Althouse | category: Hunter Biden



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"The brilliance of the Biden team was that it invested the media in this scandal at the outset by burying the laptop story as 'Russian disinformation' before the election."

"That was, of course, false, but it took two years for most major media outlets to admit that the laptop was authentic. But the media then ignored what was on that 'authentic laptop.' Hundreds of emails detailed potentially criminal conduct and raw influence peddling in foreign countries. When media outlets such as the New York Post confirmed the emails, the media then insisted that there was no corroboration of the influence peddling payments and no clear proof of criminal conduct.... Now that the House has released corroboration in actual money transfers linking many in the Biden family, the media is insisting that this is no scandal because there is no direct proof of payments to Joe Biden.... [T]he media’s demand of a direct payment to President Biden is laughably absurd. The payments were going to his family, but he was the object of the influence peddling. The House has shown millions of dollars going to at least nine Bidens like dividends from a family business. As a long-time critic of influence peddling among both Republicans and Democrats, I have never seen the equal of the Bidens...."

Turley illustrates his piece with this fabulous old cartoon:

Here's a discussion of that cartoon at the subreddit r/PropagandaPosters, where we see that it's a 1910 Puck Magazine cartoon by Louis M. Glackens. Here's a page full of work by Glackens (at Wikimedia).

"The notoriety would no doubt rob this child of peaceful existence."

Said Brent Langdon, lawyer for Hunter Biden, opposing the changing of Hunter's daughter's last name to Biden, quoted in "Hunter Biden’s Child Support Dispute Touches on Political Discord/A legal fight over a request to reduce child support payments has brought up controversies surrounding President Biden’s son, as the mother of his 4-year-old child seeks his financial records" (NYT).

The court has to decide what's "in the best interests of the child" — the 4-year-old Navy Roberts.   

"The child should have the opportunity for input at a time when the disparagement of the Biden name is not at its height," Langdon said.

The mother's position is that the name Biden is "now synonymous with being well educated, successful, financially acute, and politically powerful" and that to be called Biden would tell the world what the Biden family is bent on hiding, that Navy is a "member of the prestigious Biden family."

Hunter's own lawyer used the word "notoriety." I hear connotations of negativity. From Merriam-Webster:
["Notorious"] was first used in the 16th century with the neutral meaning "well or widely known," but very early it came to be used with nouns of unsavory meaning—one of the earliest uses is the combination "notorious sinners." Frequent use with nouns of this kind colored the subsequent use of the word with a pejorative connotation, leading to the word's most frequently used sense, "widely and unfavorably known." 
… Charlie Gasko turned out to be James "Whitey" Bulger, the notorious Boston gangster, and longtime fugitive who is now in prison serving two lifetime sentences. — Lesley Stahl, speaking on CBS, 10 July 2016
Although notorious is always pejorative when linked with a noun for an undesirable person, there are instances when the word is applied to people in a playful or witty way....

In the judicial context, we naturally think of "The Notorious RBG" — a nickname for Ruth Bader Ginsberg (based on the name of the rapper The Notorious B.I.G."). I still hear negativity, and I think the Hunter's lawyer is attempting to smear the reputation of the child who might come into existence, the girl named Navy Biden.

I must say I don't think it's in the child's interest to change her last name from the last name of the mother, with whom she lives, and to draw even more attention to what we already know, that the girl is Hunter Biden's daughter. Do we want the little girl deferred to? Given special treatment? Secret Service protection? It's too much pressure. Let her be low profile. Let her develop her own identity and be as independent as possible. 

"Reporters who profess to support women and denounce deadbeat dads have either ignored this story or belittled her mother, Lunden Roberts."

"Roberts is widely dismissed as a 'former stripper.' That appears how she met Hunter, but it is often used to paint her in the same way that the media gleefully reported Hillary Clinton denouncing women involved with her husband as mere 'bimbo eruptions.'... " 

Writes Jonathan Turley in "Daddy Dearest: Hunter Forced to Appear in Arkansas in Fight [Over] His Child’s Name and Support."
Hunter has struggled to conceal his finances, including money that he received from alleged influence peddling. Now the court is considering the laptop as possible evidence in millions of past assets. With a U.S. Attorney in Delaware is exploring criminal charges and House committees looking into the influence peddling, his fight against this toddler could force a decision on the authenticity of the laptop.... 
That could prove far more costly than the child support that he is seeking to avoid in Arkansas....

