“Republicans have long insisted that not only did Hunter use his father’s name to secure foreign business deals for himself but that Joe Biden was in on the game. There is evidence for the former, and not for the latter. Regardless, the first people lawmakers might want to question are those intimately involved with Hunter Biden’s business dealings, right?
Apparently not. First up, per a Politico report, are three former Twitter employees.
Comer has invited former Twitter Deputy General Counsel James Baker, former Global Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth, and former Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde to the hearing to testify about Twitter’s decision to temporarily block a New York Post story about Hunter Biden in 2020.
That decision was recently dissected at length in the Twitter Files, a series of reports based on internal documents that Twitter CEO Elon Musk has shared with a small group of journalists. The documents reveal Twitter executives engaged in ample deliberation and debate about how to handle the story, primed by warnings from the (Trump-era) Justice Department about the possibility of fake news being spread by foreign adversaries.
It’s pretty clear that Twitter’s decision to suppress the story—ultimately a wrong decision, albeit also a very short-lived one—was very much a product of people trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016. Authorities were on high alert—perhaps to the point of paranoia—about foreign propaganda that might influence the 2020 electorate. And tech companies, having just lived through years of being excoriated for letting foreign propaganda spread in 2016, were extra sensitive to allegations that they might let it happen again.
But Republicans seem to desperately want there to be more to this story. For it to serve as a smoking gun against Joe Biden, tech companies, or both. For it to be a tidy explanation as to why Biden won in 2020.”
“Twitter made the wrong call with the story, yes. But it did so temporarily, with much deliberation, influenced by authorities in the Trump administration, and to the effect that the Hunter Biden story got even more attention. The idea that Joe Biden would have lost the election had this not happened is crazy. And the idea that Biden himself helped cover it up because he’s hiding something about his own business dealings lacks any evidence.
But these narratives are also very beneficial to Biden’s enemies. And Republicans seem determined to wring every last bit of political capital possible out of them.
Once again we’re reminded that the people in power—no matter which side that is—are more focused on making excuses for their own shortcomings and slinging mud at the other side than actually doing the hard work of becoming a faction more Americans can get behind.”
“The thread contains fascinating screenshots of conversations between various content moderators and company executives as the laptop story debacle was unfolding. But given how massively Musk hyped the revelations, the results are a tad disappointing, and mostly confirm what the public already assumed: A (still unidentified) employee or process flagged the story as “unsafe” and suppressed its spread, and then Twitter moderators devised a retroactive justification—violation of a “hacked materials” policy—for having taken such an extraordinary step. Then-CEO Jack Dorsey was largely absent from these conversations; Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety played “a key role.” None of this material is groundbreaking; it’s already well-known.
To be clear, it’s useful to see some of these internal messages. They confirm that Twitter’s various departments—communications, moderation, senior management—horrendously mismanaged the entire affair. They were not all on the same page: Vice President of Global Communications Brandon Borrman, for example, was immediately unconvinced by the “hacked materials” justification.”
“The most interesting revelation in Taibbi’s thread is that Twitter’s top executives were warned, over and over again, that this decision was going to create a backlash like nothing they had ever seen before. Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.), a progressive lawmaker, repeatedly emailed a Twitter communications staffer to complain that the firm was violating “1st Amendment principles.” (He raised some very valid points in his communications with the company, though strictly speaking the First Amendment does not apply in this situation.) NetChoice, a tech industry trade association, explicitly told Twitter that this would be the company’s “Access Hollywood moment.” (Unlike Twitter, both Khanna and NetChoice come off looking pretty good in all this.)”
“In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper..President Joe Biden conceded that his son Hunter lied on a government form when he purchased a handgun in October 2018—a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The younger Biden was a crack cocaine user at the time, as recounted in his 2021 memoir Beautiful Things. Yet he answered no to this question on ATF Form 4473: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”
” The Washington Post reported that federal agents believe they have enough evidence to charge Hunter Biden with making that false statement. Although the Post did not mention it, receiving and possessing the gun he bought was also a felony, which at the time likewise was punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which President Biden signed into law in June, raised the maximum penalty for that offense to 15 years.
Biden presumably does not think his son should go to prison for lying about his personal habits or for violating a federal law that prohibited him from owning a gun. Neither do I. But if that result would be unjust, why does Biden enthusiastically support the laws that allow it?
Under those laws, someone in Hunter Biden’s position, if convicted, can be sent to federal prison for years or decades. Furthermore, such a conviction would forever bar him from possessing firearms, whether or not he continued using illegal drugs. If he were caught with a gun after being convicted of a felony, he could be prosecuted again, in which case he would now face up to 15 years in prison. And he would carry all the other lifelong burdens of a felony record.”
“The federal prohibition of gun possession by unlawful users of controlled substances also applies to cannabis consumers, even if they live in states that allow medical or recreational use of marijuana.”
“The main legal questions appear to be whether Hunter violated tax laws, committed money laundering, or acted as an unregistered foreign lobbyist.”
