Republicans in the House of Representatives today are opening a phony “impeachment hearing” using Hunter Biden as a foil to try to destroy Joe Biden politically. They never even held a vote to establish a committee for that purpose. It is purely theatre.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate have an opportunity to examine some actual, egregious, and destructive-to-the-country crimes committed in the White House by Trump and his family members that they’re apparently going to whiff. They need to hear from us.
Hunter Biden, at least, is now pushing back against this vicious and dishonest GOP smear campaign even as Democrats in the Senate dither.
He sued Rudy Giuliani and Rudy’s lawyer Robert Costello this week under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for using material illegally obtained by hacking into his iPhone and/or iCloud account (presumably while he was in a drunken blackout after sex and drugs with a Russian spy/hooker).
It increasingly appears that the Russian intelligence service may have pulled off the hack — presumably to help out Donald Trump with the election — then laundered the data from Hunter’s phone through a computer repair guy (who has now sued Rep. Adam Schiff, the Daily Beast, and Politico for implying he was in on it with the Russians).
That fellow apparently then gave the data to Rudy, who then gave it to Marjorie Taylor Greene, who then pulled out a dick pic and showed it to the world during a congressional hearing.
Talk about an invasion of privacy: it’s really that bizarre. And unconscionable.
Hunter’s lawsuit denies that there even is a laptop in evidence; just the data, apparently burned onto a hard drive after the hack. As the lawsuit notes:
“Defendants themselves admit that their purported possession of a ‘laptop’ is in fact not a ‘laptop’ at all. It is, according to their own public statements, an ‘external drive’ that Defendants were told contained hundreds of gigabytes of Plaintiff’s personal data.”
The lawsuit notes that Hunter’s personal information was obtained “without authorization or exceeding authorized access”:
“Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that at least some of the data that defendants have accessed, tampered with, manipulated, damaged and copied without Plaintiff’s authorization or consent originally was stored on Plaintiff’s electronic devices or storage (including his iPhone and/or backed-up to Plaintiff’s iCloud storage). On information and belief, Defendants gained unlawful access to Plaintiff’s data by circumventing technical or code-based barriers that were designed and intended to prevent such access or to have others take those steps.”
This action by the hackers and Giuliani and his lawyers led, Hunter’s lawyers claim, to the “total annihilation” of Hunter Biden’s basic human right to digital privacy:
“Defendants are among those who have been primarily responsible for what has been described as the ‘total annihilation’ of Plaintiff’s digital privacy. They also are among those who have been primarily responsible for the ‘total annihilation’ of Plaintiff’s data.
“For the past many months and even years, Defendants have dedicated an extraordinary amount of time and energy toward looking for, hacking into, tampering with, manipulating, copying, disseminating, and generally obsessing over data that they were given that was taken or stolen from Plaintiff’s devices or storage platforms, including what Defendants claim to have obtained from Plaintiff’s alleged ‘laptop’ computer.”
Hunter Biden, when he was deep into drugs and alcohol, was apparently using a Russian escort service to hook up with women he could pay for sex. Those women could have had time alone with him and his iPhone, and apparently made good use of that time (particularly if Hunter blacked out after partying hard).
An email account associated with a Russian escort service appears to have seized control of Hunter’s iCloud account, which contained backups of both his phone and his laptop. Marcy Wheeler over at emptywheel.net has dug through the contents of Hunter’s “laptop” that Republicans have published, and this Russian hack of Hunter’s iCloud backup account appears solid.
From reading Marcy’s work and other publicly sourced materials, it appears that the data which Rudy Giuliani ended up with via a “blind computer repair guy” in New Jersey was simply a clone, which is why Hunter has no recollection of ever owning it or dropping it off and the signature on the receipt is not his.
The Russians, apparently, downloaded everything from Hunter’s iCloud account or off his iPhone (that generation of iPhones used a fingerprint to unlock, something a hooker/spy could easily get if Hunter was unconscious), tweaked it as they wanted, and wrote the data onto a hard drive, then apparently dropped it off at the computer repair shop with some way of then getting it from there to Rudy.
This is an old and standard trick in Russia: when Putin wants to discredit an opponent but doesn’t want to overtly poison them, it’s often “discovered” that they had a secret life, were secretly gay, were secretly corrupt, etc., a charge often backed up by doctored computer data.
