By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost
Let us cast our minds back just briefly to the very fine afternoon of July 22, 2016. It was an especially bright Friday, as you may recall, because WikiLeaks released a lot of Democratic Party emails that day, so shining a light worthy of a night game at Yankee Stadium on the party’s corrupt machinations to destroy Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid in the service of the first Goldwater Democrat, the ever-endearing Hillary Clinton. Pause a moment to summon the time.
Now recall the following Sunday, July 24, when Robbie Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, appeared back-to-back on the Sunday morning news programs to proclaim that never-named “experts” had never-shown “evidence” that it was the Rrrrrrussians who pilfered the mail and gave it to Julian Assange’s operation. What is more, Mook claimed that the experts, in a matter of 48 hours, were able to detect intent: The Russians had acted in behalf of Donald Trump’s campaign. Nothing was said, and very little subsequently, of the embarrassing contents of the mail Democrats accused Russians of stealing.
It was the singer, not the song. So were Americans guided to think about what turned out to be an internal leak, not a hack by the Russians or anyone else.
Myself, I was apoplectic, and shortly thereafter made this clear in print, as I watched the puerile Mook unroll this rubbish to the nodding assent of various television hacks. Never mind what was in the mail: How the mail got where it got was the determinant. Atop this was the implicit assertion, yet more insidious, that the truth has some kind of brand. If the Russians have anything to do with it, whatever was true could not be true. The obverse also held, supposedly: If the Democrats say something is so, it is so.
When we finish with our recollections we ought to devote another moment to the psychological implications of Mook’s propaganda pirouette that fateful weekend, when the Democrats pulled the lever to dump five years of Russiagate garbage upon us. I see in those few days the seeds of a thought-control operation that, as we have it all these years later, is undermining our republic as surely as the more visible varieties of corruption, notably but not only the politicized abuse of the Justice Department and its law-enforcement appendages. The one goes with the other: The perversion of public institutions in broad daylight requires that our thoughts are managed such that we cannot see or understand these perversions as they occur.
It was seven years ago last week that the damaging leak of the Democrats’ email set Russiagate in motion.
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My mind went back to those first Russiagate days last Thursday, when the tabloid that reported the Hunter Biden computer story just before the 2020 election dropped another in a series of big ones on us. “Biden $10M bribe file released: Burisma chief said he was ‘coerced’ to pay Joe, ‘stupid’ Hunter in bombshell allegations” was the headline on this latest New York Post piece. Whatever you were doing before picking up the paper, you had to stop long enough to read this one. I did.
You will recall the recent kerfuffle on Capitol Hill, when FBI Director Christopher Wray refused to give the House Oversight Committee an agency file containing allegations that President Biden and Hunter were indeed on the take from Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company, during Joe’s time as Barack Obama’s veep and bearer of the Ukraine portfolio. Wray capitulated when threatened with contempt of Congress, and it was this file Chuck Grassley, the Republican senator from Iowa, made public Thursday. Just when you think la famille Biden couldn’t get any filthier, la famille Biden turns out to be filthier.
We already knew V–P Biden intervened back in 2016, when Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor general, was at the front end of an official investigation into corruption at Burisma. Hunter was by then taking home $50,000 a month—the Post says $83,000—for sitting on Burisma’s board and doing nothing other than being his father’s son. Joe stepped in to get Shokin fired—alleging, perversely, that Shokin had to go because he was corrupt. This was in 2016, when Joe was recorded in that infamous video bragging, at the Council on Foreign Relations no less, that he threatened to withhold $5 billion in U.S. aid if Shokin wasn’t removed. “And, son of a bitch, they fired him,” was Joe’s punchline on that occasion.
The just-released document now tells us pretty precisely what happened when the son of a bitch serving as Obama’s point man in Kyiv made full use—fully corrupt use, I mean—of Washington’s leverage in post-coup Ukraine. By February 2016 Shokin had warrants enabling him to seize Mykola Zlochevsky’s apparently extensive property holdings in Kyiv. Zlochevsky, the corrupt jillionaire who founded Burisma Holdings in 2002, indeed wanted Shokin off his back and out of his books. He went to Hunter with this project, whereupon Hunter did his job and went to Pop. Whereupon they both let it be known—both, got it?—that getting the job done would cost Zlochevsky $10 million, $5 million apiece for Biden père et fils. Biden arrived in Kyiv in March 2016, a month after Shokin got his warrants to go after Zlochevsky’s real estate. Shokin was dismissed on March 29.
