This week marked the anniversary of one of the greatest political tricks in history: the disappearance of Hunter Biden scandal. New emails were released that added new details to what was a raw influence peddling operation that netted millions from foreign sources. A new tranche of emails connecting President Joe Biden to key accounts proves just how this political sleight of hand was worthy of Houdini. After all, Houdini only made an elephant disappear. The Bidens made the equivalent to an entire circus disappear in front of an audience of millions.
How Houdini made his 10,000 pound elephant Jennie disappear every night in New York’s Hippodrome remains a matter of some debate. There are no good pictures of his famous cabinet and Houdini later threatened to sue those featuring acts with “disappearing elephants.” What is clear is that the sheer size and audacity of the act (like that of the Bidens) contributed to the trick. The fact is that Jennie never left the large cabinet, people just didn’t see it.
The Bidens achieved the same effect. They made a full-sized scandal disappear with the help of media and members who did not want the public to see it. Twitter banned postings about the laptop until after Biden was elected. The media dismissed the story as a conspiracy theory with some mocking the “New York Post and everyone else who got suckered into the ridiculous Hunter Biden Laptop story. Take a bow.”
Committee Chairman Adam Schiff assured that public that “this whole smear on Joe Biden comes from the Kremlin.” Some 50 former intelligence officials, including Obama’s CIA directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, also insisted the laptop story was likely the work of Russian intelligence.
The laptop is, of course, now recognized as genuine even by some of the early deniers. Hunter remains under criminal investigation for possible tax and money laundering violations. But the greatest “reveal” is the person referred to as “the Big Guy” and “Celtic” in these emails: President Biden.
Recently released emails reference payments to President Biden from his son’s accounts and indicate the possible commingling of funds. Even more embarrassing, the shared account may have been used to pay a Russian prostitute named “Yanna.” In one text, a former secret service agent warns Hunter (who was holed up with a prostitute in an expensive hotel) “Come on H this is linked to Celtic’s account.”
The question is whether prosecutors will continue to act like they do not see the elephant. Consider these established facts:
First, it is widely believed that Hunter Biden and his uncle James Biden, received millions in influence peddling. For his part, Hunter only had influence and access to sell. He admits that he was a crack addict and alcoholic all the way up to the start of his father’s presidential campaign — in his words, “Drinking a quart of vodka a day by yourself in a room is absolutely, completely debilitating,” as well as “smoking crack around the clock.”
Second, Joe Biden has continued to deny knowledge or involvement in these foreign dealings and those denials are now directly contradicted by emails and witnesses. Hunter himself contradicted his father’s repeated denials. Likewise, a key business associate of Hunter Biden, Anthony Bobulinski, directly accused Joe Biden of lying about his involvement. Bobulinski has detailed a meeting with Joe Biden in a hotel to go over the dealings. Past emails included discussions of offering access to then-Vice President Biden. They also include alleged payments to Joe Biden. In one email, there is a discussion of a proposed equity split of “20” for “H” and “10 held by H for the big guy?” Bobulinski confirmed that “H” was used for Hunter Biden and that his father was routinely called “the big guy” in these discussions.
Third, while he was vice president, Joe Biden allowed Hunter to fly on Air Force 2 to countries like China where he was seeking millions. He also met with Hunter’s foreign business associates. In 2015, a State Department official flagged the possible conflicts from Hunter’s dealings during the Obama Administration.
Fourth, new emails suggest a commingling of funds between Hunter and his father. Emails from Eric Schwerin, his business partner at the Rosemont Seneca consultancy, refer to the payment of household bills for both Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. He also notes that he was transferring money from Joe Biden. Rosemont Seneca is directly involved in the alleged influence peddling schemes and questionable money transfers from Chinese and Russian sources.
Finally, Hunter himself admitted that his missing computers files may have been stolen by foreign agents for blackmail purposes. Hunter’s emails claim one of his laptops may have been stolen by Russian agents after a drug and alcohol binge with prostitutes.
Given the ongoing criminal prosecution, that would seem an ample basis for the appointment of a special counsel. The President is mentioned repeatedly in emails and by witnesses in relation to influence peddling schemes and even receiving funds from shared accounts. He has also denied knowledge that key witnesses refute, including his son.
Influence peddling is common in Washington and can be done legally. Yet, it has also been the subject of intense criminal investigations. For example, the FBI raided the home of Trump counsel Rudolph Giuliani and others based on allegations of influence peddling in an ongoing criminal investigation. The Justice Department wants to know if Giuliani secured contracts in exchange for access or influence. The media gleefully recounted the raids and how Giuliani may have cashed in on his access.
Yet, an influence peddling scheme that directly impacts the President and his family continues to be officially unseen. Indeed, the value of involving the media in the original trick is that it invests reporters in the illusion. It is like calling audience members to the stage to assist in the performance. Reporters have to insist that there was nothing to see or they have to admit to being part of the deception.
This is why, in Washington, the illusion depends on the specific elephant.
Houdini once said that “It is still an open question . . . as to what extent exposure really injures a performer.” The same question can be asked about a politician. President Biden is in full display in these emails. The question is whether the public – or the prosecutors – want to see him.