In addition to blemishing the reputation of both Hunter and his dad, and providing salacious dick pics for a giddy Marjorie Taylor Greene to show to the world, the main benefit to Trump of this story is that when anybody brings up the $3 billion corruption and insider-dealing of Jared and Ivanka (and her tens of millions in trademarks from the Chinese when she accompanied Daddy to Beijing) they can respond with, “the Biden family is just as corrupt.”
This “they’re all corrupt” meme also accomplishes one of Putin’s main goals, which is to disparage western-style democracy and cause Americans to lose faith in our form of government.
From there, it’s a short step — already promoted by millions of Trump followers — to replacing a democratically elected president with a full-on dictatorial autocrat. Even if it takes violence, as Matt Gaetz proposed last month.
As then-candidate Joe Biden told 60 Minutes on October 25, 2020 about the errant laptop:
“From what I’ve read and know, the intelligence community warned the president [Trump] that Giuliani was being fed disinformation from the Russians. And we also know that Putin is trying very hard to spread disinformation about Joe Biden. And so when you put the combination of Russia, Giuliani and the president together, you assess what it is. It’s a smear campaign because he has nothing he wants to talk about in his — what is he running on? What is he running on?”
And as Politico noted in an article titled, “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say”:
“More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son ‘has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.’”
And just last month America learned that an FBI whistleblower — an actual whistleblower, who filed all the right papers with the government and sought protection from reprisal (not a phony whistleblower, like Comer keeps trotting out in front of Congress) — came right out and told Congress in closed-door testimony that the entire Hunter Biden laptop story was a “Russian operation.”
This operation bears an eerie similarity to Russian efforts around this time in the election cycle in 2015 when Trump publicly asked Putin to hack Hillary Clinton and he promptly complied. And, just like then, Republicans in Congress are very happy to use illegally obtained and perhaps “tweaked” information from a hostile foreign power to smear the upcoming Democratic candidate for president.
Democrats largely ignored the Russian connection to Hillary’s hacked emails, just as they tried to ignore the phony “Swiftboat” attacks on John Kerry in 2004 and the disingenuous Willie Horton attacks on Dukakis in 1988 (Horton was let out of prison under a program started by the former Republican governor).
Ignoring phony GOP attacks, it turns out, is a terrible strategy. Democrats need to punch back hard.
But so far there’s tremendous disequilibrium in this partisan information war. While the Republicans have been running investigation after investigation in the House, there have been no high-profile Senate investigations into:
Jared and Ivanka’s billion-dollar bailout of his failed 666 Fifth Avenue building by the Qataris after Trump approved Saudi Arabia’s blockade of them; or his $2 billion (plus $25 million a year as a “management fee”) from the Saudis; or Ivanka’s tens of millions in trademarks from when she accompanied her dad to China; or Jared’s “genius idea” to deny PPP and aid to Blue states and blame their governors for deaths when they were melting down with Covid in April of 2020.
As a result, the main meme going into the next election will be all about Hunter Biden’s “laptop” and the GOP’s efforts to impeach his father for…well…being a caring father with a drug-addicted son.
It’s a bizarre echo of the hearings House Republicans held into Hillary Clinton and Benghazi and “her emails.” Both were phony in that there were no actual crimes there, but, as Kevin McCarthy bragged back in 2015:
“What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative Congress that puts a strategy (in place) to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”
You would think Democrats would have figured out how this works by now and would be ready to fight back. But, no, apparently not. This entire situation highlights the importance of Americans fully learning how corruptly Donald Trump and his son-in-law screwed America for their own gain.
If ever there were stories worth investigating — from the possibility that Russia is colluding with House Republicans to the damage the Trump Crime Family did to America — it’s these.
Hunter Biden’s “laptop” is not only a malicious piece of Russian propaganda, in all probability, but is also completely lacking in any of the “smoking gun” elements Republicans are claiming.
On the other hand, there are very real questions about what happened when Trump was in office and his family was exploiting that position.
Democrats in the Senate can do better; after all, they control the body and set its agenda. They need to open investigations into these issues and the Trump family’s crimes around giving intelligence to both Russia (via Rand Paul) and Saudi Arabia now.
Jacquelyn Martin (AP) and Ross D. Franklin (AP)
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as As Republicans Begin Phony “Impeachment Hearings,” Democrats are Ignoring Real Crimes
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