Zlochevsky—who, being a Ukrainian oligarch, seems to have been at ease discussing his own corruptions—related all this to an FBI informant who had worked for the agency for more than a decade and earned, in addition to six figures in fees, an excellent reputation for reliability. The informant met or spoke by telephone with Zlochevsky on four occasions beginning in late 2015 or early 2016 and running through 2019. Some of these encounters occurred near Kyiv; at least one took place at a Vienna coffeehouse. It was during the latter exchange, in 2016, that Zlochevsky told the FBI informant, “It cost 5 [million] to pay one Biden, and 5 [million] to another Biden,” as this conversation is recorded in the FBI file, which is designated FD–1023 and which, everything it reveals notwithstanding, contains redacted passages.
FD–1023 is rich with evidently authentic reporting from the agency’s informant. Describing the 2016 encounter in Vienna, the file quotes the informant thusly: “Zlochevsky made some comment that although Hunter Biden ‘was stupid, and his (Zlochevsky’s) dog was smarter,’ Zlochevsky needed to keep Hunter Biden (on Burisma’s board) ‘so everything will be okay.’” It then continues: “The source,” meaning the FBI informant, “asked whether Hunter Biden or Joe Biden told Zlochevsky he should ‘retain’ the younger Biden; Zlochevsky allegedly replied, ‘They both did.’”
Jiminy Cricket. We are reading here of the man who puts his head down—apparently for much of the day—at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A friend recently described the Bidens as “a crime family.” I was shy of the expression at the time, but the New York Post piece changes my mind. In this document, as in others relating the Bidens’ grifting sojourns in China, Hunter again refers to Joe as “the Big Guy.” After reading this report I have to consider all over again the implications of this phrase.
This could get interesting in coming weeks. The disgusting doings of our president and his son, along with the disgusting efforts to cover these up, could at last break into the open. The prospect of impeachment proceedings may present itself.
Zlochevsky, as he recounted the Bidens’ bribery scheme, told the FBI informant he had 17 recordings of conversations he had with Hunter and Joe as they arranged to take care of the Shokin matter and take Zlochevsky’s money for the favor. This is a smart guy. Zlochevsky also told the FBI man he had “many text messages” and two written documents, financial records of the payments the Bidens received. Zlochevsky, by the FBI informant’s account, considered this documentary proof of his “coercion.” There appears, then, to be a body of evidence awaiting examination and verification.
The FBI informant, a Ukrainian–American, seems to be similarly savvy. All of the informant’s encounters with Zlochevsky took place in the presence of one Alexander Ostapenko, who introduced the informant to Zlochevsky and who, as the file puts it, “works in some office for the administration of President Zelensky,” The FBI man thus made sure he had a supporting witness. My read of Ostapenko, such as we know anything about him, is that he may be a Ukrainian variant of whoever it was who leaked the Democrats’ mail seven years ago—an insider disgusted with the corruption all around him.
Will Grassley’s release of FD–1023 lead to the sort of investigation the contents of the file plainly warrants? For now this remains a question. It was reported this week that Hunter’s former business partner, Devon Archer, will shortly testify, under oath and in detail, about the Big Guy’s apparently intimate involvement in the Burisma matter, including the numerous contacts with Burisma execs he has to date denied ever having. Hunter’s disgraceful plea deal a few weeks ago, meantime, is suddenly on hold, a Wilmington judge having thrown it back Wednesday to the prosecutors who negotiated it with Hunter’s lawyers. The Burisma bribery affairs is nothing like dead in the water.
At the same time, there are a lot of things going on in our crumbly republic that warrant investigation, but many fewer get investigated. The FBI had initial reports of the Burisma affair in 2017; its informant was on the job by the following year. Wray covered this up until the very last minute, having never investigated the recorded conversations or the documentary evidence. We now know, also, that David Weiss, the U.S. attorney charged with running the investigation into Hunter’s tax finagling, had FD–1023 three years ago and withheld it from the Internal Revenue Service investigators working on Hunter’s case—those who recently blew their whistles.
A serious investigation will logically begin with the conduct of these unethical punks. We will have to see.
I wasn’t even finished reading the Post piece before I began to wonder, how will The New York Times play this one? The Times prefers to pretend revelations of this kind involving the president, his administration, law enforcement, or any major Democratic Party figure never occurred. So, no story at all: It seemed possible this time. But The Times has swept so much under the carpet at this point there’s no traversing the carpet. Hmmm.
