top of page

What Did Gym Jordan And James Comer Know About Smirnov-Gate And When Did They Know It?

"Smirnov-Gate" by Nancy Ohanian

Smirnov-Gate will no doubt be knocking around the courts for a long, long time. The double-agent’s story will also be a movie or a TV series, along the lines of The Americans (6 seasons), in which two Russian intelligence agents live as an American couple residing in Falls Church, Virginia. Except Smirnov has been living in various L.A. suburbs as he spied for the FBI on the Russians and for the Russians on… us. He holds American and, of course, Israeli citizenship and has lived in the U.S. for almost 2 decades.

It’s a developing story but let’s get some of the basics down. He was arrested 2 weeks ago and has been in jail ever since (except for 2 days when he was out on bail)— and is likely to spend his time awaiting trial there as well. Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II had him re-arrested claiming his attorneys— led by notorious Las Vegas celebrity and mobster lawyer, David Chesnoff— were trying “to facilitate his absconding from the United States.” Among Chesnoff’s other clients: Suge Knight, Paris Hilton, Mike Tyson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Britney Spears, Martha Stewart, Mafioso Salvatore Scafidi (Scarfo) and Bobby Durst, the asshole who killed my friend Susan Berman. I’m shocked he never represented Trump. Some say that hiring Chesnoff is practically an admission of guilt.

The L.A. Times did a human interest story on the 43 year old man of mystery. Did you know that as far as anyone can tell, he’s never been publicly photographed without his face covered? Never. Why haven't they releeased the mug shot? This is a court artist’s sketch:

Matt Hamilton reported that Smirnov “lived a quiet, seemingly unremarkable life in the suburbs of Los Angeles with a long-term girlfriend 15 years his senior, calling Calabasas, Woodland Hills and Orange County home,” while hopscotching “the globe to sweep up information on powerful figures and illicit activities. Federal agents even authorized him to break the law while doing so.”

