Anyone hoping for a Joe Biden hit job by Sen. Ron Johnson’s Homeland Security Committee must have been sorely disappointed by its report yesterday. That is, unless you’re a liar-for-profit like Sean Hannity or a dishonest sycophant like Johnson.
The "Hunterghazi" report was a dud
I’ve written quite a bit about Johnson’s investigation for Crooks and Liars. Putting aside the issue of Russian disinformation being funneled to Johnson’s committee, what you should know here is that a) Johnson has admitted that the investigation’s purpose is to damage Biden’s candidacy and that b) Johnson’s own star witness blew up the hit job. Here’s how I explained it for C&L:
As Sargent and Waldman outline [in The Washington Post], the right-wing conspiracy theory is that Biden held up aid to Ukraine on condition of the firing of a prosecutor in order to protect Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of Ukraine’s Burisma. In fact, it was the Ukrainian prosecutor who was corrupt and Burisma was not under investigation at the time.
Johnson's star witness was George Kent, a top State Department official. He raised concerns about the appearance of impropriety and conflict of interest, Sargent and Waldman noted, but he specifically stated there was no actual wrongdoing.
But as I also wrote yesterday for C&L, it was pretty clear Johnson and his fellow Trump sycophants would continue to pretend there’s a there there.
Hannity pretends the report was "earth shattering"
Just as predictably, Johnson got a friendly platform on the Hannity show to discuss what Sean Hannity laughably called “an earth-shattering scandal” that should “disqualify Joe Biden from being the president of the United States.” I think Seanie Pooh confused Hunter with his father.
HANNITY: A brutal new U.S. Senate report is now revealing shocking and new details about the illicit and corrupt activities of Joe Biden's adult son, Hunter, and how he profited while his father was in charge of Ukrainian policy and other countries as well.
We have long reported these findings confirm zero-experienced Hunter, Remember he said to ABC, any experience in oil? Nope. Gas? No. Energy? Nope. Ukraine? No.
Why do you think you got millions of dollars? I don't know. Maybe because your father was in charge of Ukrainian money and policies? Probably.
Anyway, he did get millions from a corrupt gas and oil company called Burisma Holdings. Now, Hunter had zero experience in all of this. Still, Hunter was rewarded with this lucrative position because his father, the vice president, Joe Biden, was in fact in charge of America's Ukraine policies on tape bragging about what he did.
OK, but what about the guy actually running for president? Hannity went on to lie about why Biden pushed to have the Ukrainian prosecutor fired as well as falsely claiming that Hunter Biden was being investigated:
HANNITY: As you probably remember, then-Vice President Biden leveraged a billion U.S. tax dollars to get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired. You're going to fire this guy who's investigating my zero-experienced son being -- well, paid millions for corruption and other parts of the investigation, or you're not getting the money.
And you have six hours. Son of a B, they did it. Remember all that, that the media mob and Democrats ignored? Well, there's a lot more to the story. It turns out this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Then it was more about Hunter:
HANNITY: In fact, according to the Senate's findings, Hunter Biden and his family received millions of dollars from foreign nationals with questionable backgrounds. According to the report, Hunter actually raked in a whopping $3.5 million from the wife of the former mayor of Moscow, as in Russia, via a wire transfer. Hunter also opened a joint bank account with a Chinese national in order to fund a $100,000 shopping spree for members of his family.
And that's not all. Joe [sic] Biden's experience, which was zero, also scored lucrative multi-million-dollar business deals with foreign nationals associated with, you got it, China's communist party and China's military.
Then more lies about Joe Biden:
HANNITY: And when you think it couldn't get any worse, think again. By the way, maybe that explainswhy Joe Biden refused to support the travel ban and was more concerned about how China felt about America than he did about keeping Americans safe when Donald Trump put it in place ten days after the first identified case of coronavirus.
FACT CHECK: Biden supported Trump's travel ban.
Even more Hunter:
HANNITY: Hunter Biden was allegedly using some of his money to hire apparently prostitutes from Russia and other Eastern European countries who are the victims of a sex trafficking ring. That is in the report. The report determine that all of these are problematic activities, problematic business dealings. It creates serious counterintelligence and extortion concerns.
And will anyone in the mob and the media, will they ever ask Joe Biden serious question about what is an earth shattering scandal?
Imagine if this was Donald Trump Jr. or Eric Trump or Ivanka Trump or Barron Trump. Imagine the hysteria. Apparently -- or Tiffany Trump.
Actually, we don’t have to imagine. Donald Trump’s son, Eric, has been ordered to testify for a deposition no later than October 7 in a fraud investigation into his family’s business.
Johnson plays along with the Hunterghazi deceit
But if you think Johnson corrected any of those lies or distortions or pointed out that Eric Trump has some ‘splaining to do under oath think again.
JOHNSON: [O]ur report basically followed the money, and it is amazing just kind of watching the mainstream media's coverage of this. They're just shrugging. They're saying, oh, it's just old news. It's not old news.
We've laid out, according to our report, on China, there exists a vast web of corporate connections and financial transactions between and among the Biden family and Chinese nationals. And some of these Chinese nationals have connections to the current communist government and past affiliations to the People's Liberation Army.
