Hunter Biden Shot RFK
...while filming the moon landing on Mars.
Happy Friday everyone. Because there was a bonus Jackal last week which proudly defied the summer schedule I laid out two weeks ago, this will be a quick read. But I had to give you something to munch on before the 4th of July.
There is a lot to write about and I just promised above that this Jackal will be short, so I want to keep it to four topics:
Hunter Biden filming a pee tape of himself and using it to orchestrate 9/11, the Moon Landing, and the JFK assassination.
How the above relates to John Durham.
And how none of the above relates to Joe Rogan and RFK, Jr.
This won’t be too long, I promise.
Hunter Biden is a cryptid.
The four-year investigation into Hunter Biden’s legal troubles essentially came to an end this week, when the Justice Department announced that Biden would be pleading guilty to two counts of misdemeanor tax fraud, and entering into a sort of agreement with him on a gun charge.
For a guy who has long been the target of the GOP, it was a pretty underwhelming conclusion. The Republican copium involved a repeated citation of talking points arguing that Hunter received a “sweetheart deal” from the DOJ. In reality, it seems like he got pretty standard treatment or, arguably, worse treatment than others who committed similar crimes. For example, Trump acolyte Roger Stone settled a civil tax fraud case with the DOJ, that allowed him to pay back $2 million in owed back taxes without having to plead guilty to crime. In Hunter’s case, he owed $1.2 million, most of which he has already paid back.
According to Biden’s attorney, it now appears that his legal issues are over. Meaning, the GOP will finally give up their Hunter Biden obsession and start focusing on issues that actually win them elections, like inflation, crime, and immigration.
Just kidding. The House said that the plea deal only heightens the need for another investigation into Hunter Biden. Leave aside the fact that the person who handled the DOJ’s investigation into Hunter was David Weiss, a Donald Trump appointee who was left on at the beginning of the Biden Administration so that the investigation could be completed. In a letter to the House GOP, Weiss said he had total control of the investigation, with no interference from DOJ.
Overall, that is exactly what you would want to see in a “normal” investigation, and one that you would expect in any Administration that adhered to “norms,” or, any Administration that isn’t headed by Donald Trump. I have said this a lot, but can anyone imagine a universe where Donald Trump, Jr., is investigated by the DOJ and President Trump just lets it conclude?
Back in 2020, I wrote a piece on the media’s handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story, and I think it holds up pretty well. It’s called Hunter Biden Did 9/11, and the title of this Jackal alludes to that piece, and the nuttiness now associated with Hunter.
I think in the years since the initial story, we have learned several things:
Obviously, lots of Hunter Biden’s files were on the laptop that was recovered.
News organizations did try to verify the contents of the laptop, but were repeatedly rebuffed by Rudy Giuliani. They eventually went around him and got the hard drives from the laptop on their own.
Investigations from The Washington Post and the New York Times both found verified materials on the laptop’s hard drive, but also found that the overwhelming majority of materials had been added from somewhere else.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers still maintain that they cannot verify how the laptop got in the hands of the repair shop in Delaware, but do not sleep on the fact that the original nutty story - that Hunter dropped off the laptop himself and forgot it - could be true.
My ultimate guess as to what happened is that someone - either Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, or one of the foreign nationals Giuliani was running around with - got a hold of the laptop, and then mixed in a bunch of nutty, salacious material with Hunter’s real data. It’s worth noting that this could all be real evidence from Hunter Biden, but it could have been acquired by other means (hacking), and placed on the laptop to give it an air of legitimacy. It is also possible that this happened after the laptop was dropped off (by Hunter) at the repair shop, or by some other means.
So, to be clear, when you leave the politics out of this, I think it is pretty clear that Hunter Biden is not the best dude. Even allowing for all the grace we extend to people who struggle with addiction, there is clear evidence that Hunter Biden has tried to trade on his father’s name. Just today, the New York Times dropped a story that details how some people within the IRS wanted to go harder on Hunter, and the details are damning:
In testimony made public on Thursday, Gary Shapley, an I.R.S. agent since 2009 who supervised the tax agency’s investigation into Hunter Biden, said his team used a search warrant to obtain a July 30, 2017, WhatsApp message from Mr. Biden to Henry Zhao, a Chinese businessman.
