The FBI analyst accused of scuttling the investigation of Hunter Biden’s global influence-peddling operation was at the center of several major developments that advanced the bureau’s fraudulent Trump-Russia collusion probe.
Brian Auten was named in a letter Monday by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray, informing them that bureau whistleblowers charge the analyst was part of a “scheme” to “undermine derogatory information connected to Hunter Biden by falsely suggesting it was disinformation.”
Auten, reported the Washington Examiner, was a key figure in Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation alleging the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.
Based on findings by the Justice Department inspector general, Auten “failed to advise” his colleagues of the unreliability of the Steele dossier, the compilation of salacious claims against Trump later debunked by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, which could not find evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. Auten had been told by Igor Danchenko, Steele’s primary source, that the claims against Trump amounted to “rumor” and could not be verified.
Auten, nevertheless, pressed for the surveillance warrants against Page, according to the inspector general, presenting the dossier to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as the primary evidence.
Further, as investigative reporter Paul Sperry reported in July 2020, Auten was involved in the January 2017 investigation of then-Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to internal emails sent by then-FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok.
Unsealed evidence shows the FBI was prepared to drop the Flynn case for lack of evidence. But Strzok pressed ahead and set up the infamous “ambush” interview at the White House. A memo shows FBI agents plotted before the interview to get Flynn to lie so he could be fired.
In addition, Auten helped draft part of the prominent January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian interference, describing the Steele dossier as “reliable.”
Sperry noted that Auten has served as an adjunct professor at a Christian college in the Washington, D.C., area, Patrick Henry College, where he taught a class on the ethics of spying. That included during the 11-month period in 2016 and 2017 when he and a counterintelligence team were monitoring Page.
‘Falsely labeled as disinformation’
In his letter Monday to Garland and Wray, Grassley wrote that whistleblowers allege that in August 2020, Auten opened an assessment that was used by an FBI headquarters team “to improperly discredit negative Hunter Biden information as disinformation and caused investigative activity to cease.”
“Based on allegations, verified and verifiable derogatory information on Hunter Biden was falsely labeled as disinformation,” the senator said.
The laptop was turned over to the FBI in 2019 by John Paul Mac, the owner of the Delaware computer repair shop where Hunter Biden had abandoned the machine.
In March, FBI cyber division assistant director, Bryan Vorndran, said in a House hearing that he didn’t know the whereabouts of the laptop, which astonished Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. The FBI official ultimately promised he would take to FBI officials Gaetz’s request that the bureau provide someone who can come to a House briefing regarding “where the laptop is, whether or not it’s a point of vulnerability, whether or not the American people should wonder whether or not the first family is compromised.”
Shortly before the November 2020 presidential election, 51 former national security officials signed a letter stating, without evidence, the contents of the Hunter Biden laptop had the hallmarks of a “Russian influence” operation. In March 2022, the New York Times belatedly acknowledged the reported contents of the laptop are authentic.
Significantly, Grassley wrote, whistleblowers alleged Auten’s assessment was opened in the same month, August 2020, that Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., received “an unsolicited and unnecessary briefing” from the FBI that purportedly related to the senators’ Biden investigation.
The contents of the briefing, the senator said, were later leaked to media to “paint the investigation in a false light.”
Grassley noted that on July 13, 2020, then-Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., “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.”
Grassley concluded his letter to Garland and Ray with a call for a probe of “systemic and existential problems” in both the DOJ and the FBI.
“Attorney General Garland and Director Wray, simply put, based on the allegations that I’ve received from numerous whistleblowers, you have systemic and existential problems within your agencies,” he wrote. “You have an obligation to the country to take these allegations seriously, immediately investigate and take steps to institute fixes to these and other matters before you.”