I want to link to this NY Post article about Hunter Biden, but it begins with such a trashy first line.

Here's the link. It's written by Miranda Devine and begins:
Hunter Biden is believed to be hiding out at the White House while his baby mama goes on the warpath.

If it's true that Hunter Biden is living at the White House to avoid legal consequences in a child support suit, that's important. But we've got the passive voice on top of mere belief — "is believed" — and that's next to meaningless.

Then there's "on the warpath." Ugh! Leave Native Americans out of this. 

And then "baby mama." Ugh! It's not cute. It's not cool. It's just asinine and sad.

The article continues:

Lawyers for former stripper Lunden Roberts asked an Arkansas court Friday to jail the first son for failing to fork over his financial records as required in her lawsuit over support payments for their 4-year-old unacknowledged daughter, Navy. Roberts claims Hunter, 53, is “flaunting the dignity and authority of the court”...

Did the lawyers write "flaunting" for "flouting" or is that the NY Post's mistake?

... by failing to provide “one single item or word [of] discovery” and says, “This court should incarcerate the defendant in the Cleburne County Detention Center until he complies with this court’s orders.” 

Matt Bai knows he "should care more about Hunter Biden," but he just doesn't.

And he's telling you why in The Washington Post:
... I find it hard to get too worked up over all this, the way I did over the egregious conflicts of Donald Trump’s family during the last administration.

At least he's noticing it and admitting it publicly and feels the need to explain it (or sees some advantage in purporting to need to explain it). Whether the reasons given are sincere, we can judge for ourselves: 

Perhaps it’s because, at bottom, the whole affair seems like less of a public scandal than a family tragedy — the sad story of a lost son careening recklessly through public life, and of the anguished father who couldn’t bear to stand in his way.... 
It is serious business when a president’s family member enriches himself through relationships with foreign actors....
[But politicians' kids are] often haunted by crippling insecurity... [W]hen every door magically opens for you, it’s never really possible to know which ones you might have been able to open all by yourself. They’re befriended by people with agendas, adored and ridiculed by people they’ll never meet. It is not a normal life.... 
It must gall Biden to know that his predecessor, who never served a day in public service before becoming president, not only shrugged while his already-rich children enriched themselves further, but actually installed his dilettante daughter and-son-in-law at the highest level of policymaking.... That’s real corruption.... Biden didn’t let his son anywhere near the center of power and decision-making....

Should Hunter Biden's daughter, Navy Joan Roberts, be allowed to change her name to Navy Joan Biden?

Hunter Biden — who is confirmed to be the father and pays child support — says no, reported in "Hunter Biden asks court to stop love child from taking his sullied surname" (NY Post).

The mother, Lunden Roberts, argues that the name change will be good for the child, because it is "synonymous with being well educated, successful, financially acute and politically powerful."

Hunter Biden's argument is that the name isn't good!

It's the mother who wants the name changed, now, while "the disparagement of the Biden name is... at its height." Who knows what the girl — who is only 4 — will want in the future? — he asks. Why not wait until she can decide?

Obviously, the mother wants advantages for her girl — who is, after all, the granddaughter of the President of the United States. The mother characterizes the estrangement from her father's family as a kind of "misconduct or neglect" that "can be rectified by changing her last name to Biden." 

Is it "misconduct or neglect" to invite so much attention to this little girl? (You'll see if you click on the link that there are many photographs of the beautiful child.)

That's an argument we don't see Hunter Biden making. How could he? If he really believed that and cared, he would do all he could to protect her. He says he is trying to "protect" her from the hardship of having his name, but who can believe he is motivated by the desire to protect her? What good has he ever done for her that wasn't forced by a lawsuit?

