Not this time. In 2016, many mainstream media outlets let themselves be used by Donald Trump and his henchmen (Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, etc.) to amplify nutso Hillary conspiracy stories. It helped put Trump in the White House, where he has violated the Constitution, his oath of office, and common decency pretty much every day since.
So far this time around, the media’s track record has been better. But it’s better because all the conspiracy-mongering has fallen flat. Prosecutor John Durham, who I really thought was going to do Bill Barr’s dirty work and try to rig the election by indicting a number of deep-staters with “ties” to the Obama administration, reportedly won’t issue a report until after the election, which means he has found nothing. And Wednesday morning we learned that another prosecutor set up by Barr to try to gin up a fake scandal has folded up his tent, too. He was investigating the “unmasking” “scandal,” but he too found nothing.
So they’re shooting blanks. But wait, here comes the New York Post to the rescue! The Murdoch tabloid ran a story also on Wednesday morning, which I will not link to, that purports to contain the smoking gun proving that Joe Biden did… well, something to do with Ukraine, it’s not exactly clear what.
I’m not going to walk you through all the details. The story is as fishy as the Hudson River. A computer shop in Delaware had what may have been Hunter Biden’s computer. The shop owner found some interesting stuff on it. He called the FBI, which seized the computer but not before the shop owner copied the hard drive and gave it to Giuliani’s lawyer (say what? Pretty plugged-in shop owner!). Bannon told the paper about the hard drive a couple weeks ago—that would be around a month after he was arrested and charged with defrauding gullible investors in a “build the wall” scheme—and Giuliani handed it over last weekend.
Wow. This is great stuff! So what was on the hard drive?
One email from a top exec at Burisma, where Hunter was on the board, thanking Hunter for “inviting me to DC and giving me an opportunity to meet your father and spent (sic) some time together.” This supposedly proves that Joe Biden lied when he said he never discussed Hunter’s business dealings with him, which the elder Biden said last fall while campaigning in Iowa.
First of all, the email doesn’t even quite prove there was a meeting. But fine, it does imply that a meeting happened. But it says nothing about what was discussed at this meeting, or if anything was discussed, or if it was mainly pleasantries and photos, or what.
But this isn’t the real point of the story. The real point, of course, is to try to revive the old false conspiracy that Biden urged the firing of that Ukraine prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he was investigating Burisma.
It’s not true and it’s accepted as not true across the mainstream media. In the right-wing media, of course, it’s an article of faith, because they need to divert attention away from Trump’s obvious Ukraine corruption and toward this fantasy corruption on Biden’s part.
Every major paper, every fact-checker, every everything outside of Trumpland agrees on two points: one, that Biden put pressure on the Ukrainian government to fire Shokin because Shokin was seen as corrupt by every international organization (the IMF, for example), which wanted him out, and Obama deployed Biden to convey that message; two, that as far as is known, Shokin wasn’t even investigating Burisma at the time in question (2015). You can read this, or dozens of other sources.
So the whole idea that Biden did something corrupt with respect to Shokin is a desperate ploy from Trumpworld to be able to argue that Biden is the real bad actor. Why are they doing this? Let’s just take a second to remember what Trump said to Volodymyr Zelensky in that perfect phone call: “The other thing. There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.”
That, of course, is illegal. He got impeached over it, and if we had an honest Senate, he’d have been removed from office.
But here we have Giuliani and Bannon trying, after every other effort has failed, to get the Burisma story back into the news cycle. And it’s possible they’re sitting on more info proving or appearing to prove that Biden did in fact discuss Hunter’s business dealings with him.
Hunter Biden seems like a mess of a human being with really terrible judgment, and Joe should have said to him: dude, no, stay out of Ukraine. But the idea that this amounts to corruption is a stretch. Biden’s been in public life for 50 years. No one has ever accused him of cupidity or venality. If he did discuss his son’s business dealings, it was probably to tell him to be careful.
Meanwhile, there’s Donald Trump, whom no one has ever accused of decency or generosity. He used his own charitable foundation to pay fines in Palm Beach and buy portraits of himself. And that ranks about 50th of the list of things Trump has done that are greedy, unethical, or possibly illegal. Every day, he’s making money from the Saudis or someone staying in his Washington hotel. Every day, he’s out there trying to steal the election. Every day, he corrupts the institutions he’s been put in charge of a little bit more. And, every day, dozens or hundreds of Americans are dying needless deaths because he panicked and didn’t know what to do. He lied, and his lies are killing people.
And we’re going to get excited over one meeting Biden may have had that even if it happened proves nothing? No. The story here, if there is one, is how Giuliani and Bannon got this.
Being “equally tough on Hillary” got us the most corrupt and anti-democratic president in our country’s history. We can’t be stupid enough to play that equivalency game a second time.