Here’s a question for you. You live in Los Angeles. You have a laptop that’s acting up; needs some work. Do you:
A) Find a computer repair shop in your neighborhood via Google or whatever and take it there; B) Send it back to the manufacturer; C) Say to yourself, “Oh, I know, I think I’ll go to Wilmington, Delaware, and take it to a legally blind computer repairman, because like, obviously, who wouldn’t do that?”
Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, not yet indicted, and Steve Bannon, already indicted for allegedly scamming loyal Trumpies no less, want you to believe that Hunter Biden chose option C. We know, from the New Yorker profile of him that ran in 2019, that Hunter moved to Los Angeles in “early 2018” (to “completely disappear,” he told the magazine). Last week, the New York Post and other right-wing outlets alleged that he dropped off the now-famous laptop to a Delaware repairman in April 2019.
Oh really? He lived in Los Angeles, where I’d wager there are probably a few computer repair stores, but decided to go across the country to hand his machine over—to a blind man, no less?
If this seems fishy to you, there is a reason. It’s because it is. It is possible that Hunter Biden flew from LA to Philly, hopped an Amtrak down to Wilmington, on the way conveniently affixing a Beau Biden Foundation sticker to his computer, to make sure he handed it over to a man who is not only legally blind but is also seriously right-wing and follows the news closely enough that he knew the name of Rudy Giuliani’s attorney, a name that even I probably couldn’t have told you before last week.
Yes, that’s possible! But here’s something else that’s possible. It’s also possible that the laptop is from Russia, and some Russian stooge scoped out the situation and settled on a computer repairman in Joe Biden’s hometown, whose condition is perfect because if he’s legally blind how could he identify who dropped the thing off, and the “emails” are fake and the whole operation is fake, and Rudy Giuliani wasn’t played by clever Russians, wasn’t played at all but willingly auto-played himself, because the man who once prosecuted thugs has now become one.
Rudy’s story about how the laptop ended up at that Delaware repair shop has already changed multiple times. And, as my colleague Allison Quinn noted, Andrii Derkach, the Ukrainian lawmaker who’s been aiding Rudy in digging dirt there for years and whom the U.S. Treasury Department deems an “active Russian agent,” claims that there’s a second laptop, which “would mean private computer contents allegedly connected to Hunter Biden have somehow found their way into the hands of three separate parties: A media empire controlled by a Chinese billionaire who’s tight with Steve Bannon; a random Delaware shop owner who is outspoken in his support of Trump; and Derkach, a Ukrainian conspiracy theory peddler who studied at Moscow’s FSB academy.” Rudy himself told the Beast this weekend that all these concerns about a foreign election interference project are a “bunch of bullshit,” and that “the chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50.” So there. Reassured?!
We’re two weeks out now, and we are going to see things in these next two weeks that we’ve never seen ever. Trump is behind. He knows he’s losing. And he knows, as I and others have written, that aside from keeping him in power, which is nice, because he gets to fly on Air Force One for a few more years and Melania gets to fuck up four more Christmases, winning is also his best insurance against being indicted and ending up in prison for tax evasion (at least).
He knows this. And Rudy knows this. The desperation is overpowering. And nothing they’ve tried on Joe Biden has stuck. So they’ve identified what they think is the Achilles heel in the troubled son, and the next two weeks are going to be filled with sick, twisted lies about Hunter Biden.
I don’t even want to mention the stuff; don’t want to give it any oxygen. If you watched the once-respectable Maria Bartiromo on Fox on Sunday morning, you know what I’m talking about. And her guest Ron Johnson. A United States senator, sitting there on national television, trafficking in gossip that can absolutely destroy a human being’s reputation and even take away his freedom. Johnson has clearly stolen the Dumbest Senator trophy from Chuck Grassley, who proudly held it for years, but worse than that, he is one of the most disgraceful human beings to be a senator since the place was filled with malicious racists.
Meanwhile, a few hundred more Americans die every day because these incompetent and denialist monsters can think only about politics and how they look. This Washington Post article posted Monday morning is a must-read. The man who is running the nation’s pandemic response, Scott Atlas, tweeted over the weekend that masks don’t work. You read that right. The man who is running the nation’s pandemic response tweeted over the weekend that masks don’t work. Twitter took it down.
Trump recruited Atlas from, where else, Fox News. The Murdoch empire has been a blight for decades, but now it’s mutated into something much worse. You may have seen the New York Times report posted Sunday evening that the reporter at the New York Post who wrote that infamous Biden story refused to let them put his name on it because he knew it was a pack of lies. Rudy told the Times that he gave the material supposedly from Hunter’s laptop to the New York Post because “either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.”
The Post and Fox are going to keep pushing these lies. The question is whether they can fool people. They can make the lies look like “journalism.” But what will real journalists do? It was sickening in 2016 the way legitimate news outlets ran with the Wikileaks-Assange stuff day after day after day throughout October. The mainstream media, and James Comey, and that asshat Anthony Weiner, helped elect Trump.
Weiner is thankfully erased from our collective hard drive. Comey seems to have learned his lesson, although it sure wouldn’t hurt if he’d speak out more directly in these last two weeks, especially given that Trumpworld is threatening to break up the FBI if the bureau doesn’t cooperate in peddling smears about Hunter Biden.
That leaves the press. Are we going to let ourselves be led around by the nose by Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda outlets in the fateful last two weeks before an election that could turn the lights out on American democracy? Or are we going to stand up for what we always insist are our principles? (I am proud to say, by the way, that the Beast’s reporting on all this, like Allison Quinn’s piece above and Jordan Howell and Erin Banco’s fantastic work on the computer repair guy, but a lot else, too, has been stellar.)
We may never know the truth about “Hunter’s laptop.” But we have the simple authority to say to people peddling smears: You offer some proof, or we will not put what you’re saying in print. That’s not being in the tank for Joe Biden. That’s the job of a responsible press in a democracy.