"Those 51 intel agents that signed a letter that said the Hunter Biden information was all wrong, was Russia collusion, many of them have a security clearance."

"We’re going to bring them before a committee. I’m going to have them have a hearing​,​ bring them and subpoena them before a committee. Why did they sign it? Why did they lie to the American public?... Why did you use the reputation that America was able to give to you … but use it for a political purpose and lie to the American public?"

Said Kevin McCarthy, the likely Speaker of the House, come January, quoted in the NY Post.

"The 'Twitter Files' Is What It Claims to Expose."

Asserts Eric Levitz at Intelligencer. 

All right. We have seen the "nothingburger" response to the Twitter Files. This is the I'm-rubber-you’re-glue response: You are the very thing that you denounce.

Let's see how we'll this argument works. I'll cut as close to the core as I can for this excerpt:

[The Taibbi and Weiss] reports featured a couple genuinely concerning findings about pre-Musk Twitter’s operations. But they were also saturated in hyperbole, marred by omissions of context, and discredited by instances of outright mendacity....

To appreciate how unhinged the conservative narrative about the “Twitter Files” is, and how irresponsible Musk’s presentation of them has been, one must first understand the flimsiness of the [New York Post] article that kicked off the whole controversy....

There is little question that Hunter Biden was an influence peddler who sought to monetize his access to the American vice president. Burisma... was paying to be one-degree of separation away from Hunter’s father.... But... Hunter monetizing his last name is not a noteworthy scandal....

[The] story consisted of ill-gotten emails fed to the Post by Donald Trump’s lawyer, who’d spent months consorting with Trump sympathizers in Eastern Europe. The platform responded by taking the extraordinary step of suppressing the story on its platform, marking it as unsafe and even preventing Twitter users from sharing it via direct message

In “The Twitter Files, Part One: How and Why Twitter Blocked the Hunter Biden Laptop Story,” Matt Taibbi sheds light on Twitter’s internal deliberations over this decision.

Taibbi frames his findings as a demonstration of Twitter’s bias in favor of Democrats. But his reporting does little to support that claim....

Both [Yoel] Roth and [Jim] Baker acknowledged that they did not actually know that the Post’s piece was based on hacked materials. “Given the SEVERE risks here and lessons of 2016,” however, Roth explained, “we’re erring on the side of including a warning and preventing the content from being amplified.”...

... Taibbi’s documents actually reveal internal skepticism of the decision, and expressions of ambivalence even from those who endorsed it. Taibbi quotes an anonymous former employee as saying, “Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it.”...

... Taibbi produced no actual evidence that the decision was motivated by anything beyond concern that Twitter would find itself complicit in promulgating hacked materials.

The closest thing Taibbi has to evidence of untoward partisan influence is an email from the Biden campaign flagging several Hunter-related tweets for Twitter’s content moderators, who then “handled” them. But all of these tweets appeared to feature nude photos of Hunter Biden that were nonconsensually shared, an unambiguous violation of Twitter’s terms of service...

“If this isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, what is?” Musk tweeted, going on to explain, “Twitter acting by itself to suppress free speech is not a 1st amendment violation, but acting under orders from the government to suppress free speech, with no judicial review, is.” Of course, nothing in Taibbi’s reporting indicated that Twitter had suppressed the Post story at the request of the Biden campaign, let alone of government officials.

And even if it had, so long as the government did not coerce Twitter into suppressing the Post story, there would still have been no constitutional violation; the government is allowed to ask private actors to keep information secret....

The second installment of the Twitter Files had a bit more substance than the first. But like its predecessor, it affirmed conservative narratives of persecution by omitting key pieces of context, while also including one outright lie. Bari Weiss’s exposé sought to illuminate Twitter’s policy of secretly reducing the reach of certain accounts and tweets....

Since at least 2018, Twitter’s help page has said, “When abuse or manipulation of our service is reported or detected, we may take action to limit the reach of a person’s Tweets.”... Twitter’s current ownership has openly embraced this form of content moderation. Last month, Musk tweeted: “New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach. Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter.”

