Four days after he claimed a “very credible witness” had emerged to provide the Justice Department with derogatory information about President Joe Biden and his family, House Oversight Committee chair James Comer questioned the timing of charges that the alleged whistleblower was actually spying for the Chinese government and attempting to broker illegal arms sales to Libya.
The alleged unregistered foreign agent, Gal Luft, was arrested in February by authorities in Cyprus on arms trafficking charges, but he subsequently disappeared after jumping bail.
Mr Luft, who is a citizen of both the United States and Israel, is accused of paying a former adviser to Donald Trump on behalf of principals in China in 2016 without registering as a foreign agent.
Prosecutors say that Mr Luft pushed the former government employee, who is not named, to push policies that were favourable to China, and further accuse him of having set up meetings between officials of Iran and a Chinese energy company to discuss oil deals, which would violate US sanctions.
Mr Comer, who appeared on Fox News late Monday, insinuated that the charges against the think tank founder were meant to silence him when asked about the timing by host Laura Ingraham.
“The timing is always coincidental, according to the Democrats at the Department of Justice,” he said.
The Kentucky Republican claimed that Mr Luft was being paid by the same company which entered into a failed business venture with Mr Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and suggested that the speed at which the department moved against Mr Luft is suspicious.
“So there are a lot of questions here and it’s just amazing. The Department of Justice moves so quickly against some people,” he said, adding that it is ironic that Mr Luft is charged with being an unregistered foreign agent — the same allegation Republicans have levelled against Hunter Biden.
The indictment announced on Monday also alleges that Mr Luft “conspired with others and attempted to broker illicit arms transactions with, among others, certain Chinese individuals and entities” by working as a middleman to find both buyers and sellers for “certain weapons and other materials” in violation of the US Arms Control Act.
Specifically, prosecutors say he attempted to broker a sale of anti-tank weapons, grenade launchers and mortar rounds to Libya by Chinese companies, and also pushed to arrange for the United Arab Emirates to purchase bombs and rockets, and for Kenya to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles capable of striking targets on the ground.
While Mr Comer did not directly address the charges against Mr Luft, one of his Republican colleagues on the House Oversight Committee, South Carolina Nancy Mace, downplayed the charges in a TV appearance in which she accused the Biden administration of using the prosecution to stop Mr Luft from speaking out.
Speaking on Fox Business Network on Tuesday, Ms Mace said Mr Luft “deserves to testify before the Oversight Committee” and accused the department of trying to keep him from doing so.
“No one should be surprised here. I don’t trust the DOJ or the FBI, they are trying to silence our witness and this is a way to do that,” she said.
She added that it is “obscene” that the government is not charging Hunter Biden with the same crimes despite the fact that Mr Biden has never attempted to broker arms sales or violate US sanctions on Iran.
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