Smirnov’s tenure as a confidential source for the FBI ended in spectacular fashion this month, with a grand jury in L.A. charging him with obstructing justice and lying to federal agents. 
The lies, according to prosecutors, included an explosive allegation that has been central to Republican efforts to impeach President Biden and bolster Donald Trump’s campaign to return to power— that Biden and son Hunter each accepted $5 million in bribes from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
The falsehoods that Smirnov shared with his FBI handler in 2020, coupled with his extensive ties to Kremlin intelligence agencies, have fed into prosecutors’ portrayal of him as a walking vector of Russian disinformation.
It is unclear how Smirnov went from being a renter in the San Fernando Valley awash in credit card debt to orbiting the powerful in Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere with millions of dollars in his bank accounts. 
…In their attempt to hold Smirnov behind bars before trial, federal officials have revealed an unusual degree of detail about his covert work, murky wealth and shadowy existence. What emerges from filings, public records and interviews are the contours of a life layered with duplicity and mystery.
His lies, as well as his contacts with Russian intelligence, have continued in recent months, prosecutors allege, including a false account of Hunter Biden’s dealings at the Premier Palace Hotel in Kyiv, despite the younger Biden never having stepped foot in Ukraine.
“What this shows is that the misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020. He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November,” prosecutors said in court papers.
Court records show that Smirnov married a Wisconsin woman who told The Times she had not spoken to “that guy” in years. By the time their 2010 divorce was finalized, he was in a Woodland Hills rental, the first in a string of residences across the Southland.
Joining him in Southern California was the Ukrainian-born Diana Lavrenyuk, who also divorced her spouse in 2010 in Wisconsin and headed west, records show.
For a time, Smirnov and Lavrenyuk lived in Calabasas, according to court records, renting a single-family home in a modest suburban neighborhood with carefully tended lawns and brick mailboxes.
“They were good renters — they paid on time,” their landlord said in a brief interview. Their departure from the four-bedroom home appears to have coincided with mounting credit card debt and American Express’ intensifying efforts to collect.
In 2013, American Express sued Lavrenyuk and Smirnov, her for more than $35,000 and him for about $125,000 on his two cards. Lavrenyuk’s bill was paid off by 2018. For Smirnov, American Express appears to have secured a court order to levy his bank accounts for funds.
At some point, Smirnov became a U.S. citizen. There’s no record of him or Lavrenyuk voting in Los Angeles County. His earliest voter registration obtained by The Times was in 2019, when he signed up to vote in Orange County and listed his residence as a Laguna Hills rental. He did not affiliate with a political party.
…Between 2013 and 2020, court records suggest a change in fortune for Smirnov. 
Citing bank records, prosecutors say he now has access to more than $6 million, at the same time that he doesn’t own property in the U.S. or have a job here. 
Officials have questioned the provenance of his wealth. 
“He claims to have a ‘security business,’” prosecutors wrote in court papers, but they added that his bank records conflict with the existence of a “security business.” Banking records cited in court documents show large wire transfers “from what appear to be venture capital firms and individuals.” 
One transfer highlighted by prosecutors was $600,000 from Economic Transformation Technologies Corp. in 2020. The Texas company, known as ETT, bills itself as having “built and harnessed a portfolio of disruptive technologies” in healthcare, artificial intelligence and real estate, among other sectors. A spokesman for ETT did not respond to questions about what prompted the cash transfer to Smirnov.
Prosecutors say that Smirnov downplayed the extent of his financial resources. After his arrest, he told court officials that he had only $1,500 in cash and $5,000 in his checking account. But prosecutors said his accounts total more than $2.9 million, including a business account in the name of “Avalon Group Inc.,” which was used to fund his and Lavrenyuk’s lifestyle. Between February 2020 and the end of 2022, he withdrew more than $1.7 million in cashier’s checks payable to Lavrenyuk, according to prosecutors.
During a court hearing in Las Vegas, Chesnoff countered that Smirnov was not lying about his financial resources but said Smirnov’s English was “not the best” and that he was asked only about his personal bank accounts, not any business accounts.
By Feb. 1, Lavrenyuk had accumulated more than $3.8 million in a Wells Fargo account, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said that after the “substantial transfers” to Lavrenyuk, she paid off the charges on his credit cards, which were his “primary means” of paying personal expenses.
Around 2022, Lavrenyuk and Smirnov headed to Las Vegas. There, using money he transferred to her, Lavrenyuk purchased a condo in a high-rise for just under $1 million in cash, according to court and property records.
Smirnov’s work for the FBI as a confidential source began around October 2010. The agency’s vast network of informants help procure inside information about criminal activity, sometimes at extraordinary risk. The FBI typically spends tens of millions of dollars a year to compensate its informants, but officials have not said whether Smirnov was paid for any of his work.
Smirnov’s handler was based at the Seattle field office, and in court papers, the pair were described as having an extremely close relationship: communicating almost daily for a decade, with Smirnov describing his handler “as family,” according to prosecutors.
“It was so personal,” Chesnoff said during a court hearing last week, “... that he wouldn’t even call him on his FBI phone; he would call him on his personal phone.” 
What cases or prosecutions Smirnov was involved in is unclear, but his work appears to have been extensive. He was reminded 20 times from 2010 onward to provide truthful information to the FBI, according to the indictment. When he was authorized to break the law as part of his informant work, he was admonished on five occasions to not obstruct justice, including by fabricating evidence, lying or tampering with witnesses, the indictment states. 
The charges against him center on what he told his handler starting in March 2017 about Burisma. Smirnov said then that he had had a call with the owner of the Ukrainian conglomerate and that the owner was interested in acquiring a U.S. company. Smirnov noted, seemingly as an aside, that Hunter Biden was on Burisma’s board, which had been widely reported. At the time, Joe Biden’s term as vice president had already ended.
In June 2020, prosecutors said, Smirnov reported “for the first time” two meetings in 2015 or 2016 in which he claimed that Burisma executives confessed to hiring Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems” and that they had paid $5 million each to Hunter Biden and his father so that the former “will take care of all those issues through his dad,” or help quash a criminal inquiry. Smirnov also claimed he had had two phone calls with a Burisma executive who claimed to have been forced to pay the Bidens.
“In short, Smirnov transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations,” prosecutors said.
The people who participated in the meetings and phone calls that Smirnov described “will refute that there was ever any discussion of [Joe Biden] or [Hunter Biden],” prosecutors also said.
Why the FBI re-interviewed Smirnov in 2020 has become a point of focus, particularly for top Democrats.
Scott Brady, the former U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, testified in the fall of last year that his investigation related to Hunter Biden and Ukraine was done at the behest of former Atty. Gen. William Barr and his deputy, and that he was instructed to contact Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani.
After Giuliani was interviewed, Brady testified that he asked the FBI to search agency files for “instances of Burisma or Hunter Biden,” which yielded the 2017 memo of Smirnov discussing Burisma’s business interests. One sentence of that memo referred to “a brief, non-relevant discussion” about Hunter Biden.
Brady testified that the “one sentence” reference to Hunter Biden serving on the board of Burisma prompted him to urge the FBI to re-interview the confidential source. Brady said there was a “back and forth” with the FBI about speaking to Smirnov, but the re-interview eventually proceeded.
After learning what Smirnov said about the Bidens, Brady testified that his team used “open-source material” and information about Smirnov’s travels to corroborate some of the claims. Brady agreed that the source was “highly credible” and said there were “sufficient indicia of credibility” to pass along the account to federal prosecutors.
On Friday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called on Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland to examine the circumstances around the push for the interview, suggesting it could have been “part of a deliberate attempt to launder foreign disinformation through the Department of Justice.”
“Given what we now know about Mr. Smirnov, it seems unlikely that Brady actually verified any of the information Mr. Smirnov provided to the FBI,” Nadler said.
In court last week, federal prosecutors said that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware, which has led the prosecution of Hunter Biden, was asked to investigate Smirnov’s 2020 claims in July 2023. That time frame corresponds to when Republican lawmakers took the rare step of publicly revealing the internal FBI memoranda of Smirnov’s bribery claim. The partially redacted document fanned a torrent of Republican criticism of the Biden family. 
Prosecutors said last week in court that they confirmedonly in the fall of 2023 that Smirnov was lying, after meeting with him in September.
…In January 2023, Smirnov spoke of learning from a Russian intelligence officer the location of another Russian intelligence officer and that person’s first name. He later shared a Russian businessman’s plans for a birthday party aboard a yacht where two oligarchs in attendance were known to have ties to a senior Russian intelligence official. 
Later, Smirnov said he planned to attend an unidentified person’s birthday party in the Middle East, which would include time aboard a mega-yacht owned by a high-ranking member of Russia’s largest steel and mining company. He named powerful Russian figures who would probably be in attendance. 
In October, Smirnov said he had conversations with a senior Russian official who discussed his “seeming control” of two teams of Russian operatives tasked with assassinating an unidentified leader of another country. He later recounted attending a meeting where “a high-ranking member of a Russian Foreign Intelligence Service” was among those discussing possible resolutions to the war in Ukraine. 