“There is nothing inherently illegal about accepting money and gifts from foreign interests if you are a private citizen and your dad is a famous, powerful person. But you do have to pay taxes on it. And according to the New York Times, a federal inquiry into whether Hunter had properly paid his taxes began back during the Obama administration. Then, in 2018, the tax inquiry became a broader criminal investigation into Hunter, conducted by the US attorney’s office in Delaware, examining possible money laundering and whether he was an unregistered foreign agent.”
“Hunter is also under scrutiny for potential money laundering — basically, bringing foreign funds into the US financial system in connection with some sort of crime. Various financial institutions filed “suspicious activity reports” to the US government about movements of funds in and out of Hunter’s accounts, including to his uncle James Biden.
Though the term “money laundering” may bring to mind drug trafficking or something of the sort, prosecutors can also charge it in connection with more prosaic crimes, such as acting as an unregistered foreign agent. (Manafort was charged with conspiring to launder money for this purpose.)”
“The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires people doing political, public relations, or lobbying work for foreign clients to register with the government as foreign agents. Ordinary business work for foreign clients does not require FARA registration. But when that work moves from the business realm to the political realm — or, importantly, to the public relations realm — that obligation may kick in.
So the question is what kind of work Hunter really did.”
“The president’s son remains under investigation for matters related to tax payments and his foreign work, the New York Times reported last week. And that report cites emails that, per the Times, are “from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop.””
“nearly a year and a half later, it’s worth revisiting what happened back in the heat of the 2020 campaign. Some decisions and claims look dubious in retrospect. Twitter briefly blocked links to the story for potentially containing hacked material and Facebook briefly restricted it as possible “misinformation” — but it may have been neither. And no evidence has emerged to back up suspicions from former intelligence officials, backed by Biden himself, that the laptop’s leak was a Russian plot.
But the emails were indeed being put out as part of an orchestrated campaign by Trump’s team to try to drive negative media coverage toward Joe Biden shortly before the election. And whatever the revelations about Hunter, claims from conservatives that the leaked emails proved Joe Biden acted corruptly in some way were false — they proved no such thing.”
“There were two supposed “smoking guns” about Joe Biden that conservatives touted in the materials. The first was an email the Post called a “blockbuster,” in which an executive at the Ukrainian gas company Burisma thanked Hunter for the “opportunity to meet your father” in 2015. If you’re steeped in Trumpworld lore, this was damning because of the theory that Biden had the corrupt prosecutor general of Ukraine fired to benefit Burisma, and Biden had said he knew nothing about Hunter’s Ukrainian work, but look, a meeting! (Apparently, it was a dinner at Cafe Milano that Hunter had organized, with about a dozen people.) This appears to amount to Vice President Biden seemingly going to one dinner.
The second involved a business venture that Hunter tried to set up with a Chinese energy tycoon in 2017 (after Joe Biden was no longer vice president). One email mentions that the equity split would include “10 held by H for the big guy ?” A former business partner of Hunter’s named Tony Bobulinski came forward to claim “the big guy” was Joe Biden. But a subsequent email from Hunter says his “Chairman” gave him “an emphatic no,” and a further email clarifies that the chairman is his dad.
So this amounts to Joe Biden apparently refusing some deal Hunter tried to enmesh him in. An alternative possibility is that Joe was not actually ever involved and that Hunter had just been throwing his name around. By Bobulinski’s own account, he briefly met Joe Biden the day before and after an event, and the former vice president only said vague things to him (and the proposed deal never came together in the end).
All of this was indeed covered in the press in October 2020 (I wrote about it at the time). So the real objection from conservatives is that they didn’t get the narrative they liked out of the mainstream media.
Hunter’s emails contained a whole lot of embarrassing and arguably newsworthy material about himself, and the shady foreign business interests of the son of the potential next president are certainly a worthy topic of media coverage. But as for the Biden who was actually on the ballot, there was very little from him personally in those messages (other than an exchange where he comforts his despondent, drug-addicted son). The emails didn’t dominate mainstream media because, at least so far, they didn’t have the goods.”
“The New York Times published a story that quotes emails from a laptop that Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, abandoned at a computer repair shop in Delaware. The messages reinforce the impression that Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that reportedly paid the younger Biden $50,000 a month to serve on its board, expected him to use his influence with his father for the company’s benefit”
“None of this necessarily means that Joe Biden himself did anything improper or illegal. While Trump alleged that Biden was doing Burisma’s bidding when he demanded the dismissal of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, for example, Biden plausibly maintained that the motivation was widely shared concerns about Shokin’s corruption.
Nor does Hunter Biden’s unseemly relationship with Burisma mean that Trump was justified in seeking to discredit the Democrat he expected to face in the presidential election by pressuring the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of the matter. But it surely was a legitimate issue to raise during the presidential campaign, as Guthrie and other journalists unconnected to the Post recognized. The question is why the Times did not, and the answer clearly has more to do with partisan sympathies than the journalistic standards the paper claimed to be defending.”