Jonathan Turley: Has the media finally awoken to Hunter Biden?
“Hunter is stuck on the roof.” That is what the transition team for Joe Biden should have said this week, instead of declaring that Hunter Biden is now under federal investigation. The surprise was a lot to handle for many who have been insulated from real news about the case for weeks. The Biden team evidently never heard the old joke about the man who calls home to speak with his brother who is house sitting.
When asked how things are going, the brother blurts out, “Fluffy is dead.” The man is shocked and yells that is not how you tell someone their cat died. Instead, he claims, you build up to it and say the cat is stuck on the roof, and then call back to say she fell. After the brother says he is sorry, the man asks how their mother is doing, and the brother pauses before replying, “Mom is stuck on the roof.”
The problem is that Americans were assured that Hunter was nowhere near the roof. Even before the election, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the story involving the laptop was a “smear” by the Kremlin. Some 50 former intelligence officials also insisted the story was likely the work of Russia. The cable show hosts and reporters laughed at this as fake news, and there was a virtual blackout on further coverage, until that loud thump after the election.
Most striking about the blackout is that, as with the Russia collusion story, the media was coaxed to buy into a false narrative. Reporters became so invested in the denial that they could not afford to acknowledge growing evidence of possible wrongdoing. If Hunter and his uncle did conduct a significant influence peddling scheme, the reporters were at best dupes and at worst enablers. The shock was palpable since so many Americans have been sealed off from negative reports on the Biden family. The media was in the bag for Joe Biden. He could make ridiculous claims like his line that “no one has suggested my son did anything wrong.”
Some news outlets are now trying to explain how Hunter wound up on the roof after telling us he was resting comfortably. The Daily Beast referred to “markings on a series of documents that were made public” but that went “largely unnoticed.” It was noting serial numbers that I and others talked about when the story first broke in October. There was much speculation about what those numbers meant, and how the laptop could have been seized by the federal officials to look into business transactions, including possible money laundering. So that aspect was not “largely unnoticed.” It was just largely ignored by most media.
There is little pushback on claims by Hunter that he just heard about the probe into his taxes this week when it appears to have been ongoing for two years. The laptop was subpoenaed in 2019, and its emails are said to have accounts of millions of dollars in payments or gifts and references to Joe Biden himself. Business associate Anthony Bobulinski confirmed the authenticity of the emails and also accused Joe Biden of lying about his involvement. Yet most media reported none of that.
We now know that James Biden is implicated in a separate investigation. But the investigation into Hunter remains more notable. The transition team for Joe Biden issued a statement that these are solely his tax affairs, but tax investigations can be more intrusive and more damaging than tax affairs gone wrong. They scrutinize the business transactions and gifts, like those that were evidently detailed on the laptop
The laptop refers to the Biden family talking about a $5 million unsecured loan from a Chinese enterprise that was allegedly part of a discussed wire transfer of $10 million. Because these exchanges strike some of us as raw influence peddling, there may have been an effort to conceal or disguise them. There were allegedly gifts such as a diamond for Hunter from the founder and former chairman of the Chinese firm.
The laptop also contains references to tax problems. A former business associate sent Hunter an email in 2017 warning him that he had not yet disclosed on his tax returns some $400,000 in income from a Ukrainian natural gas company known as Burisma. Eric Schwerin, then president of Rosemont Seneca Partners, wrote to Hunter that “we still need to amend your 2014 returns” to reflect his income from the Burisma.
Moreover, the investigation may not be simply about tax affairs but about money laundering and other suspect dealings. The New York Times cited a separate investigation into the Ukrainian activities of Hunter that “has escalated this year” in Pittsburgh. There is also an investigation risk from the Senate, if Republicans win at least one of two seats in Georgia. The Biden administration would have to handle the Hunter probes along with a special counsel looking into actions taken in the Obama administration to investigate Trump campaign officials in 2016.
Joe Biden should address his denials of knowledge about the business activities of his son, an assertion even Hunter has contradicted. He also should say whether he met with Bobulinski at the Beverly Hills Hilton to discuss Chinese business deals in 2017. He can still count on a media that is heavily invested in denying the seriousness of these investigations, but it will be hard for those news outlets to maintain silence with the growing list of investigations. Now that Biden is elected and Trump defeated, some in the media may be willing to report on these investigations, and at least admit that Hunter and his uncle are back on the roof.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.