The Daily Mail is avidly following the case, the way U.S. media should be but isn’t. They reported, for example, that at his hearing on Monday he was wearing “a federal inmates' outfit of a gray jumpsuit, orange shirt, and orange crocs… [and] has a light, tanned complexion with short cropped salt and pepper hair and a thick, trimmed beard. He wore black-rimmed glasses, which he removed to peer at court documents. His attorneys say he has glaucoma and requires daily medication. He had dark circles around his eyes."

Prosecutor Leo Wise argued that Smirnov should be kept in custody because he was not forthcoming about his finances, claiming he only had $6,500 in a personal account when he in fact had access to almost $6 million.
He emphasized Smirnov's contacts with Russian intelligence officers, though Chesnoff said 'any connections with foreign agents were at the direction of the government… to accomplish his role' as an informant. 
'They've thrown him to the wolves,' Chesnoff said. 
The judge frequently interrupted the defense attorney, and appeared highly skeptical of his arguments.
He also pointed to Smirnov's mysterious finances, saying he had about $10,000 income per month, versus credit card bills of $180,000 in 2022, and over $220,000 in 2023.
Wise said Smirnov gave conflicting answers, telling prison officers he worked in 'security' while his lawyers told the judge he ran a 'financial' company.
Smirnov's long-term girlfriend Diana Lavrenyuk, 58, attended the hearing with her son, Nikolay, 39.
Smirnov's cousin Linor Shefer, 38, and his friend and business partner Nadav Rozenberg, 42, joined them. Both are Israeli-Americans.
They huddled outside the courtroom ahead of the hearing, talking nervously in Russian.
Wise said that Diana Lavrenyuk told pre-trial services she didn't know how much was in her account, when the figure was in fact $3.7 million.
Wise added that Smirnov's Citi credit card bills of several thousand a month were paid from her account, and his residence was in her name.
…Smirnov, revealed in an indictment last week to be a 43-year-old FBI informant, is accused of feeding an allegedly false story to his handlers in 2020 about President Joe Biden and his son Hunter taking $10million bribes from a Ukrainian oligarch.
Smirnov now faces up to 25 years in prison for allegedly fabricating the claims, and is accused of 'high-level' and “extremely recent links with senior Russian intelligence officials— including the chief of an assassination squad.

