Ukraine is a documented lie. Two of the men he worked with have been convicted on charges of fraud and violations of campaign finance law. Giuliani’s “star witness” recanted after he was confronted with his lies. And Giuliani has been reduced to telling fairy tales about how George Soros is trying to murder him.
The only purpose in publicly revealing the contents of this form is to continue Giuliani’s effort to smear Biden with false accusations. And that’s exactly what Grassley admitted on Fox News.
Here’s Grassley making it astoundingly clear. "We are not interested in whether the allegations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not," he said.
The whole use of the word “unclassified” in Grassley and Comer’s communications around this form is deceptive. There is a great deal of information that is not classified, but isn’t released to the public. In the case of investigations by the FBI, or by police at any level, that often applies to information connected to ongoing investigations, or to claims that were made that proved to be false.
That’s because when a law enforcement organization releases a false or unsupported claim, they understand that it makes them party to that claim and gives the assertion, no matter how ludicrous, the veneer of something “official.” Grassley and Comer understand that, too. That’s the whole game.
The FBI has offered to allow both Grassley and Comer to view the document so they can assess its allegation. There’s no law that would prevent them from marching directly out of the office and repeating whatever false claims are on the form. They don’t want that. They want an “official FBI document” showing what Comer and Grassley have described as a “criminal scheme between Biden and a foreign national.”
This is a point so obvious that it’s obvious to Fox News pundit Sean Hannity.
Hannity: “My understanding of a 1023 is pretty simple. It is an allegation. You and Sen. Grassley believe it’s a credible allegation based on the individual whistleblower who brought it to your attention. Okay, I tend to trust you two. However, the question I have is are we going to start releasing all 1023s publicly? Would that result in an invasion of privacy or the potential of making accusations against people that have not fully corroborated? Why not take advantage of the FBI director’s offer to see it in a private SCIF or whatever he deems secure?”
Comer: “Well to answer that question, Sean, he offered us the opportunity to view it in a private [sic] chip, but he was going to redact it. My experience in getting information from the FBI when it’s redacted is it’s all black lines. They don’t show anything.”
Thirty seconds later in the same conversation, Comer admitted that he would also redact the same information the FBI told him they were going to redact: the name of the person filing the report. Such names, and the names of others appearing in a report that are unconnected to the allegations, are routinely redacted.
Releasing every such form would not only allow the FBI to be turned into a platform through which false allegations could be given a patina of legitimacy; it could also act to stifle legitimate allegations. The potential to cause harm to people who have made allegations against violent criminals, mob bosses, and corrupt politicians by making these forms public is nearly endless.
Of course, there’s more to this than just attacking Biden. It also supports how the “law and order party” is seeking to embarrass, weaken, and discredit the FBI. The call to “defund the FBI” started with Trump, but has increasingly become the policy of Republican leadership and is now the subject of a bill being pushed in the House. Grassley and Comer are now threatening FBI Director Christopher Wray with a charge of contempt if he won’t release the document that he has already agreed to show them.
Grassley and Comer’s efforts are directed at putting more pressure on that agency, allowing them to push it toward giving them what they want, even as they attack the agency for supposedly protecting Biden. It’s a charge made particularly ridiculous because the document they are seeking was turned over to the agency while Trump was still in office and Trump-appointed officials occupied every rung at both the DOJ and FBI.
It’s become a truism that when Republicans charge someone with being involved in something nefarious, it’s a projection of something they’re engaging in themselves. In this case, Republicans are explicitly trying to do what they’ve falsely charged Hillary Clinton with doing during the 2016 election: elevate the status of false claims and force the FBI to investigate or endorse statements that are unsupported by evidence.
As The Washington Post reports, all the claims Comer and Grassley are making are on “a very shaky limb.” That’s especially true following a statement that Comer made on Fox News (of course) following a phone call with Wray.
Comer: “But I’m going to say on this show what we told Director Wray, what Senator Grassley told Director Wray. He and I have already seen the 1023 form. We knew what was in the 1023 form.” Of course they know. Because all of this is a cyclical scheme: make a false charge, demand it be made public, declare outrage when the FBI follows standard procedure.
It also means that Comer and Grassley have been focused on this public show about getting a document, rather than following up on any of the claims it made.
Whoever the source was, they had a copy of the reporting document for years without more details about it being uncovered. Never mind that the allegation about Biden emerged in June of the year Donald Trump was seeking reelection, seemingly without Barr’s Justice Department developing a criminal case around it.
But Comer and Grassley have been aware of its contents for a month, and all they appear to have done is pester the FBI about it.
That’s because, to quote Grassley, they are “not interested in whether the allegations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not.” They already know the answer is “not.” They know that both the original FD-1023 and their demand for the FBI to release it are completely unreasonable. That’s not the point. Comer is already out there bragging about how this is working to damage Biden’s poll numbers. That’s the point.
Countless progressive organizations seek to engage and mobilize voters, but coordinating those efforts is a mighty task. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we're joined by Sara Schreiber, the executive director of America Votes, which works with hundreds of partners at the national and state level to deploy the most effective means of urging voters to the polls. Schreiber walks us through how coalitions of like-minded groups are formed and how the work of direct voter contact is divvied up between them. A special focus is on "blue surge" voters—those who, in the Trump era, joined the rolls for the first time—and why ensuring they continue to participate in the political process is the key to progressive victories.