Nevertheless, after reporting that the conservative commentator Charlie Kirk had been put on a “Do not amplify” list, Weiss bizarrely claimed that Twitter had long “denied that it does such things.” Weiss did not try to reconcile that claim with Twitter’s long-standing terms of service; in fact, she did not even inform her readers of the existence of those terms....

[Weiss] led her readers to believe that she’d caught Twitter in a lie. In other words, she deliberately misled her audience....

[S]he suggests that the conservative personalities Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk were placed on blacklists because of their political views. Yet both those commentators are provocateurs who quite plausibly might have violated the platform’s rules regarding abuse at one point or another....

Weiss suggests that these blacklists disproportionately harmed conservatives. But she doesn’t actually provide any information about the ideological breakdown of blacklisted accounts....

[P]re-Musk Twitter’s content curation policies made rightwing content more visible — and leftwing content, less — than a purely neutral hosting of tweets would have done. A journalist interested in impartially reporting on the political implications of Twitter’s content moderation policies might have mentioned this reality....

The Twitter Files provide limited evidence that the social media platform’s former management sometimes enforced its terms of service in inconsistent and politically biased ways. The project offers overwhelming evidence that Twitter’s current management is using the platform to promote tendentious, partisan narratives and conservative misinformation....

"The secrets of Hunter Biden’s laptop spell trouble for Joe/When a trove of emails raised questions about the lucrative business dealings of the Biden family, America’s tech, media and intelligence elites stifled the story."

A very substantial article — by Douglas Murray —  in The London Times.


It is a truism of American politics that money swills around the top candidates to an alarming degree. And it is also true, and inevitable, that many candidates trust their family members above anyone else to deal with money and other perks that can come their way. Yet even by these standards, the Biden emails showed a family involved in far from normal influence-trading.

For example, Hunter Biden had sat for years on the board of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma. Why Hunter Biden sat on that board and was so well remunerated for it — around $50,000 a month — was hardly a secret. Hunter has no expertise in the energy sector, nor in anything much else. But proximity to the former vice-president — at the time possibly the next president — brought irresistible cash advantages. (As it did for Joe’s brother, James. He and Hunter signed a deal in 2017 with a Chinese energy conglomerate, CEFC, which paid $4.8 million over 14 months to entities controlled by the two Bidens.)

Hunter’s laptop included messages from Burisma executives going back to 2014, asking Hunter for “advice on how you could use your influence to convey a message”. Other emails described how a “provisional agreement” between Hunter and CEFC would include 10 per cent of equity held back by Hunter for “the big guy”. Who was “the big guy”? It was possible to guess. Elsewhere in the laptop, in January 2019, Hunter could be found sending an angry text to his daughter Naomi, scolding her for having no idea what demeaning things he said he had had to do to support his family. But, he told her: “Don’t worry, unlike pop, I won’t make you give me half your salary.” People had imagined that Hunter was using Joe. But no, it appeared that Joe was using his son to make money. If ever there were questions to be asked of a candidate here were some....

"A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution."

Wrote Donald Trump, at Truth Social, quoted in "White House rebukes Trump’s suggestion to suspend Constitution over 2020 election" (WaPo).

The post came a day after Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, claimed he would expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the run-up to the 2020 election. But his “Twitter Files” did not show that the tech giant bent to the will of Democrats. 

Trump's "truth" is so hyperbolic and disrespectful of the rule of law that it's idiotic clickbait, only worthy of attention because the man is running for President, and apparently, as polls go, the leading candidate. Sorry, I'm not going to spend every day agonizing over that. We will move on... I hope... I trust... He's so over-criticized that I don't see the point of jumping on him one more time. That doesn't work, and it drives some dedicated believers more deeply into his sphere.

I want to move on to the link in the indented quote — on "did not show" — which goes to "Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ ignite divisions, but haven’t changed minds/The company’s new chief executive detailed Twitter’s decision-making around a controversial story" (WaPo). 

Yesterday morning, I was critical of The Washington Post for not having an article on the "Twitter files," but by the end of the day, they had that. Let's read:

It was billed as a bombshell: Elon Musk, after rifling through his new company’s internal files, would finally expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the critical run up to the 2020 election....