At BEST, the Kremlin's useful idiots, Jordan and Comer

The eventual blockbuster story will be why James Comer and Gym Jordan used the Smirnov “evidence” even though they knew it was false, tainted and had been planted by Russian intelligence. David Graham has an inkling of the story but would rather make it about himself than about Jordan and Comer. “The Biden impeachment was never about the substance of the allegations against him; it was revenge for what Trump’s allies view as witch hunts against him. After Trump was impeached twice, Republicans were always going to search for some cause to impeach Biden— preferably one that involved just the kind of untoward foreign dealings of which Trump was accused. Instead, the conservative media and House Republicans seem to have blundered into their own version of the Steele dossier, the infamous collection of allegations against Trump gathered before the 2016 election. Both stories involve dubious dealings in the hall of mirrors that is the former Soviet Union, an FBI informant with sketchy intelligence ties, and accusations that Russian intelligence planted false information. And in both cases, the underlying information has proved to be effectively bunk.”

Yesterday, Comer attacked the FBI, seeking to shift blame onto them, telling Maria Bartiromo that he doesn’t trust them and that their actions have been suspicious. He— and Jordan— should have already been hauled in front of firing squads as a Russian assets. He sure doesn’t want to discuss when he knew the “evidence” was fake and planted by the Kremlin to help Trump in the election. “A Russian operation that falsely accuses a sitting U.S. president is bad enough,” wrote Frank Figliuzzi. “Republican members of Congress pouncing upon that false information in hopes of impeaching the president is even worse… First, who passed along this Russian disinformation to members of Congress? Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who swallowed the claims hook, line and sinker, has credited ‘brave and heroic whistleblowers’ for alerting him that an FBI source report form, an FD-1023, detailed an alleged bribe from Ukrainian firm Burisma. Whoever passed that information to Congress clearly had access to an official FBI document, a document containing information that the FBI had doubted for years. We need to know whether the so-called whistleblowers were well-meaning dupes or if they were deliberately carrying out Russia’s bidding. Second, did Republican Congress members [Comer, Jordan and MAGA Mike] pursue impeachment of Biden even after they knew Smirnov wasn’t credible?… Comer repeatedly asserted— often on far-right media platforms— that the investigation into Biden's family was ‘credible’ and founded upon Smirnov’s claims. The problem is that at some point, according to Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) Congress was warned that the Smirnov story may not be credible. We need to know precisely when members were warned, who provided that warning and why some GOP members, according to Buck, decided to press on anyway.”

Figliuzzi, a 25 year FBI veteran and the former assistant director for counterintelligence, wrote that “Even with the revelation that Smirnov’s story has folded like a broken lawn chair, Jordan and Comer are still holding on to hope that Republicans can impeach Biden. Comer claims that Smirnov’s alleged false reporting wasn’t that important to his case, and Jordan says nothing has really changed about the fundamental facts of alleged wrongdoing. It seems to not matter to them that their star witness has reportedly confessed to being a mouthpiece for Russian intelligence. (Grassley hasn't made any official statements related to Smirnov’s arrest.) Smirnov’s arrest and confession won’t end Russia's disinformation campaign or Putin’s attempt to help further divide our nation. If Trump sycophants like Grassley, Comer and Jordan continue down this now-discredited track toward a bogus impeachment, then they will have taken the baton from Smirnov and joined Team Russia in a race where the only winner can be Putin.”


Wild! And, aren't mug shots available to anyone and everyone, as public records?

Feb 29
Replying to

consider who won't and why. use your reasoning.

bottom of page