My answer arrived in Sunday’s editions under the headline, “Former Republican Aides Shepherd Whistle-Blowers Through Congress.” And there you have it: Those IRS whistleblowers lifting the lid on the coverup in the Hunter Biden fraud case, the FBI file presenting what appears, awaiting verification, an open-and-shut case of corruption at the highest levels of the Executive and the Justice Department: “Hey c’mon, man.” That’s not the story. The story is that these revelations are being orchestrated by “Republican lawyers with deep experience in Capitol Hill investigations—including years spent as aides to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa…”
Given what is at stake at this point—and what is at stake is the legitimacy of the American government—this kind of reporting is beyond irresponsible. To call it “Soviet” in character is in no way hyperbolic: It reeks of the thought control op Robbie Mook and his deplorable boss attempted seven years ago. It is exactly the same: Tar those bearing the truth with one or another sort of discrediting epithet—the Russians did it, the Republicans are doing it—and shuffle the truth under the rug or otherwise out of the public’s sight.
Then the coast is clear to declare the truth Democratic.
Chief among the offenders reported in The Times’s piece are the attorneys who operate as Empower Oversight. “Armed with intricate knowledge of Congress’s byzantine procedures and various whistle-blower statutes, some written by Mr. Grassley decades ago,” The Times reports, “the men developed a strategy for how to get the information to Congress lawfully.”
Bad. These bad men. Imagine assisting those who unearth malfeasance so as to avoid breaking confidentiality rules and such like as they testify on Capitol Hill.
Then comes this devastating background. “Empower Oversight had played a key role in facilitating some of the many Republican investigations into Mr. Biden’s family, his administration, and federal law enforcement,” The Times reports. “As the G.O.P. presses forward with inquiries aimed at uncovering wrongdoing by the president, the group has become a critical part of the Republican investigative ecosystem, using its knowledge of Capitol Hill to shepherd through Congress witnesses who can put names, faces and crucial details to the allegations being made.”
Names, faces, dates. Bad. These bad men. They are not Democrats. Empowering oversight bodies to do the work of overseeing: Bad again.
All this is as bread for the sandwich. In the 29th paragraph of this story The Times reports on FD–1023–the New York Post having forced its hand. Referring to Grassley, Luke Broadwater writes, “On Thursday, he released a document obtained from a whistleblower containing unverified allegations that both Hunter and President Biden had accepted bribes. The F.B.I. accused Mr. Grassley of risking “the safety of a confidential source” by releasing the document.”
That is it, readers. You will read no more of what is in FD–1023 unless and until The Times is forced—by new revelations, the findings of a House investigation, or another New York Post story—to indulge in another round of obfuscation.
There are occasions when The Times delights, even when it is at its worst. These occur when the facts do not fit the thesis, and its reporters are left swinging in the wind as they report sheer nonsense. So it is with this piece, as Broadwater tells his readers Empower Oversight is a cabal of Republicans ideologically driven to sabotage innocent Democrats, and then:
Empower Oversight rejects the suggestion its work is partisan in nature. While its leaders are Republicans, they say their job is to offer legal advice and support to whistle-blowers who approach them.
Tristan Leavitt, the group’s president and a former aide to Mr. Grassley and other Hill Republicans, said his organization’s “nonpartisan work stands for itself.”
Mr. Leavitt has worked… under a Democratic staff member, given presentations to left-leaning groups, and earned praise from other whistle-blower rights advocates. Empower Oversight is also a member of the Make It Safe Coalition, a group of organizations representing whistle-blowers across the political spectrum.
One of the I.R.S. whistle-blowers the group represents said he is a Democrat.
After this extraordinary passage, our Luke returns without pause to the theme that Empower Oversight is a cabal of Republicans driven by ideology to sabotage innocent Democrats.
Luke, Luke, tell us what it is. You cannot report the case being “A,” then the case being “not–A,” and then return to reporting “A.” It causes us to wonder about the qualifications of your assignment editor—apart from your own, of course.
Miranda Devine, a divinely dogged New York post columnist, published a commentary after the paper’s piece on the revelations in FD–1023 headlined, “The Joe Biden bribe allegations need a special counsel, now.” I’ll say.
“The story of the Biden family’s corrupt influence-peddling scheme, which netted tens of millions of dollars from Ukraine, China, Russia and beyond, is scandal enough,” Devine writes. “But the coverup—from Big Tech’s censorship of the Post’s reporting from Hunter’s abandoned laptop, and CIA lies that it was Russian disinformation, to the burying of this FD–1023—is bigger than Watergate.”
Indeed, Miranda. Now tell me, does this seem to you a truth like any other—with no brand, no ideology attaching to it, being neither Republican nor Democratic?
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a media critic, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored without explanation.