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Judge to hold hearing Monday considering detention of ex-FBI source accused of lying about Bidens


A federal judge in California will consider whether a former FBI informant charged with lying about a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden’s family must remain behind bars while he awaits trial after prosecutors pushed to have him locked up over fears that he would flee the country.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts in Las Vegas earlier this week allowed Alexander Smirnov to be released from jail on electronic GPS monitoring. But U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II ordered Smirnov to be returned to custody after prosecutors asked Wright to reconsider the earlier ruling releasing him.

Wright has set a hearing for Monday in Los Angeles on prosecutors' request to keep Smirnov in jail. Smirnov was returned to custody Thursday morning while meeting with his lawyers at their offices in downtown Las Vegas.

After ordering Smirnov's re-arrest, Wright wrote in court papers unsealed Friday that it had come to his attention that defense attorneys were again pushing for Smirnov's release in Nevada — which the judge added was “likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States.”

Smirnov's lawyers said in a statement Friday that they were continuing to fight for his release and would have no further comment on the case. They have filed an emergency petition with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Wright did not have the authority to order that Smirnov be re-arrested and brought to Los Angeles.

Prosecutors have accused Smirnov of falsely telling his FBI handler that executives from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma had paid President Biden and Hunter Biden $5 million each around 2015. The claim became central to the Republican impeachment inquiry of President Biden in Congress.

Smirnov has not entered a plea to the charges, but his lawyers have said their client is presumed innocent and they look forward to defending him at trial.

As part of their push to keep him in custody, prosecutors said Smirnov told investigators after his first arrest on Feb. 14 that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden. They said Smirnov’s self-reported contact with Russian officials was recent and extensive and said he had planned to meet with foreign intelligence contacts during an upcoming trip abroad.

Special Counsel David Weiss' office says Smirnov poses a serious risk of flight, writing in court papers that he has access to over $6 million in liquid funds — “more than enough money for him to live comfortably overseas for the rest of his life.”

____ Richer reported from Boston.