Below is my column in Hill on the Hunter Biden scandal and how the media is trying to cover a story that has been dismissed as Russian disinformation throughout the campaign. Media such as the Daily Beast spin the sudden revelation of one or two possible investigations based on details that “largely went unnoticed” prior to the election. You were noticed, of course. They have been largely ignored.
Here is the column:
“Hunter is stuck on the roof.” That’s what Joe Biden’s transition team should have said this week, rather than explaining that Hunter Biden is under federal investigation. The surprise was a lot to handle for many who have been isolated from real news of the case for weeks. The Biden team apparently never heard the old joke about the man calling home to speak to his brother who was at home while on a trip.
When asked how it’s going, the brother blurts out: “Fluffy is dead.” The man is shocked and screaming, so you don’t tell someone that his cat has died. Instead, he claims, you build on it and say the cat is stuck on the roof and then call back to say it fell. After the brother apologizes, the man asks how her mother is doing, and the brother pauses before answering, “Mom is stuck on the roof.”
The problem is, Americans were assured that Hunter Biden wasn’t anywhere near the figural roof. Before the election, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said the laptop story was a “smear” from Russia. About 50 former intelligence officials also insisted that the laptop story was likely the work of Russian intelligence. Cable hosts and journalists laughed at the laptop story as fake news, and there was a virtual power outage in further coverage, until that loud bang after the election.
Most noticeable about the media blackout is that, as with the Trump-Russia collusion story, the media was persuaded to engage in a false narrative. Reporters were so invested in the rejection that they could not afford to acknowledge growing evidence of possible wrongdoing. If Hunter Biden and his uncle were running a peddling program with global influence, these reporters were at best scammers and at worst they were facilitators of a cover-up so that the story couldn’t be true.
The public shock was palpable because so many were hermetically and journalistically sealed off from negative reports about the Bidens. The media was open to candidate Biden, and he was left unchallenged in ridiculous claims such as his oft-repeated line, “Nobody suggested my son did anything wrong”.
Now some media outlets are trying to explain how Hunter ended up on the roof when they told us before the election that he is resting comfortably. The Daily Beast covered the story by referring to “markings on a number of documents that were published” but “went largely unnoticed”. It was referring to serial numbers that I and others discussed at length when the story was first published in October. There has been much speculation about what these numbers meant and how the laptop may have been seized by the FBI for the purpose of investigating the underlying business transactions, including possible money laundering. This aspect did not go “largely unnoticed” – it was largely ignored by practically every media company.
Hunter Biden hardly claims he just heard of a tax investigation into his taxes this week. This investigation appears to have been underway for two years. The laptop was apparently subpoenaed in 2019, and its emails are said to be filled with incriminating accounts of millions of payments or gifts and references to Joe Biden himself. A key Bidens business partner, Anthony Bobulinski, confirmed the authenticity of the emails and accused Joe Biden of lying about his involvement prior to the election. Most of the media reported none of this, however.
We now know that Joe Biden’s brother James is involved in a separate federal investigation. Hunter Biden’s investigation, however, remains more remarkable. The Biden transition team issued a statement that was solely about Jäger’s “tax affairs”. However, tax investigations can be a little more intrusive and far more damaging than a “tax matter” that went wrong. They require a review of the underlying transactions and gifts as reportedly listed on Hunter’s laptop.
The laptop is reportedly referring to the Biden family talking about a $ 5 million interest-free unsecured loan from a Chinese state-owned company that was allegedly part of a discussed $ 10 million transfer. Since this exchange makes some of us appear like raw influence traders, there may have been efforts to hide or disguise them. Accordingly, there were reported gifts like a 2.8-carat diamond for Hunter Biden from the company’s founder and former chairman.
The laptop also reportedly contains direct indications of tax issues. A former business partner emailed Hunter Biden in 2017 warning that his tax returns failed to disclose around $ 400,000 in revenue from a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma. Eric Schwerin, then President of Rosemont Seneca Partners, wrote: “You joined the Burisma board in 2014 and we have yet to change your 2014 returns to reflect the unreported Burisma income.”
In addition, reports indicate that the investigation may not be just a “tax issue”, but money laundering and other suspicious transactions. The New York Times reported that a separate investigation into Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian activities in Pittsburgh “escalated this year”. There is a potential risk of Senate investigation if Republicans win at least one of two seats in Georgia. A Biden administration would have to deal with these inquiries from Hunter Biden while dealing with a dedicated attorney investigating the actions taken during the Obama administration to investigate the 2016 Trump campaign numbers.
At some point, Joe Biden was supposed to address his repeated refusals to know about his son’s business relationships, a claim that even his son has contradicted. He should also answer questions such as whether he met Jäger’s business partner Anthony Bobulinski at the Beverly Hills Hilton in spring 2017 to discuss Chinese deals. He can still rely on media heavily invested in disavowing the seriousness of this investigation, but it will be difficult for these news outlets to maintain the radio silence with a growing cacophony of investigation.
Hopefully, after Biden’s election and Trump’s defeat, some media will be ready to cover this investigation and at least acknowledge that Hunter and his uncle are back on the roof.
Jonathan Turley is Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online at JonathanTurley.