In a summary of the message, provided to the House Ways and Means Committee by Mr. Shapley, Mr. Biden told Mr. Zhao that he was sitting with his father and that “we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled.”
That is gross, and it obviously has made Republicans go nutty. But, here is what they missed:
But it was not immediately clear whether Hunter Biden had been with his father when he sent the message or what his father — then a private citizen, having finished his term as vice president six months earlier — knew about his son’s negotiations with his potential Chinese partners.
It is also not clear whether Mr. Biden was using his father’s name without his knowledge to extract money in a business deal. Mr. Shapley, in fact, also told Congress that his investigation had uncovered some evidence that some of the claims of the elder Mr. Biden’s involvement were mere “wishful thinking.”
He told of an interview conducted with Hunter Biden’s business associate Rob Walker, who told investigators that it was “projection” that former Vice President Biden would get involved in their business ventures (my emphasis).
Don’t get me wrong, there is a real story here. Hunter Biden using his Dad’s name to get more favorable business deals is bad, and it is fair for Republicans to harp on it and even use it as an argument against Joe Biden’s reelection. But there is a difference between that and arguing (as they have for years) that Joe Biden is basically an international mafia boss who has been running an illegal bribery scheme for 30 years, and no one in the media (conservative or mainstream), Congress, or the DOJ has been able to catch it until just now. Even a Trump-appointed prosecutor seemingly let it slip through his fingers.
There is a difference between the real story, and what I think is the Benghazified version of it.
John Durham did Benghazi.
Benghazi was a real, serious thing that happened during the tail-end of Barack Obama’s first term. It was tragic, and it should have raised a lot of questions that people in government do not ask themselves: Why were we in Libya in the first place? Why were we understaffed there? What are the limits of American “hard” power?
Those are relevant questions, but none of them were really asked by House Republicans, who investigated the event in six separate instances from 2012 through 2016. Instead, Benghazi became a GOP obsession that was the genesis of multiple conspiracy theories, from President Obama orchestrating the attack itself, to him and Joe Biden benefiting financially from it.
Chris Hayes has a great video from 2014 that still sticks with me. In it, he differentiates between the real Benghazi and “#Benghazi,” which is a range of wild GOP conspiracy theories that haven’t panned out in the years since. Because of the nature of conservative media, these obsessions attract a lot of eyeballs, and are highly profitable to cover. And, they occasionally, produce great election results for them! Kevin McCarthy somewhat infamously admitted that the Benghazi investigation(s) were worth it because they turned up Hillary’s emails (this is your quarterly reminder that Hillary should not have put her government emails on a private server).
Sometimes they work out, but other times they don’t. John Durham’s testimony from this week is a great example of the difference between #DurhamIsComing and reality. Given the somewhat underwhelming nature of the report itself, it’s not clear why the House GOP thought it would be a good idea to have Durham testify, but the Democrats who questioned him basically made it a slaughterhouse.
I did watch some of the hearing, but at one point, Durham was so clearly uncomfortable it made me wince and I had to turn it off. I started to get Meet the Parents vibes, which I cannot watch without a support animal (Doris). Jonathan Chait had a great summary:
When Adam Schiff asked Durham if the Russians released stolen information through cutouts, he replied, “I’m not sure.” Schiff responded, “The answer is yes,” to which Durham reported, “In your mind, it’s yes.”
When Schiff asked Durham if he knew that, hours after Trump publicly asked Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails and release them, Russian hackers made an attempt to hack Clinton emails, Durham replied, “If that happened, I’m not aware of that.”
When asked if Trump referred to those stolen emails more than 100 times on the campaign trail, Durham answered, “I don’t really read the newspapers and listen to the news.”
And when Schiff asked Durham if he was aware that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, passed on polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence agent, at the time Russia was conducting both a social-media campaign and the release of stolen documents to help Trump, Durham replied, “You may be getting beyond the depth of my knowledge.”
The way this cycle goes now is like this: Conservative media creates and hypes up things like #DurhamIsComing, with a near total disregard for truth or accuracy. The Republican base - which almost exclusively consumes conservative media - believes it is completely true, and will not abide a representative who doesn’t agree with them.