This is serious business here and let's face it, all these investigations against the Trumps are always justified by the fact that can you imagine President Trump if he has all these entanglements, the blackmail potential? Well, take a look at the Bidens, the way they've been following the vice president around hovering out cash all around the world, I would think that represents pretty strong potential conflict of interest, extortion, counterintelligence risks that we simply can't ignore.
Notice that Johnson implied, but did not say, Joe Biden took money or was involved in any Chinese deals.
Hannity had more deceit to spew:
HANNITY: Well, now, there were numerous warnings -- one, by the way, came from the guy George Kent who we remember from the case involving what was going on in this ridiculous impeachment.
Yes, Kent warned about the appearance of a conflict which, admittedly, is not good. What Hannity forgot to mention was that Kent told the committee that other than the perception of impropriety, there was no actual wrongdoing.
Johnson went along with the BS.
JOHNSON: What's kind of odd, we also found out from George Kent that seven months after Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma supposedly to consult on corporate governance and transparency, but Burisma basically paid a $7 million bribe to end the investigations into their owner, Zlochevsky.
So, Hunter Biden wasn't exactly doing a good job corporate governance and transparency from that standpoint, was he?
[…] [T]here were certainly a lot of memos going around the State Department. Everybody knew how bad a conflict of interest this was and how it was going to frustrate their attempts to really carry out America's policy to help rid Ukrainians of corruption.
But Amos Hochstein who is a special envoy into Ukraine, he's the only individual that we know actually talk to the vice president about that, and you mentioned earlier that the vice president basically denied ever talking to Biden or Hunter about his overseas business travelings. First of all, I never believe that. I mean, how can you spend an entire trip flying over to China with your father in Air Force Two and not talk about what you're going to do?
But Amos Hochstein now said that he talked to the vice president. The vice president then apparently talked to Hunter who set up a meeting with Amos Hochstein to talk about this conflict of interest.
So, I think we've caught the vice president and I hate saying it, a lie.
Actually, I don’t think this was a lie, Senator. Talking to Hunter about a conflict of interest is not the same as talking about his overseas business matters.
But remind me again who’s running for president?
HANNITY: Let's talk about Hunter's business dealings with Russia. Let's talk about his business dealings with China. Let's talk about the monies that were being sent around to unsavory characters that potentially were involved in, what, sex trafficking schemes. What did you find?
JOHNSON: Well, in terms of sex trafficking, I'll just read from the report because I want to get this right.
Hunter Biden paid non-resident women who were nationals of Russia or other Eastern European countries who appear to be linked to a, quote, Eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring. Now, we've got a little more detail in some of our footnotes.
But again, we were just following the money. We were looking at all these financial transactions that should raise all kinds of concerns throughout America and particularly the mainstream media.
So, the question really is, Sean, is the mainstream media going to start asking and asking questions and demanding answers from the vice president?
HANNITY: Yeah. Well, so Hunter had business with Russian oligarch. Hunter was doing business deals making wire transfers with Russian citizens, Ukrainian citizens. I mean -- it's pretty breathtaking. I'm sure the media mob -- I mean, they protected Hunter and Joe you know all throughout the impeachment and said, oh, there's no serious person believes anything wrong here.
Would this subject the vice president of the United States potentially to blackmail, sir?
JOHNSON: That's the concern -- you know, the extortion threat here.
But what’s to blackmail if the report has already laid it out in the open?
More importantly, do you think for one minute that either of these two Trumpers would go on and on and on about Hunter Biden if they had any real dirt on the real candidate?
At the end of the interview, Hannity vowed to “stay on this completely.”
You can watch more than 12 minutes of proof that Joe Biden did nothing wrong below, from the September 23, 2020 Hannity.
All we have is some angry Right Wingers, including Ron Johnson, who cannot accept the reality that there is nothing to find regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings. It was not illegal for Burisma or a Chinese company or anyone else to offer Hunter Biden a paid position to provide legal or other advice to their board. If they want to offer something to him and he wishes to accept, it’s completely legal. It was not unethical of him or even of Joe Biden for Hunter Biden to take these positions, because the Bidens took pains to not do anything that would compromise either of them. Joe didn’t let his son talk to him about these businesses, and Hunter kept his business away from his father. Yes, Hunter rode on Air Force Two with his father sometimes. That’s not unethical, since the flight was already happening – unless angry Right Wingers are going to say that Hunter should have flown separately.
We could certainly discuss whether Hunter Biden’s business choices were a good idea morally or optically, but that’s a matter for him to think about, not Sean Hannity. I don’t know that it’s fair to tell every politician’s son that they should turn down every business offer made to them. On the other hand, in fairness, I myself would not have accepted offers from these companies. And at the same time, it’s truly odd to see angry Right Wingers waving this flag when the Trump family has really been having a party at this trough for eons. Hunter Biden by comparison is an amateur.
The impression I have here is that Fox News is aware this is a non-story, and that they were hoping to just get it out before the debate next Tuesday to see if they could gotcha Joe Biden with it. We’ll see if that strategy has any traction.
Businesses that seek influence in high places may well offer jobs and other inducements to politicians’ relatives, but there is nothing illegal, or even unethical, as long as the public official in question does not involved in their game.