A handful of screenshots from 2020, posted over the course of two hours Friday evening in a disjointed, roughly 40-tweet thread, show the San Francisco company debating a decision to restrict sharing of a controversial New York Post story about the son of then Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The Twitter thread, based on internal communications posted by Substack writer Matt Taibbi, showed the company independently decided to limit the spread of the article, without Democratic politicians, the Biden campaign or FBI exerting control over the social media network. In fact, the only input from a sitting politician that Taibbi noted was from Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna (D), who told Twitter executives they should distribute the story, regardless of the potential consequences for his party....

In the process, Musk took the extraordinary step of promoting the leak of internal company communications to Taibbi, exposing the names of several rank-and-file workers and Khanna’s personal email address....

Musk and Taibbi both tweeted that they would reveal more information in a second chapter Saturday.

Yeah? What happened? I go to Twitter and see that last night Musk tweeted "Looks like we will need another day or so." I hope that means he/Taibbi are trying to incorporate the criticisms of the Friday tweet-dump and will make a clearer, cleaner presentation in Part 2.

Back to WaPo:

Musk [said in a Twitter Spaces audio chat Saturday afternoon] that he shared the documents with another Substack writer, Bari Weiss, and suggested he may share them with the public in the future.

Bari Weiss didn't want to do what Matt Taibbi did?

WaPo proceeds to put the Twitter files bombshell/"bombshell" in context, and I really appreciate this concise summary:

The spectacle capped off another week of chaos at Musk’s Twitter, after the “chief Twit” spent Friday afternoon meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and batting back reports about the rise of hate speech on the Twitter platform. He also attracted attention for suspending the rapper Ye, who had tweeted the image of a swastika combined with the Star of David. And the relaunch of a paid check mark system expected for Friday was delayed again, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the decision.

I still hadn't seen that swastika-with-a-Star-of-David image, and WaPo didn't reproduce it. I had to go looking and found it — here — at The Times of Israel. I had thought the swastika was stamping out the star, but I see that the 2 symbols have been interwoven in a way that makes it even harder to see how the image could be adjudged a direct incitement to imminent violence, which was Musk's reason for suspending Ye. 

From WaPo:

During the Twitter Spaces, Musk said, “I personally wanted to punch Kanye,” explaining how Ye’s swastika post was incitement to violence. He said he made the decision to suspend him.

So Musk is allowed to explicitly refer to violence — punching — but Ye gets suspended based on Musk's stretched inference. And are we still supposed to be celebrating Musk as a hero of fairness and freedom?

Musk’s “free speech” agenda has defined his tumultuous takeover of Twitter, as he has argued since the early days of the deal that the platform serve as a “de facto town square” where people are “able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.” He has asserted that the company has a “strong left wing bias.” And in recent days, he has granted amnesty to a number of previously suspended accounts, including far-right influencers and people associated with the QAnon extremist ideology.

Though Musk has said he agrees with some Democratic Party and some Republican policies, he increasingly appears to be courting the GOP. In the run-up to the midterm elections, he encouraged his millions of followers to vote Republican. And he recently said he would lean toward backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in a potential 2024 presidential bid....

Yes, hold Musk's feet to the fire — metaphorically only! — if he wants to be the Czar of Free Speech. He'd better be scrupulously viewpoint neutral. It's got to be about our freedom, not his power and wealth.

Taibbi said that he had to “agree to certain conditions” in exchange for the opportunity to cover the files in a message to his Substack subscribers....

What were the conditions? Maybe Bari Weiss can tell us. 

The next section of the WaPo article recounts the Taibbi thread in detail and adding context. I'm not going to quote all of that. There's also, at the very end, a little bit about the response.

Tucker Carlson called it “one of the most extraordinary moments in the history of social media,” and the New York Post called it a “Hunter Biden laptop bombshell” in a headline....

But not everyone bought the "bombshell" spin.

"The brilliance of the Biden team was that it invested the media in this scandal at the outset by burying the laptop story as 'Russian disinformation' before the election."

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