The formula then becomes: Deceived voters —> deceived representatives —> silly investigations. If you want to see how this is playing out in real time, look at Lauren Boebert, who successfully primaried her more moderate predecessor in 2020, and who unsuccessfully tried to force an impeachment vote of Joe Biden this week giving Republicans a major headache. The core of Boebert’s support in her District clearly wants to see Joe Biden impeached, but Republicans who live in reality - like Speaker McCarthy - know that is just too much red meat to throw the base, since it will inarguably help Joe Biden get reelected. Reality met conservative media’s Frankenstein monster.
RFK, Jr., is a menace.
I want to tie all of this up with a neat little conspiracy bow, and talk about RFK, Jr., appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast earlier this week.
Rogan was, predictably, criticized for platforming RFK, who is a nonsense person. First off, I should say off the bat that while I think RFK, Jr., is a less explicit grifter than someone like Peter McCullough, he is still a grifter:
That said, this became a bigger story because Rogan demanded that a pro-vax doctor come on his show and debate RFK, Jr. about vaccines in general. The doctor, Peter Hotez, refused because he knows - like every other sensible person - that a public debate like this serves no purpose.
I can speak from experience. In general, it is exceptionally rare for someone who is anti-vaccine to change their minds, but it is even rarer for them to change them after watching two people yell at each for three hours. People who want to see a debate like that really just want to see a fight, rather than seek out real information (which shows, overwhelmingly, that vaccines are safe, including the ones developed to treat COVID).
Luckily, I have a real-life example of how someone can change their mind. My sister-in-law wrote a piece for the Jackal a couple years ago, detailing her conversion from an anti-vaxxer to someone who is now ingesting vaccines through her eyeballs (not really but maybe). And it happened not after watching RFK, Jr., debate Peter Hotez, but after kind and affectionate advice from medical professionals, who took the time to explain things and not be condescending.
But I think citing this is important, in this case, because while RFK, Jr., is running in the Democratic primary, it is clear that he is more popular on the Right, thanks mostly to his anti-vaccine stance. It is further evidence that the GOP is shifting on conspiracy theories, even ones that were born out of Left-Wing arguments, like anti-vaccination campaigns.
Of course, if you are a sicko and just want to watch the debates, I’ve got you. Here is a thorough debunking of RFK, Jr.,’s entire interview. And, as a bonus, here is a debate between Steve Kirsch and Avi Bitterman on the COVID vaccines. Note: Kirsch claims that he has a standing offer of $10,000 to anyone who will debate him. Not only did he refuse to pay Bitterman, he tried to get Bitterman fired after the debate.
As a double bonus, I discovered that Peter McCullough blocked me on Twitter, despite having never interacted with him. He must have seen the piece I wrote about him and Kirsch earlier this year.
OK, I really just have one, and it is fitting, because it is super long. The Washington Post has a long, detailed report on how the DOJ took a very slow-moving approach to the January 6th investigation. I’ll say two things about this report before ducking out:
For one, it should be noted that while this is a great and incredible piece of reporting, there has been some pushback. The timeline relayed by the Washington Post’s sources does not square with some public events that seem to indicate that some sort of investigation into January 6th was in play at some point in 2021.
Recent events suggest that special counsel Jack Smith is moving quickly on the January 6th investigation. CNN had a report today that said Smith has granted immunity to people behind the “fake electors” scheme. Generally speaking, you are not granting immunity to people unless you plan to charge a bigger fish with a crime.
OK, it’s cocktail time, because it’s 4th of July and you are going to blow one of your hands off with a firecracker. I recently attended a great friend’s Champions League final party, where the theme is food from one of the two countries represented. This year, it was Italy and England, and despite Inter Milan’s respectable performance, they lost to Manchester City.
As our contribution, I brought a Negroni Sbagliato, which is a great Negroni alternative if you think the original drink is slightly too strong. The ingredients are almost exactly the same, except it goes like this:
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
Put both of those in a glass (filled with ice) and top with champagne, or sparkling wine if you are not from the Champagne region. I topped with Prosecco and used Italian vermouth, because, Forza Italia.
I hope you all have a great Fourth of July. See you in two weeks.