By Kate Aronoff
The Guardian (10/5/19)
The standard lines from Democrats about Hunter Biden and his business dealings in China and Ukraine have been consistent: Donald Trump has abused the office of the president by asking foreign leaders to investigate Biden’s son, and there is absolutely no proof that either Joe or Hunter Biden have done anything to break the law. Any questionable dealings by Biden’s son also pale in comparison to ethical breaches on the part of Ivanka, Eric or Donald Trump Jr, who have routinely blurred the lines between the extended Trump Organization – the family’s business empire –and their presence in the White House.
The greatest risk to Democrats taking back the White House come next November isn’t a set of popular policy proposals. It’s making the exact same mistakes they did in 2016.
This is all true, and arguably these are the right lines vis-a-vis the long overdue impeachment proceedings. What’s harder to shake is the fact that Hunter Biden’s career is undeniably shady in the way that only the son of a longtime Washington insider could muster, failing upwards into positions of influence and power on the merits of his last name. And that should be considered a huge liability to Joe Biden, for months now considered heir apparent for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination.
Selling point & liability
Biden has a storied history within a political establishment that Donald Trump ran – successfully, if disingenuously – to unseat. Indeed, his entire appeal is premised on his ties to that political establishment, namely his having been Barack Obama’s vice-president. That’s his biggest and perhaps only selling point in a run that’s been defined by fumbling debate performances, scant appearances on the campaign trail and awkward defenses of a record that includes support for the Iraq war and pitiful treatment of Anita Hill.
If you lived through 2016, this should all be ringing some alarm bells. …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2019. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
The Invention Of the Conspiracy Theory On Joe Biden & Ukraine
By Jane Mayer
The New Yorker (10/4/19)
or nearly two years, conservative operatives have been trying to weaponize the Ukraine-based story that has led Trump to the brink of impeachment. A look back over the coverage of the story—a repeatedly discredited conspiracy theory involving Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s work in Ukraine—suggests that America’s news organizations continue to be just as susceptible to manipulation by political partisans pushing complicated and hard-to-check foreign narratives as they were in 2016. In fact, several of the same players are involved. “There’s no effective mechanism in this country for weeding disinformation out,” Paul Barrett, the deputy director of N.Y.U.’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, and the author of the recent study “Disinformation and the 2020 Election,” said. “We’re not doing anything about it at all.”
How a conservative dark-money group that targeted Hillary Clinton in 2016 spread the discredited story that may lead to Donald Trump’s impeachment.
Anyone trying to track the Ukrainian conspiracy stories that were eventually embraced by President Trump is likely to get mired in the same echo chamber of right-wing news purveyors that misinformed voters in 2016. A pivotal source of the allegations against the Bidens, for instance, is the Government Accountability Institute, a Florida-based opposition-research operation that was founded by the former Trump political adviser Stephen Bannon—the same conservative nonprofit that ginned up questionable stories about the Clintons during the last Presidential campaign. In both instances, much of the coverage of the scandal was kicked off by Peter Schweizer, a longtime conservative political writer who is an editor-at-large at Breitbart News and the president of the Government Accountability Institute. Since its founding, in 2012, the group has largely been funded with millions of dollars in tax-exempt donations from the family foundation of the New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Mercer, who was a major donor to Trump’s 2016 campaign. In the organization’s most recently available I.R.S. tax filings, for 2017, Mercer’s daughter Rebekah is listed as the board chairman.
Asked about the Government Accountability Institute’s role in this year’s Biden scandal coverage, Bannon e-mailed to say, “It’s key. It was the predicate,” as it had been for much of the previous Clinton scandal coverage. As Joshua Green describes in “Devil’s Bargain,” his book, from 2017, about Bannon’s role in the Trump campaign, Bannon designed the organization as a means of transmitting partisan dirt-digging to the mainstream media. …
- The Hill: Intercept’s Jim Risen: Facts Are Bad Enough On Joe Biden & Ukraine — Intercept contributor Jim Risen discusses the evolution of the Biden-Ukraine story since 2015. Link to 8+-Minute Video
- PBS — Why Talking With Ukrainian Officials Disproves Trump Tale About Biden — Ukraine lies at the heart of the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, who has urged the country’s new president to investigate the Biden family. Special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky, who has reported from the country for years, returns there to speak with officials and activists about what really happened with Joe and Hunter Biden, U.S. aid and Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts. Link to 7+-Minute Video